Russian troops tried to rebel against their military commanders in an occupied part of southeast Ukraine, but three of them were killed by Chechen fighters in response, according to Ukrainian intelligence.
Ivan Arefyev, a spokesman for the Zaporizhzhia regional military administration, detailed the incident in a statement on Telegram early Wednesday.
“According to Ukrainian intelligence, yesterday in the Pologovsky district Russian troops started to rebel: Russia’s soldiers didn’t want to fight because they have not received their promised payouts. [Ramzan] Kadyrov’s men brutally killed three of the instigators of the riot who were ready to lay down their weapons and head home,” Arefyev wrote.
No further details were provided on the brigade said to be involved in the riot, but Chechen troops have widely been seen as playing the role of “enforcers” during the war, and many survivors of the Bucha massacre outside Kyiv said the mass execution of civilians only began after Chechen troops were sent in to replace Russian soldiers there.
Authorities in nearby Dnipro reported similar instances of Russian troops rebelling. In a statement Wednesday, the Dnipro City Council said intercepted phone calls revealed Vladimir Putin’s troops plotting to shoot their own commanders.
An accompanying audio recording released by Ukraine’s Security Service features a man purported to be a Russian soldier complaining to a friend that commanders have given orders to shoot at civilians and threatened charges of desertion if troops don’t fulfill the command.
“Our command, they got provisions: cigarettes, food stuff… Do you know what they did? Our bosses fucked off and dumped everyone. I don’t even know where they are,” he said.
“Well fucking shoot them and that’s it,” his friend replied.
After repeatedly being urged to “shoot” his bosses, the first man said he plans to report the commanders to military prosecutors back home.
Russian soldiers have also reported conscripts—the less experienced servicemembers whom Putin vowed not to send to Ukraine—trying to get out of the war with the help of prosecutors back home, according to Ukrainian intelligence.
In another audio clip released Wednesday of what is said to be an intercepted call, a man identified as a Russian soldier can be heard telling his mother that conscripts have been so “shaken” by what they’ve seen in Ukraine they are calling relatives back home to get them out of service with the help of local prosecutors.
Apparently urging her to do the same for him, she responds that the local prosecutor is “rotten” but vows to search for someone to help pull him out anyway.
Such reports of widespread disillusionment and rebellion among Russian troops comes as Moscow is said to be preparing to deploy thousands of Syrian and Libyan mercenaries to continue the assault on Ukraine.
After Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced the “next phase” of the war on Tuesday, a European official who spoke to reporters in Washington on the condition of anonymity said between 10,000 and 20,000 mercenaries have been hired by the Wagner Group, a private military contractor widely believed to be linked to one of Putin’s top allies, to fight in Ukraine.
“What I can tell you is that we did see some transfer from these areas, Syria and Libya, to the eastern Donbas region, and these guys are mainly used as a mass against the Ukrainian resistance,” the official was quoted telling The Guardian.