Photo by Irina Motina/Xinhua via Getty Images
- Russian conscripts are increasingly appealing directly to Putin for more support amid the war.
- Videos in recent weeks have featured troops asking for additional aid or to be recalled altogether.
- The trend comes amid the ongoing bloody and brutal battle of Bakhmut in the east.
Russian conscripts on the frontlines of the war in Ukraine are appealing directly to the big man in charge, begging President Vladimir Putin for further support, aid, and reprieve amid a wave of attrition assaults.
In recent months, an increasing number of Russian soldiers and military units have filmed chilling videos of themselves asking Putin to bolster their supplies or recall them from their postings entirely as they struggle with inadequate training, weaponry, and ammunition.
The Washington Post on Sunday reported on the growing trend, citing Russian media outlet Vyorstka, which reported that in just one month, recruits from at least 16 regions in Russia made video appearances asking for Putin’s help.
In a video from earlier this month, a Russian soldier admonished “the incompetence of our superiors,” saying his unit had been replenished with newly-mobilized soldiers six times already.
“Please help. There is nowhere else to turn,” the soldier said, according to a translation by CNN.
In a separate video obtained by CNN, a different Russian soldier in eastern Ukraine filmed a smoking Russian tank, explaining that he was offering “firsthand evidence” of the “clusterfuck.”
“Glory to Russia,” he added.
Recruits in the videos resist criticizing the war effort outright while also stressing their ongoing commitment to the fight, even as they beg for respite. Most cover their faces or alter their voices, indicating an ongoing fear among the soldiers of retaliation from The Motherland. Putin signed a new law shortly after the war began last year punishing outspoken opponents of the war with up to 15 years in prison.
The slew of recent videos seemingly support reports suggesting that Russia is sending scores of so-called “shock troops,” to their deaths to absorb Ukraine’s better-trained, more valuable soldiers in the east.
US intelligence from earlier this year indicated that Russia was sticking to its strategy of throwing poorly trained soldiers at the front lines to quickly replenish their manpower following casualties.
The tactic has been on display in Bakhmut, where both sides have suffered staggering losses amid the bloodiest and longest battle of the war thus far. Members of the Wagner Group, the powerful Russian paramilitary organization that sparked global outrage by offering convicted prisoners a chance at freedom in exchange for their fighting in Ukraine, have been particularly susceptible to casualties.
The White House said last month that at least 30,000 Wagner Group soldiers had been killed since the war began in February 2022. Many of the casualties were former prisoners.
In a more recent appeal video, soldiers who said they were members of the 580th Separate howitzer Artillery Division from Serpukhov, Russia, read aloud a letter to Putin asking that they be recalled from the fight due to a lack of necessary training and experience, according to a translation from The Post.
—Dmitri (@wartranslated) March 12, 2023
“Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, we are asking you to sort out this situation,” the reader said, invoking the leader’s rarely-used middle name.
Even pro-Russia war bloggers have compared the flurry of soldier deaths to “meat assaults,” according to the Post.
Earlier this year, the British Defense Ministry said intelligence indicated Russia’s death toll could be as high as 60,000, with an additional 140,000 injuries on the battlefield.
Putin has yet to publicly respond to the flood of videos.