Russian soldiers admit heavy losses, looting, shelling civilians in phone calls to wives and mothers

Russian soldiers captured in Mariupol. 

Russian Aggression

Edited by: Morgan Foster

Editor’s Note

In intercepted phone calls with relatives, Russian soldiers admit they shell civilians and loot shops; they also say they were sent to Ukraine as cannon fodder or that command abandoned them. They admit heavy losses in Ukraine: some want to retreat or desert and describe disappointment, others are quite indifferent and ready to continue the fight.

The phone calls were intercepted and published by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU). Naturally, the SBU is motivated to select the most desperate calls to raise the morale of Ukrainian people; regardless, at least a partial picture of the Russian army can be illustrated through these conversations.

Intercepted phone calls of Russian soldiers

A Russian soldier admits in a phone call that they shell civilian homes “from a distance.” In his opinion he has the right to destroy civilian homes because Putin gave Ukrainians time “to f*ck off” from their houses, but they did not leave. He also believes there are different types of Ukrainian military in the buildings:

We started shelling a five-story building and destroyed it all. Intelligence said that there were civilians on the first floor, machine gunners and grenade launchers on the second floor, civilians again on the third floor, shooters and snipers on the fourth floor, and soldiers with anti-tank ATGMs, Javelins on the roof. They told to shell that five-story building from a distance. Civilians don’t matter. Putin gave them time to f*ck off, but they did not. We must turn on the meat grinder there.”

A Russian soldier tells his mother that they dream of fleeing the battlefield. He and his fellow soldiers discussed shooting each other in the legs to be wounded and taken from the front to the hospital. It is unknown whether they implemented the idea:

“I’ll tell you sincerely… we wanted to use 7.62 bullets, Ukrainian bullets in short, to shoot each other’s legs and return to the hospital in Budenovsk…”

The remains of this soldier’s brigade were stationed in the Mykolayiv area. They intended to enter the city, but lost combat capability:

“We have 120 people sent back from the brigade to the hospital with injuries, about 320 wounded in total and 350 people are the ‘cargo-200’ [military slang for dead].”

Another Russian soldier complains to his wife about poor logistics and supplies:

Soldier: “No food, no water… One package of field food for the two of us and that’s all. Yesterday there was heavy shelling. We lost one vehicle and the Kamaz with ammunition and food. No sense to remain here. No ammunition, no fuel…

His wife: No more Pepsi Cola, no more Asus, no more McDonalds. All shops that were American now are closed, Zara, Bershka, all closed…”

Yet another soldier complains about the leadership, saying he was almost killed and suffers from significant pain, yet was denied transfer to the hospital:

“Our leadership abandoned us and retreated, so we were added to another brigade. We were riding in Urals, I was in the cabin. Everyone who was behind us is dead. We got into the cabin from the tank… Then, when we arrived, we were shot at with artillery. Then there was a battle, I was almost killed twice.

Bullets flew very close to me… We at least escaped from the encirclement. Three times we tried to escape and three times we were covered by Grads [rocket launchers]. My back hurts and my head hurts … [When I asked to go to the hospital] they [commanders] said you shouldn’t have even come to us. You can walk, so take the gun and continue to fight.”

The Ukrainian city of Sumy has become a nightmare for Russians according to some of their calls. No column has survived the route through Sumy without losses:

“We have to go through the city of Sumy. And none of our columns have survived the road through Sumy… If we will go through Sumy the chances of returning are 50/50. They [Russians] disrupt the connection constantly so that we can’t call anyone and can’t tell them anything.”

According to the calls, Ukrainian reports that some Russian units lost up to 90% of personnel and about 10 Russian battalion-tactical groups were almost entirely destroyed are not an exaggeration. However, despite a lack of ammunition, many of Russian soldiers are angry and want to level Ukrainian cities:

“There were 900 people in our regiment, now 300 are still alive… Either we start leveling all these f*cking Ukrainian cities to the ground or turn back… We don’t have enough ammunition. Only four magazine boxes for each soldiervery little.”

Due to the lack of food provisions, looting was officially allowed by Russian leadership.

Now “taking shops” is a common practice for Russian army stationed in Ukrainian villages or towns:

Russian soldier: “Everything is so tasty here… Our guys ‘took’ some stores. And it costs only 15 hryvnias ($0.5) for a liter of juice… [Our soldiers] take everything from houses: laptops, TVs, take away everything from houses. If we were fighting for our land I would understand, but what is the point here?..”

His wife: “We won’t have the English Premier League on TV anymore. The government wants to block Wikipedia because it writes badly about us. Was it worth it? I watch those videos that Ukrainians share with our dead soldiers and can’t sleep.”

Finally, this conversation of a Russian soldier with his mother is worth reading in length, as it is revealing regarding prevailing attitudes:

– Why are you telling me that you [will] not [return] soon. Katka wrote that you will finish by the end of March. When will you take Kyiv?

– Who knows. It all will last very long.

– Are you in Belarus or in Kyiv?

– What f*ucking Belarus, I’m in Ukraine.

– Ok. Our prices are growing like in a fairy tale. Loans are 30%, loans for housing 18%, grandma needs to buy a lavatory pan, it costs 43,000 [rubles], Sberbank doesn’t work with foreign currency…

– I am fed up.

– And can’t you go home somehow?

– No. This will be is desertion…Many conscripts are here.

– Conscripts? Putin yesterday said there is not a single conscript there. When will you be replaced?

– No replacement yet, we even didn’t capture anything.

– Didn’t capture anything? They say the circle around Ukraine is tightening and everything is fine. Is this a lie?

– …

– Poor connection. Couldn’t you take a phone from some locals and call me every day? They show how Ukrainians take Russians into captivity and torture them.

– This is propaganda.

– So you are not torturing those Banderites, but you are being tortured.

– Bullshit.

– You return from there and submit your resignation. I don’t want to hear anything else.

Russian soldiers captured in Sumy Oblast. Source: mil.gov.ua ~

Russian soldiers captured in Sumy Oblast. Source: mil.gov.ua

Captured Russian soldiers

Editor’s Note

At the beginning of the war, the Ukrainian military published several dozen videos of captured Russian soldiers. There was a discussion started by NGO Human Rights Watch which claimed that such videos violate the Geneva Convention.

The Ukrainian government did not release any official statement on this matter. However, several opinion leaders affiliated with the government claimed that publishing such videos is necessary to convince Russian soldiers not to go to war or to surrender, thereby stopping the war sooner.

At the same time, Ukrainian Security Service has not published such videos for a week, although some continue appearing in Telegram channels, including this one by former (2019-2021) Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, now advisor Anton Herashchenko.

Captured Russian soldiers say on video they are treated well and are not beaten, although we cannot verify this independently. Some of their testimonies are particularly revealing, although they need to be viewed in the context of available video evidence of Russian-Ukrainian war as well as independent investigations:

One of the Russian soldiers says that the Soviet WWII practice of barrier troops is now back in the Russian army:

“Echelons behind kill those who turn back and desert… During a fight near Mykolayiv we surrendered… We saw that rockets are sent not at military targets but at usual peaceful settlements.”

The use of barrier troops was also reported by the head of Mykolayiv Oblast, Vitaliy Kim, who also claimed that Russians send in first line conscripts from Russian-occupied parts of Donbas who lack proper training and ammunition to be used as reconnaissance in battle.

Another Russian soldier admits there was an order to shoot civilians in Kharkiv:

– I crossed the Ukrainian border around 5 AM on 24 February. We had the task to capture Kharkiv, occupy all the main roads and close any entry to the city.

– Did you have an order to shell civilians [civilian objects]?

– Yes, both civilians and houses.

– In what timeframe did you plan to take Kharkiv?

– Three days.

The soldier also says that “we were told we are going as peacekeepers, to liberate Ukraine from Nazis.

One more Russian POW claims he refused to shoot at civilians and instead helped them, contrary to orders, for which his comrades shot at him:

“On 24 February near the Kharkiv ring road, a lieutenant colonel ordered us to shoot civilians. Russian soldiers were shooting at cars and civilians. Another lieutenant and I decided to help civilians… With a mother and daughter, we hid behind concrete blocks. After the lieutenant colonel noticed it he ordered us to be shot. The lieutenant and the woman. Her daughter and I started running away, while my comrades shot at my legs. We managed to hide behind a garage.”

Another captive soldier said in a conversation with his mother that his company doesn’t exist anymore and urges mother not to watch TV. She, however, doesn’t believe him until he confirms he is in captivity for several times:

– Mum, I’m in captivity in Ukraine.

– Is it true?

– Yes, it’s absolute f*cking here. My sixth company doesn’t exist anymore… There’s a full meat grinder going on here. 9,000 guys died in 8 days. Our military bombs cities.

– And how could you phone me?

– They gave me a phone to call and tell you that everything is ok with me.

– Be careful, son. Are you really in captivity?

– Yes, mum.

– And will they release you?

– I don’t know. Call to the military commissioner, demand to tell the truth… 9,000 guys lie here like fertilizer. Nobody wants to take them back.

– They are saying on TV you are liberating Kyiv and villages.

– It’s a lie, mum, the TV is a lie. And we [Russians] just “eat it up”… Ukraine just existed on its own, everything was good here. Putin deceived us and ordered us to attack. We arrived and were f*cked off.

– And how do they [Ukrainians] treat you?

– Good, mum. They give me food, drink, and even don’t beat me. Do you understand? Don’t even beat me. Don’t listen to the news, call the military commissioner.

Russian soldiers taken prisoner near Chernihiv. Source: mil.gov.ua ~

Russian soldiers taken prisoner near Chernihiv. Source: mil.gov.ua

Press-conference of Russian pilots

Furthermore, three Russian pilots who were shot down over Ukraine and taken prisoner participated in a press-conference. They say they were not coerced and chose themselves to participate in a press-conference because their leadership didn’t explain to them the real strength of Ukrainian air defense systems, nor did it indicate they would be tasked with bombing civilian districts.

There is video evidence of the detention of at least one of these pilots, Aleksey Sergeievich Holovensky, that has been published online. He has relatives in Ukraine and served in Russian occupied Crimea with the Russian army:

During the press conference, pilots confirmed that on 23 February, the day before the invasion, all of them received orders to fly to Ukraine for combat tasks the following day. However, one of the pilots, Maksim Sergeievich Krishtop (personal identification number Ф891233, military base 45117) also stated that he was informed about the planned operation as early as January 2022, at which point they began conducting active preparations. He also confirmed that he performed one of the tasks of bombing civilian districts:

In January 2022, the regiment commander, Colonel Aleksei Gennadievich Loboda, provided information on my participation in hostilities in Ukraine. After that, the supply of ammunition to the territory of our airfield began. We started training at low altitudes, overcoming air defense, tactical missile launches.

The combat order to strike the territory of Ukraine beginning 24 February 2022 came to the unit on 23 February 2022. My first combat flight was performed on 24 February 2022 to defeat the enemy’s manpower south of the village of Balakleya. The bombing was carried out by high-explosive aircraft bombs with a total weight of 3 tons. The target was hit.

The second combat flight was performed on 3 March 2022. I carried 3 tons of high-explosive bombs. The target was a column of armored vehicles in the area of the city of Izium. The target was hit.

The third combat flight was performed on 6 March 2022. I carried on board 4 tons of high-explosive aircraft bombs. After receiving the order and coordinates, in the process of carrying out the combat mission, I realized that the target was not the enemy’s military facilities but houses and civilians. However, I carried out a criminal order.

After the bombing, I was shot down by Ukrainian air defenses. After landing, I was taken prisoner. I realize that we committed crimes against the Ukrainian people. I want to say sorry to all Ukrainian people for the genocide.

Pilot Aleksey Sergeievich Holovensky also says he was conducting combat tasks of reconnaissance and destruction of Ukrainian air defense in Mykolayiv Oblast. However, he was shot down during one of these flights. During the press-conference he stressed that their command didn’t give pilots true information about Ukrainian air defense, and he also confirmed that cities in Ukraine are bombed:

“I have been a prisoner of war in Ukraine for seven days already. I have received good treatment. I’m not beaten, there are no fascists here, people speak Russian with me. While I was in hospital I also heard air sirens and explosions directly in the city… All the military actions are carried out in the cities. It means a simple leveling down of cities is going on throughout Ukraine.”

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Edited by: Morgan Foster
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