The serviceman, named only as Andrey, compared the onslaught to the worst moments of Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union.
‘No f***ing ammunition, nothing… Shall we use our fingers as bayonets?’ he moaned.
The stark exchange was one excerpt from 17 phone calls made by Russian soldiers in the first two weeks of July by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), the country’s top intelligence agency.
The expletive-laden intercepts, shared with Reuters by a Ukrainian intelligence source, provide a rare – albeit partial – glimpse into the conditions of some Russian soldiers on the frontline.
The news agency verified the identity of the troops using messaging accounts or social media in their names, some of which featured photos of them in military uniform.
Another soldier, Maxim, from the Siberian region of Irkutsk, told his wife Anna on July 3: ‘That’s it. There is no second battalion left. They f***ing turned it to crumbs.’
He referred to dead comrades as ‘cargo 200’, a term coined during the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan as a codeword for the zinc coffins used to carry home the bodies of dead Russian troops.
Often shortened to ‘200’, it is still widely used in both Russia and Ukraine to describe slain soldiers, while ‘cargo 300’ denotes the wounded.
‘Basically, they couldn’t even retrieve the (cargo) 300s. The 300s became 200s,’ Maxim said, meaning that the wounded soldiers had been left on the battlefield to die.
While Russia has so far largely stemmed Ukraine’s fightback – with defence minister Sergei Shoigu insisting the counter offensive has failed on every front – the soldiers in the intercepts complain of heavy losses, a lack of ammo, proper training and equipment, as well as poor morale.
Both Russia and Ukraine treat their losses as a state secret.
Reuters traced one soldier all the way back to the day he was mobilised on September 29, when his mother posted a photo of her beside him in his uniform with the caption ‘they took him today’.
In July, he was overheard telling her in a phone call about the devastating losses his men were suffering on the battlefield.
‘They were torn apart. They’re lying there: they can’t even collect some of them. They’re already rotten – eaten by worms,’ he said on July 12.
After his mother replied to ask ‘really?’, he went on: ‘Just imagine, thrown on the front line with no equipment, nothing.’
Alexei derided his superiors and the army high command for concealing the true scale of troop losses. ‘Everything is covered up,’ he said.
A fourth soldier, also named Andrey, told his wife on July 5 about problems retrieving wounded and dead troops from the battlefield as well as heavy casualties sustained by a Russian company.
‘The guys got fucked up yesterday,’ he said. ‘The whole ninth company was turned to rubbish – that’s 72 people. There’s 17 guys left.’
Russian officials have said there are no current plans for a new wave of mobilisation, and it is focused on recruiting professional soldiers.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, said in July that 185,000 new recruits had joined the army as professional contract soldiers since the start of the year.
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