If Vladimir Putin wants to know how things are going in Russia’s war with Ukraine, all he needs to do is talk to his soldiers. Or at least listen to their phone calls. That’s what Ukraine itself has been doing, and the stories are eye-opening.
Boots-on-the-Ground Perspective Grim
During the first two weeks of July, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) intercepted 17 phone calls placed by Russian soldiers who were involved in the fighting within Ukraine’s borders.
The picture the boots-on-the-ground troops paint is a bit different than the one Russian President Putin might want the world to see.
Because even though Ukraine’s counteroffensive has been something of a stalemate to this point, the Russian soldiers didn’t mince their words.
In a call home to his wife, one soldier said that the Ukrainian army was “f-ing us up.”
Troops Dumped With Inadequate Support
He also said that he felt like he was on the front in World War II, where Soviet forces were left to fight largely with their wits.
The tapped-out soldier concluded by telling his wife that their weaponry was so depleted he wondered if he should be using his fingers as mini-bayonets.
Some war experts think that the intercepts confirm the general perception that Putin is dumping his soldiers into situations without the proper support.
Neil Melvin, the director of a British think tank that has been watching the war closely, subscribes to this theory. He also thinks the situation is causing tension between Russian soldiers and their leaders on the ground.
Exposing Internal Problems
But the SBU provided the phone call excerpts to Reuters without much other context. They did give up names and phone numbers, which the news agency was able to match to registered Ukrainian soldiers.
None of the calls Reuters made to the phones were answered or returned, though three spouses did confirm they were married to soldiers on the front.
And the SBU didn’t say how many intercepts they made in all. So, there is no real gauge of how widespread the distress among Russian soldiers is.
It’s also well known that both Russia and Ukraine are super sensitive about morale issues, and they keep any such information close to the vest.
Any chance one side can take to expose internal problems for the other is an extra knife jab in the ongoing battle of worldwide public perceptions.
Generals “Couldn’t Care Less”
Every single excerpt shared by the SBU fell into that category, with soldier emotions ranging from anger to despair.
One man said that everyone in his deployment is scared, and his superiors are trying to cover up all the shortcomings. And the generals, he said, “couldn’t care less.”
Beyond mere griping and cursing, some of the soldiers spoke with fear and dread about the number of battlefield casualties they were seeing.
One man reported that three-quarters of his battalion was wiped out in one round of fighting.
So, even if SBU cherry-picked the phone calls they reported on, it seems clear that Ukraine is no walk in the park for Russian soldiers.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Dmitriy Kandinskiy