By Allison Quinn
Troops sent into Ukraine to back up Russian forces say they had no choice but to leave because Russian military was in shambles and “they deceived us at every step.”
Soldiers from the breakaway state of South Ossetia—speaking to South Ossetian leader Anatoly Bibilov at a meeting publicized by the independent news outlet MediaZona—rattled off a list of complaints about faulty equipment, lack of leadership and intel, and brainless tactics.
South Ossetia, which relies heavily on military and financial aid from Russia, sent troops to Ukraine in late March to “defend Russia.” Ukrainian military officials said at the time that some 150 South Ossetian troops were joining forces with Russia, but Tskhinvali never gave any official figures.
Many of the soldiers are said to be part of Russian military units based in South Ossetia; Moscow and Tskhinvali struck a deal in 2017 to partially incorporate their armed forces.
But reports soon surfaced of many of them refusing to take part in the fight, vowing not to become “cannon fodder.”
“Nobody got scared here, it’s just that they deceived us at every step,” one of the soldiers told Bibilov of their decision to abandon the fight.
“Of the 11 days [that we were there,] I wouldn’t even wish on an enemy what happened there. All the equipment didn’t work, I’m telling you straight… There was no command staff,” another soldier told the South Ossetian leader.
Out of 10 tanks, the first soldier said, only three fired. “The artillery mortar for the mortar-gunners didn’t work, the legs were all crooked,” he said.
“There was no command. And if the officers didn’t know what to do, what is the sergeant doing there?” another soldier was quoted saying.
He said “99 percent of the equipment” in another unit didn’t even work, but when the troops warned the senior in command that their vehicles didn’t work and their guns “did not fire,” he shrugged it off and said to just “go like that.”
In another case, troops complained of their commander “disappearing” every time fighting started.
“He was afraid of his own men. He made himself a security team out of a few of the guys. The commander refused to come out and talk to his own guys and was saying that he’d be beaten,” one soldier said.
Eventually, “some guys from spetsnaz [special forces]” really did beat him and left his “face all bloody,” he said.
They said the Russian troops never had backup plans, or escape routes. Another soldier said one of his wounded comrades in Russian-occupied Donetsk was getting no medical care.
“He says that the first day they bandaged him, but there’s still shrapnel inside him. He says his hand is very swollen, and nobody is doing anything, the doctors aren’t even coming to see him. He’s been there for five days, and the doctors are only asking him for money,” he said.
After hearing the soldiers paint a picture of such utter dysfunction, Bibilov asked the men directly if they believe Russia will lose the war.
One soldier spoke up: “Yes, we believe they will lose.”