Russian morale collapsing as soldier warns ‘We’re dying like f****** earthworms’

The state of plummeting Russian morale has been laid bare by a series of intercepted audio messages indicating a growing number of soldiers are growing weary of Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine.

And one man summed up the devastating human cost of the conflict by telling a relative: “We’re dying like f****** earthworms.”

In audio intercepts from the front lines, Russian soldiers speak in shorthand of 200s to mean dead, 300s to mean wounded. The urge to flee has become common enough that they also talk of 500s – people who refuse to fight.

The calls offer a glimpse of the war as it looked through Russian eyes – a point of view that seldom makes its way into Western media, largely because Russia has made it a crime to speak honestly about the conflict in Ukraine.

They also show clearly how the war has progressed, from the professional soldiers who initially powered Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion to men from all walks of life compelled to serve in gruelling conditions.

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One man, speaking from the front line in Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, tells his brother: “There’s no f****** ‘dying the death of the brave’ here. You just die like a f****** earthworm.”

What was happening in Ukraine was “simply genocide”, he added.

He continued: “If this s*** doesn’t stop, then soon we’ll be leading the Ukrainians to the Kremlin ourselves.

“This is just a huge testing ground, where the whole world is testing their weapons, f*** it, and sizing up their d***s, that’s all.”

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The prospect of another wave of mobilisation lingers, even as Moscow has been trying to lure people into signing contracts with the military.

Russia’s annual autumn conscription draft kicked off in October, pulling in some 130,000 fresh young men. Although Moscow says conscripts won’t be sent to Ukraine, after a year of service they automatically become reservists – prime candidates for mobilisation.

Some of the people in the overheard conversation had no money, no education and no options, while others believed in patriotic duty.

One worked in a meat processing plant, cutting bone, another worked at a law firm and a third, who worked as a roofer and later at a supermarket company, had a string of debts and had defaulted on his utilities payments, records show.

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It is hard to say how representative these calls are, but their desperation is matched by a spike in legal cases against soldiers in Russia who refuse to fight.

Also speaking to his brother, another soldier, nicknamed “Crazy Professor” because of his dishevelled hair, said he was swept up in the first days of Russia’s September 2022 draft, and assured he would not see combat.

However, after a few weeks of training, he was sent to the front line near Bakhmut as a mortarman.

He said: “They have night vision and automatic rifles with cool silencers. I have an automatic rifle from 1986 or hell knows what year.”

It was his job to aim, but the Russian army’s coordinates were so sloppy that soldiers ended up killing each other.

The Professor said his commander instructed them not to kill civilians, but emphasised that it was impossible to tell who was who.

He added: “I imagined that there, on the other side, there could be young people just like us. And they have their whole lives ahead of them.

“Bones, tears – all the same, they are the same as we are.

“The worst thing is that there might even be children there, you know.”

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