Demoralised and disillusioned Russian troops are fleeing the war in Ukraine and surrendering without a fight, reports claim.
As Russia’s forces run out of food and fuel, some have resorted to looting, while others are even reportedly sabotaging their own military equipment in a bid to get out of the war.
Putin’s assault on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv appears to have stalled as fighting enters the seventh day, with 6,000 Russian troops killed in the conflict so far.
Now, footage is emerging of captured Russian soldiers crying as they claim they had no idea what to expect in Ukraine.
Intercepted radio messages indicate troops are disobeying orders from Moscow to shell Ukrainian towns, and complaining about running out of food and fuel.
The recordings, obtained by British intelligence company ShadowBreak, include a soldier who sounds like he is crying.
In another recording, a soldier loses his temper as he asks when food or fuel will arrive.
“We’ve been here for three days! When the hell is it going to be ready?” he shouts, as reported in The Telegraph.
A third recording features a tense exchange in which the same soldier refuses to use artillery on an area until civilians have left.
Some of the messages were “proof of war crimes” as they reveal the Kremlin ordered Russian troops to fire missiles into urban areas, ShadowBreak founder Samuel Cardillo claimed.
Separate videos are believed to show frustrated Russian troops retreating, while one soldier is said to have texted his mother: “The only thing I want right now is to kill myself.”
It comes as a top Kremlin adviser Andrey Kortunov has revealed his shock over Putin’s decision to invade.
“I was shocked because for a long time, I thought that a military operation was not feasible. It was not plausible,” he told Sky News.
“I do not understand the logic he currently has, his own rationale that justifies the actions that he made.
“It’s hard for me to get into his thinking, what he really thought when he made this decision.”
A senior US defence official told reporters on Tuesday that Russia’s forces have faced major issues after Putin’s hopes of a quick takeover of Kyiv were dashed.
Some units are reportedly running out of food and fuel, while a number of troops were highly inexperienced, and didn’t even know they were being sent into combat.
Soldiers desperate to avoid combat have even “deliberately punched holes” in their vehicles’ petrol tanks, a US official told the New York Times.
A number of unverified videos and pictures on social media show expensive Russian military vehicles abandoned by troops, often fully-fuelled and loaded.
One picture shows a Russian thermobaric TOS-1A tank – a so-called “vacuum bomb” captured by the Ukrainian army.
The tweet claims the tank was abandoned in good condition and fully-loaded.
Rob Lee, a PhD student at King’s College London’s Department of War Studies, shared pictures of an abandoned Russian short-range air defence system, a Tor-M2, left by troops in Ukraine.
In Mykolaiv, abandoned Russian equipment was left with the engine running by the side of the road.
On top of that, many troops have been shocked by the backlash from ordinary Ukrainians to their invasion, having expected to be welcomed as liberators.
Weeping prisoners of war have said in videos they were sent as “cannon fodder” and claimed they had no idea they were being sent to war and being made “to attack people defending their territory”.
In a video posted to the Ukraine security services’ Facebook page, an injured Russian soldier sat in front of a Ukrainian flag was filmed saying: “This is not our war. Mothers and wives, collect your husbands. There is no need to be here.”
Other footage showed a handcuffed Russian prisoner in tears saying into the camera: “They don’t even pick up the corpses, there are no funerals.”
Another captured Russian said they had been forced to attack civilians in Ukraine who were “just defending their territory”.
He said: “No one has attacked us and what Russia wants from the war, I cannot understand. Mum, dad, I love you.”
Russian units are said to be surrendering to Ukraine “without a fight”, a US official said, adding that a lot of the troops are “conscripts”, some of whom “weren’t even told they were going to be in combat”.