“Putin is a fool.” Intercepted calls to Russian soldiers in Ukraine show criticism of the war

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  • An exclusive from 'The New York Times' reveals deception, frustration and disenchantment among troops

  • Soldiers acknowledge atrocities and looting and question the Kremlin and military leadership

“Our offense has stalled. We are losing this war”. “Half our regiment is gone.” “We were given orders to kill everyone we saw”. “When I get home I'll leave it. Fuck the Army”. “(Vladimir) Putin is a fool. He wants us to take kyiv, but there is no way we can do it”.

The five sentences were spoken in calls to relatives, partners and friends in Russia by Russian soldiers who in March, weeks after the Kremlin began its invasion of Ukraine, they were stationed in the area near Bucha, on the outskirts of kyiv. They were intercepted, like thousands of other phone conversations, by the Ukrainian government. And this Wednesday, after months of investigation, translation and certification of its authenticity, “The New York Times” has made the content public as part of a report that reveals the frustration and disillusionment of the troops, who question decisions made by both the Russian president and by military leaders and also recognize atrocities committed against civilians, as well as such as having carried out looting.

The ‘Times’ He hides the name of the receivers and only offers the first names of the Russian soldiers, explaining that some of the things they said in mobile calls that they were not authorized to carry out could be punished with prison sentences. Jailed in Russia if they spoke publicly.

“These bastards didn't tell us anything”

The Russian soldiers already suffered from low morale in those first weeks of the invasion and complained, for example, of lack of equipment. They also claimed to have been deceived about the mission. “Nobody told us we were going to war, we were told the day before& rdquor ;, Serguei told his mother, before whom he also expressed the opinion that “this war is the stupidest decision the government has ever made.” “They teased us like fucking kids”, Nikita told a friend. “They told us we were going to train; These bastards didn't tell us anything”, criticized Aleksei speaking with his partner.

In the conversations the soldiers were also interested in the official version that was being given in Russia and the disarticulated. One named Aleksandr, for example, said: “Actually we can't take kyiv, we only take towns”. And in a conversation with his girlfriend, another named Sergei told him: & ldquo;They want to fool people on TV by saying that everything is wrong. well, it's just a special op, but it's actually a fucking war”.

War crimes

The human costs of that conflict also appeared in the conversations, both talking about fallen Russian soldiers and civilian victims. And the calls dismantle the version repeated by the Kremlin that the Bucha massacre, where more than 1,100 corpses were found after the withdrawal, was staged to blame Russia and point to war crimes. In one, for example, soldier Sergei told his girlfriend that his commander had ordered the killing of three men who walked past his warehouse.

“We stopped them, we stripped them naked. and check your clothes. We had to decide whether to let them go, but if we did, they might reveal our position, so we'll see. that it was decided shoot them in the woods” says the soldier. When the girlfriend asks if they were shot at, he replies that she “of course.” And when she asks why they were not taken prisoner, he replies: “We should have fed them and we dont have enough food for us.”

Soldier Sergei also says that before they arrived they were told there was Many civilians were ordered to “shoot everyone we saw”. “Because they can reveal positions. Looks like that's what we're going to do. Kill any passing civilians and drag them into the woods. I have already become a murderer”, he continues. “That's why I don't want to kill more people, especially those I have to look them in the eye.”

Several of the soldiers speak openly in the calls of having looted homes and businesses . And the 'Times' has also verified that several of those who were intercepted sent postal shipments to Russia days after the so-called calls.