Monday, 22 Apr 2024

Russia colonel says army to abandon frontlines after units see over 80% killed

Russian Ka-52 helicopter shot down by Ukraine

A former senior Russian commander claimed Vladimir Putin’s troops are on the verge of abandoning their positions on the frontlines, as they grow increasingly disillusioned about the war.

His remarks come in the wake of a new report by military analysts at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), who noted that morale in Russian units has been “demonstrably degraded” in recent weeks.

Sergey Gulyaev served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Soviet Army for two years in Afghanistan with the 58th automobile brigade.

He then went on to serve with the 45th Guards motorised division before quitting the army and becoming a politician.

The fierce Putin critic recently published a book (“Zakat”) in his homeland about the Ukraine war, and as a result, has had to flee Russia after criminal investigators opened a case against him for spreading disinformation about the army.

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Mr Gulyaev is part of a veteran’s group and is regularly in touch with officers and soldiers fighting for Putin’s army in Ukraine.

They have recounted to him the chaotic and brutal conditions they are facing on the battlefield as they struggle to contain Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

The former Lieutenant Colonel told Express.co.uk that morale was collapsing among frontline troops, who are ill-equipped and have been left for months without relief in the trenches.

Soldiers feel they have been abandoned by their superiors and left to fend for themselves, forced to source and buy their own military supplies.

He said: “The army despises Putin, Shoigu and Gerasimov.

“Soldiers have to buy their own equipment from their wages like body armour, as there are no military supplies.

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“And then they are having to spend eight months in the trenches without relief, as leave is cancelled due to a lack of reserves.

“When they are shooting at you day and night and the only thing you can do is dig a trench and sit there for months on end without tanks, armoured personnel carriers or any vehicles – it all has a real demoralising effect.”

He added some soldiers had contacted him recently, desperately asking for his help in purchasing some jeeps for their unit.

They had no vehicles whatsoever and had to carry all their equipment and supplies on foot to their positions.

So dire is their situation, that the soldiers didn’t even have access to military ambulances to evacuate the injured and wounded from the frontlines.

Mr Gulyaev said the anger and collapse in morale among Russian soldiers was already leading to acts of sabotage, with military units refusing to attack when ordered to do so.

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Many officers and soldiers sided with Wagner during the mutiny that briefly threatened to topple Putin’s regime in June, he claimed.

Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, withdrew his troops from the front and then proceeded to capture Rostov-on-Don before calling off his rebellion as his fighters approached Moscow.

“There was sympathy for Prigozhin,” he explained. “I talked with someone who was close to Wagner – they didn’t have any shells, ammunition or supplies.

“The supplies were deliberately blocked by Gerasimov and Shoigu. The Wagner rebellion was the first ‘call’. I think soon officers, battalions and regiments will also withdraw from the front.”

The former senior Russian commander highlighted in graphic detail the huge casualties that Putin’s army is suffering in the war.

He pointed to the experiences of an army regiment from the Kaliningrad region, that was forced to beat a hasty retreat as Ukraine drove Russian forces out of the Kharkiv region in a lightning counterattack last autumn.

Mr Gulyaev said that from a total of 700 men, only 90 soldiers made it out alive – meaning some 87 percent of the regiment was killed.

The commander of the regiment refused to list the dead as missing in action in his casualty report, which led to his dismissal.

He said: “In a casualty report he insisted that there were no missing in action – that the soldiers were dead.

“The Russian army has to pay compensation for soldiers’ deaths – but the attitude of his superiors was if there is no body, then it means the soldier is still alive and is considered missing in action. However, the commander insisted he knew they had died.

“They fired him (he was a colonel) within 24 hours because of that – he put down zero missing in action – all have died. He said they had no chance to retrieve the bodies because they had to evacuate quickly.”

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