Nearly three months after Vladimir Putin unleashed his “special military operation” against Ukraine and a day after his less-than-triumphant Victory Day speech, a series of intercepted phone calls and radio traffic suggest the “idiocy” of his war is finally becoming too much to bear for even his own troops.
In perhaps the most dramatic audio to emerge, Russian crew members on board a Raptor-class landing assault boat near Snake Island in the Black Sea appear to have been caught in radio transmissions desperately lamenting their lack of air support as Ukrainian forces bombarded them from an armed Bayraktar drone.
The audio, released on Telegram by the investigative news outlet InformNapalm, purportedly comes from open radio traffic during battles in the Black Sea that took place over the weekend, when Ukraine’s military said it had destroyed three “enemy” boats that subsequently wound up “on the bottom of the sea.”
“Where is air support? Where is air support?” a man, identified as a Russian crew member, can be heard saying frantically amid what sounds like sirens in the background.
“This Bayraktar is already pissing me the fuck off,” the man says, before apparently becoming more desperate as he says “they have fired a fourth missile at us! A fourth missile!”
Despite the man’s pleas, the Russian service member on the other end simply promises to “pass along” the information to military leadership. It was not immediately clear if the man in the recording was on any of the three boats that Ukrainian authorities say they sank.
But the frustration in the recording has been echoed in other intercepted communications that purportedly capture Russian service members serving in other parts of Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Security Service released a minute-long recording Tuesday that it said was an intercepted phone call between a Russian soldier based in the Kharkiv region and his father back home. The soldier could not hold back his anger at his own commander, who he claimed had abandoned the fight to let the men in his unit serve as cannon fodder.
“They’re standing there, they’re under fire, and the commander just goes, ‘Don’t back down!’ While he’s somewhere sitting on a couch, drinking, probably,” the young man says.
“They can fuck off with this war,” the soldier’s father replies, unleashing a stream of curse words over the “idiocy” of the war and the propaganda shown on Russian state TV.
“I can’t wrap my head around it,” he says, adding that “they tell us every morning on TV about these new weapons that all of Ukraine supposedly saw and got scared of.”
Advising his son to refuse to take part in the war any further, he rails against the “worthless rat” and “fucking scum” of a commander before the conversation ends.
The rapidly deteriorating morale among Russian troops has come to no surprise for many military experts, who say Moscow began the war with a flawed understanding of Ukraine’s military capabilities and an erroneous belief that nothing had changed since the Kremlin first seized territory in 2014.
Even a former Wagner Group mercenary who previously fought for Russia in Ukraine has spoken out to publicly call the war a “mistake.”
Marat Gabidullin, a member of the shadowy, Kremlin-linked mercenary group until 2019, told Reuters he was asked to rejoin the fight after the invasion on Feb. 24, but he refused because he knew it would be a mess.
“They were caught completely by surprise that the Ukrainian army resisted so fiercely and that they faced the actual army,” he was quoted saying, adding that Russian forces “did not learn how to fight for real.”