The New York Times published a large number of wiretaps made to Russian soldiers who were in the Kiev area in the early stages of the war. The interceptions were made by the Ukrainian army and then given exclusively to the New York Timeswho spent over two months translating every single recording and verifying – by comparing phone numbers, personal information and social media profiles – that it was indeed Russian soldiers who were in Ukraine who were speaking.
The records date back to March, when the Russian army occupied several towns around Kiev with the aim of conquering the Ukrainian capital. The soldiers are intercepted while talking on the phone with relatives, friends and girlfriends, disobeying the orders of their superiors who prohibited private calls.
Soldiers openly talk about how the invasion is effectively blocked, criticize the government and President Vladimir Putin for the decision to invade Ukraine, tell about the terrible massacres of Ukrainian civilians in which they were accomplices, such as that of Bucha, and they speak of the abuses and looting carried out by the Russian army in the occupied territories of Ukraine.
One of the most relevant parts of the interceptions concerns the soldiers’ criticisms of the Russian war strategy, the terrible conditions of the equipment, and above all the government of Vladimir Putin.
Some records confirm that the soldiers were not warned of the invasion plans until shortly before crossing the Ukrainian border. “Nobody told us we were going to fight. They warned us a day earlier, ”says Sergei to his mother (all soldiers are identified only by name, to protect their identity). “They told us we were going to a training. These bastards didn’t tell us anything, ”Alexsei says to his partner.
Furthermore, the soldiers realize very well that the advance towards Kiev is at a standstill, and that the invasion from the point of view of preparation and strategy was a mistake. «Putin is a fool. He wants to take over Kiev. But there’s no chance we can do it, ”says Alexandr. “Our position is shit, to be clear. We got on the defensive. Our invasion has stopped, ”says Sergei. Other soldiers talk about the huge losses, the mistakes made by the military commands, how the equipment is old and some men are forced to strip the corpses of Ukrainian soldiers, who have better equipment.
The interceptions also talk about the looting that the Russians commit in the homes of Ukrainian civilians: «What TV do you want? LG or Samsung? »Sergei asks the girl about him. Yevgeni says: “They’re fucking savages, they’re stealing everything.” “But ours?” Asks the interlocutor. “Of course, some fucking TV […]fucking meat grinders, screwdrivers and fucking suitcases. ‘
Certainly the most remarkable and terrifying part of the wiretapping comes when the soldiers talk about the massacres of civilians committed by the Russian army, in which they have participated or have otherwise seen. One of the biggest and most terrible is that of Bucha, a town that was just outside Kiev, and where huge mass graves have been discovered.
Sergei tells his girlfriend, speaking of Ukrainian civilians: “We arrested them, stripped them and checked their clothes. Then we had to decide whether to free them. If we released them, they would reveal our location… So it was decided to shoot them in the forest. ‘ “Did you shoot him?” “Yes we shot him.” “Couldn’t you have taken them as prisoners?” “We should have fed him, and we don’t even have any for ourselves.”
In a subsequent conversation Sergei says: «We have been given orders to kill everyone we see… And that’s what we do. We kill all civilians that pass us and drag them into the forest. I’ve become a killer now. ‘
Some soldiers finally come to understand that they are fighting a war based on false premises: the Russian government and propaganda had assured them that they were going to rid the Ukraine of the fascists, but they realize that they are in fact participating in an invasion war. .
Always Sergei to his mother: «Mom, we haven’t even seen a fascist here … This war is based on false assumptions. Nobody needed it. We got here and people were living normal lives. Very good, like in Russia. And now they are forced to live in cellars ». “Seryozha, you can’t be that extreme. I understand that it is scary there and that you feel uncomfortable », replies her mother using a diminutive of Sergei. “What does fear have to do with all this? Here we all think the same thing: there was no need for this war ».
The occupation of the countries around Kiev would not last long: at the end of March the Russian army, finding itself in increasingly precarious positions, was forced to abandon all the occupied territory in the north of Ukraine, with a humiliating retreat.
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