Five Russian soldiers sit in a brick building. They are blindfolded: the latest prisoners to be captured inside Ukraine. A Ukrainian voice interrogates them. “Speak,” he says to the group’s Russian officer. What message would he like to send to his soldiers and to Russians back at home?
“Frankly speaking, they tricked us,” the officer replies, referring to his military superiors sitting in Moscow. “Everything we were told was a fake. I would tell my guys to leave Ukrainian territory. We’ve got families and children. I think 90% of us would agree to go home.”
The three-minute video was filmed under conditions of duress. The soldiers are evidently scared. And yet there are numerous similar interviews with Russian captives which have been circulating on Ukrainian social media channels, expressing similar sentiments.
Asked what he would tell his commanders, one said bluntly: “They are faggots”. Another phrase frequently used is oni obmanuli nas: they duped us. Eight days after Vladimir Putin’s invasion it is clear that a significant number of his servicemen are demoralised and reluctant to fight. Some have given themselves up.
Others have abandoned their vehicles and have set off back towards the Russian border on foot, lugging their weapons and kitbags, videos suggest. These episodes do not mean that the Kremlin will fail in its attempts to conquer Ukraine, as its tactics shift to brutal shelling of civilians.
But low morale among invading troops might be one reason why Russia’s blitzkrieg plan to overwhelm Ukraine appears not to have progressed at the speed Putin would have wanted. The assumption in Moscow was that the operation would be swift and successful. Soldiers were given food and fuel supplies for only two or three days, the videos suggest.
The Kremlin also appears to have had a totally fantastical idea of the reception they would get. Several prisoners of war said they had been assured Ukrainians would welcome them as liberators. Russian forces were expecting flowers and cheers, not bullets and bombs, they said. [Continue reading…]