The Russian army missed the most targets in Ukraine. This is also due to the poor equipment and the lousy morale of the soldiers. Intercepted phone calls reveal what’s really going on in Putin’s troops – and what the fighters think of the commander-in-chief.

Since the beginning of the war, the Russian army has been fighting not only against Ukraine, but also against problems within its own ranks. Bad equipment, bad leadership, lousy morale: These are the core components of Russia’s failure. The result: the targets in the Ukraine are missed by the allegedly overpowering army.

Recordings of phone calls directly from the battlefield now show what Putin’s soldiers really think – about the war and about Putin. The New York Times collected these intercepted calls. This is a selection:

A few days after the beginning of the war – attack on Kyiv:

Sergey (calling his mother): “Nobody told us that we were going to war. You warned us just the day before Mom that this war is the stupidest decision our government has ever made.”

Nikita (calling a friend): “We should only do exercises for two or three days. We were fucking tricked like little kids.”

Aleksey (to his girlfriend): “I didn’t know this was happening. They said we’re going to an exercise. Those bastards didn’t tell us anything.”

Aleksandr: “Putin is a fool. He wants to take Kyiv? There is no way for us to do that.”

Ilya (to his girlfriend): “What are they saying? When is Putin going to end all this?” – “He says everything is going according to plan and that the schedule is being adhered to.” – “He is completely wrong!”

Sergey (to his girlfriend): “You want to prank people on TV. They say this isn’t a war, it’s a special operation. But the truth is it’s a fucking war.”

A short time later – withdrawal from the region around Kyiv:

Nikita: “The Ukrainians are advancing and we are just standing here. I never thought I would end up like this. Our own comrades shot at us. They thought we were Ukrainians. I thought I was going to die.”

Sergey: “Our situation sucks. We went on the defensive. Our offensive is faltering.”

Three weeks after the start of the war:

Yegor (to a relative): “From my regiment, a third of the people are dead.”

Nikita (to his mother): “60 percent of our unit is gone.”

Sergey: “There were 400 paratroopers. Only 38 of them survived. Because our commanders sent the soldiers to the slaughterhouse.”

Sergey (to his mother): “Mom, I didn’t see a Nazi here. This war is based on a false assumption. Nobody needs that. The people here live normal lives. Like in Russia.”

About the massacre of civilians:

Sergey: “We have orders to kill anyone we see.”

Sergey (to his girlfriend): “Three men walked by our camp. We arrested her, undressed her and checked her clothes. Then we had to make a decision about whether to let them go. If we let them go, they could have given away our position. So we decided to shoot her in the forest.” – “Did you shoot her?” – “Yes, of course.” – “Why didn’t you capture her?” – “Then we should have looked after her. And we don’t even have enough food for ourselves.”

Sergey (to his mother): “In the forest is the headquarters of our division. I walked there and saw a sea of ​​corpses. civilians. A lake. I’ve never seen so many dead bodies in my life. I couldn’t even see where this lake ended.”

About the commanders:

Roman (to his girlfriend): “Our fucking bosses can’t do that. You don’t know either. They can only make big speeches in their uniforms.”

Sergey (to his girlfriend): “Our new general has already been deposed again – because of too high losses under his leadership. I’m just glad I’m still alive. Despite the decisions of those darned morons.”

About the Army:

Soldier with no name: “I’m leaving. When I get home I’ll tell you everything. It’s complete bullshit. I’m never going back to that shit again.”

Vlad: “When I get home, I’ll quit. Fuck the army!”

Vadim (to his girlfriend): “I’m going, dammit. I’m taking a civilian job. And my son never joins the army, 100 percent. Tell him to become a doctor.”

Sergey (to his girlfriend): “They don’t want to let me go. They don’t allow men to quit. They say if you do that you will go to prison for five years.”

Aleksandr (to his girlfriend): “I don’t know what will happen if I don’t fight. They could put us in jail. There are so many here who refuse to fight.”

You can hear all of the call recordings here on The New York Times.