Homeland spirit can never be crushed, say Ukrainian refugees
Phone calls home from Russian troops on the front line give a glimpse of how ordinary men have found themselves condoning atrocities in Ukraine.
Recruits have become hardened to the horror of war, excerpts show.
Some 2,000 calls were intercepted by Dossier Centre, an investigative group funded by Russian dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Some were made by soldiers said to have committed war crimes in Bucha – a town near Kyiv – in the first month of the conflict.
In one call, Leonid – whose unit entered Ukraine a year ago today – speaks of his compassion for enemy troops after his first battle.
‘There were dead bodies lying around, burning… 18 or 19 years old. Am I different from them? No, I’m not,’ he tells his mother in a conversation.
But weeks later, he tells how he loots from homes after running out of basic supplies. ‘We take food, bed linen,’ he says. And speaking as he watches a town burn after a Kremlin attack, he adds: ‘Such a beauty.’
In a later call he describes using lethal force against just about anyone.
‘Civilians are lying on the street with their brains coming out. Ones killed by our army,’ he says.
‘A guy was stopped. They took his phone. He had info about us in Telegram messages – where to bomb, how many tanks we have. He was shot right there on the spot. He was 17 years old. We kill them all.’
Leonid returned to Russia in May, badly wounded, but alive.
First appear at Homeland spirit can never be crushed, say Ukrainian refugees