The calls give insight into what Moscow’s soldiers think of Putin’s confused invasion filled with tactical blunders. Thousands were made home to loved ones. They were intercepted by Ukraine’s military and translated by The New York Times.
The Kremlin believed Kyiv would fall in days following the start of the invasion. However, fierce Ukrainian resistance and devastating logistics issues saw Russian troops stuck on the outskirts of the capital for most of the month of March.
Unauthorised calls were made to parents, relatives, friends and partners back home in Russia, but they weren’t the only ones listening.
The calls show the horror and despair facing Russian fighters, some of whom were never told they would be fighting in the first place.
Russian soldier Sergey said to his mother: “No one told us we were going to war. They warned us one day before we left.”
Other soldiers echoed him. One claimed they had been told they were going “for training” for a few days.
One soldier lamented that there was no way they would capture the Ukrainian capital. He said: “We can’t take Kyiv…We just take villages, and that’s it.”
Another added: “Mom, this war is the stupidest decision our government ever made, I think.”
At the time, Russian supply lines were in disarray with miles-long conveys of vehicles making easy targets for Ukrainian soldiers and drones.
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Likely in response to the crushing defeat, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of Russian men to be drafted to fight in Ukraine.
However, many of these troops are inexperienced or undertrained. There have been reports of men with no military experience being drafted.
There have also been reports of protesters – those speaking out against the war in Ukraine across Russia – being drafted to fight.
As more and more unwilling, inexperienced soldiers go to fight in Putin’s war, more phone calls to mothers and sweethearts are likely to be made.