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Russian fighters have been sharing tips with one another about how to deliberately damage their own equipment and hamper Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war plans in Ukraine, according to recordings of alleged Russian troops’ phone calls that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) intercepted.
In one regiment, one Russian soldier allegedly said they’ve been pouring sand into the tanks’ fuel systems to clog them up.
“I don't follow stupid orders, I simply refuse,” one fighter can be heard telling a comrade. “The motherf*cker sent me to tanks, motherf*cking piece of shit. I f*cked it up and that's it.”
When the fellow Russian soldier on the other end of the line heard the unit wasn’t punished for the insubordination, he indicated he might repeat the tactic later in his own unit.
Another Russian fighter shared with a family member that he and his comrades deliberately damaged their tank—the last one left in their regiment—to interfere with an attack plan, as well, according to another intercept the SBU shared.
“We have one tank left in the regiment,” he said. “In short, we broke our tank ourselves in the morning so as not to go.”
Throughout the invasion, Russian battle plans haven’t gone the way Putin has wanted them to, leaving Putin frustrated and on edge, according to a senior U.S. defense official. One of his major goals was to capture the capital, Kyiv, and install a pro-Putin puppet government. But his troops faltered outside of the capital for days and had countless logistics problems, and in particular had troubles with the fueling, according to the defense official.
And while some U.S. officials have said for weeks that it’s at times been unclear if Russia’s military’s failings are due to lack of planning or just poor execution of plans, the intercepted calls suggest in some cases the answer is much simpler. The troops themselves are disobeying orders and sabotaging the war effort on purpose.
A mainstay of the war has been images of Russians abandoning their equipment and weapons. Russian military morale has been low from the beginning of the invasion, and it’s not getting any better; Russian troops have begun posting on social media begging for donations to the war effort, showing a side-by-side comparison between their dismal first-aid kits and the Ukrainians.
The Russian war effort isn’t only being hampered from the inside. Inspired by the Russians’ intercepted phone calls, Ukraine’s government encouraged other Russian troops to disobey orders and refuse to attack, echoing earlier calls to surrender and abandon the war path.
“The SBU welcomes this practice,” the SBU said in a statement Friday. "But even it can be improved—just ‘give up’ and leave the war in Ukraine!”
Ukrainians have been putting up a stiff resistance from day one of the war, surprising Putin along the way, according to the Pentagon.
The Pentagon, too, has been providing key intelligence that has helped the Ukrainians target key Russian assets, including the Russian warship the Moskva, which sank in the Black Sea after Ukrainians hit it in a missile strike in April, according to The Washington Post.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby has acknowledged the intelligence-sharing effort but said the U.S. had no part in the targeting.