Demoralised Russian soldiers tell of anger at being ‘duped’ into war

Demoralised Russian soldiers tell of anger at being ‘duped’ into war. By Luke Harding.

Five Russian soldiers sit in a brick building. They are blindfolded: the latest prisoners to be captured inside Ukraine. …

“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. …

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.

“Some of them thought they were on military exercises. They didn’t anticipate resistance,” Artem Mazhulin, a 31-year-old English teacher from Kharkiv said. “A lot are conscripts born in 2002 or 2003. We are talking about 19-year-old and 20-year-old boys.”

He added: “Since 2014 the Russian government has been brainwashing its population with propaganda. They try and make Russia believe Ukraine is not a real country and say fascist monsters have captured it.”

The Russian leadership has demonstrated the danger of believing your own propaganda. Reality was so different to their dreams of being welcomed as liberators. A bit like the USA in Iraq in 2003.

Sure the PoW videos are Ukrainian propaganda, but there are a lot of them and they appear authentic, so there’s probably something to it.