Russian soldiers deployed in Ukraine have described receiving orders to kill civilians, and shared their disdain for Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a trove of intercepted audio recordings.
On Wednesday, The New York Times reported on the audio recordings which were reportedly obtained by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies earlier this year. The intercepted recordings reportedly come from unauthorized cellphone calls by Russian troops to their wives, girlfriends, friends and parents back home.
The recordings were reportedly captured in March near the town of Bucha, a suburb of the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv. Bucha was the site of a civilian massacre. Ukrainian authorities found hundreds of bodies in civilian clothing after Russian forces withdrew from the area at the end of March.
In one recording a soldier named Sergey told his girlfriend that he followed an order to kill people the Russian forces had taken captive.
We detained them, undressed them and checked all their clothes. Then a decision had to be made whether to let them go. If we let them go, they could give away our position,” Sergey said in the intercepted call. “. . .So it was decided to shoot them in the forest.”
“Did you shoot them?” his girlfriend asked.
“Of course we shot them,” he replied.
“Why didn’t you take them as prisoners?” she asked.
“We would have to feed them, and we don’t have enough food ourselves, you see?” Sergey said.
In another intercepted call with his mother a week later, Sergey recalled observing “a sea of corpses in civilian clothing.”
In another call with his girlfriend, Sergey said, “They told us that, where we’re going, there’s a lot of civilians walking around. And they gave us the order to kill everyone we see” because “they might give away our positions.”
“That’s what we’re fucking going to do, it seems. Kill any civilian that walks by and drag them into the forest,” he continued. “. . . I’ve already become a murderer. That’s why I don’t want to kill any more people, especially ones I will have to look in the eyes.”
Throughout the various intercepted audio recordings, the purported Russian troops also openly shared their disdain for their own leaders.
“Fucking higher-ups can’t do anything,” said a soldier identified only as Roman. “Turns out, they don’t really know anything. They can only talk big in their uniforms.”
Sergey told his girlfriend “I’m constantly fucking thinking about how lucky I am that I manage to fucking survive here. Because of some fucking moron’s orders. While we were driving our column almost got ambushed twice.”
Sergey also said “our new general was removed because there were too many losses under his leadership.”
That disdain for leadership went beyond their immediate higherups, all the way to Putin himself.
In another intercepted call, a soldier named Aleksandr said “Putin is a fool. He wants to take Kyiv, but there’s no way we can do it.”
In one call, the partner of a soldier named Maksim described how families back in Russia were struggling with the bodies of so many Russian troops coming home.
“The wives are going crazy,” she said. “They’re even writing to Putin.”
The partner of another soldier named Ivan said, “the coffins keep arriving. We are burying one man after another. This is a nightmare.”
The intercepted audio recordings are part of a larger effort to investigate Russian war crime allegations in the areas around Kyiv.