A captured Russian soldier revealed to CNN that his commanders were high on painkillers and gave nonsensical orders like sending them out under mortar fire.
According to the captured Russian soldier identified as Slava, his commanders would send soldiers into mortar fire while under the influence of painkillers.
Slava recounted his experience of navigating through craters and body parts amidst Ukrainian shelling before being captured in a foxhole south of Bakhmut. The specific timeline of the event is unclear.
CNN conducted interviews with Slava and two other Russian soldiers in the presence of Ukrainian soldiers, noting that the captives appeared to speak freely and were not coerced. To adhere to Red Cross guidelines and avoid potential repercussions upon their return to Russia, CNN used pseudonyms instead of their real names.
Both Slava and Anton, another soldier, disclosed that they received only two weeks of basic training before deployment. Slava further expressed the absence of morale among the troops.
Various reports have highlighted low Russian soldier morale, with letters from fleeing soldiers mentioning “moral exhaustion” and declining health.
Russian soldiers have also voiced complaints about the competence of commanders in the past.
Slava and Anton, recruited from prison, indicated that they primarily relied on Russian media to understand the war. President Vladimir Putin is widely considered to tightly control the Russian media.
Anton shared his plan to take his own life upon encountering Ukrainian soldiers, anticipating either torture or execution. However, he admitted being unable to proceed and recounted the incident to CNN.
Seeking prisoner exchange
The captors hope to exchange the men for Ukrainian prisoners held by the Russians, but with low expectations. Many of the captured Russians are individuals with criminal records, recruited to the frontline under the command of “Storm Z,” a unit under the Russian Ministry of Defense that offers amnesty to Russian convicts in exchange for a six-month deployment in Ukraine.
Since the conflict’s inception in early 2022, numerous exchanges have taken place between Ukrainians and Russian prisoners of war. The recent major April exchange mostly involved Azov battalion members who defended Mariupol before the Russian occupation. Subsequently, these Azov soldiers regrouped to form the Third Assault Brigade, currently engaged in combat in Bakhmut.