Ukraine: Russian vehicles targeted by howitzer artillery

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Newly-released phone conversations between Russian invaders and their families lay bare the desperation on both sides over Vladimir Putin’s horrific war. It comes amid reports that Russian and Russian-backed forces in the Donetsk region of the Donbas – Russia’s current priority – have suffered heavy casualties at the hands of a strong Ukrainian counter-attack.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been dogged by miscommunication and disorganisation, leading to a splintered Russian advance.

After attempting to take the capital, Kyiv, in the west, Russian ground troops were forced into a humiliating retreat in early April.

Intelligence sources suggest the Russian focus has moved from one of complete occupation to one of limited gains in the east of the nation.

Russia has also made use of retirees and conscripts in the battle, after losing more men than anticipated in the opening phase of the war.

The poor management of the Russian armed forces and the unexpectedly defiant response from the Ukrainian defenders has battered morale among the Russian ranks.

Even early on in the war, reports emerged of Russian soldiers begging locals for food or even eating stray dogs as they were sick of their rations.

Many men have also reportedly taken issue with a war against a fellow Slavic people.

In a phone call intercepted by the SBU and cited by Hromadske Radio, an independent Ukrainian news outlet, one of the Russian troops in Ukraine despairs to his wife.

The unnamed combatant tells her that vast numbers of men were asking to take holiday to travel back to Russia “for family reason”, only to write applications for permanent release.

In the meantime, he said they were not returning to the invasion.

The soldier, believed to be fighting in eastern Ukraine, said: “We all got together, there are six people left – can you imagine?

“Nobody comes back, everyone is fired, everyone rolls up.”

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For those who are not able to return home and escape the horrific fighting, to quell their fear of death they are said to be getting drunk.

The Russian soldier told his wife: “I’m thumping [drunk…] Because I’m scared. Everything is pounding here.”

Yesterday (Wednesday), Boris Johnson revealed that UK intelligence suggested Russia’s momentum in the eastern Donbas region – which Putin has vowed to “liberate” – will slow in the coming months.

The Prime Minister said: “Our defence intelligence service believes that in the next few months, Russia could come to a point at which there is no longer any forward momentum because it has exhausted its resources.”

UK intelligence chiefs also said yesterday that Russia would very likely deploy a large number of reservists into the region as it struggles for military dominance.

They estimated that the Russian-backed militia in Donetsk – one of the two oblasts in the Donbas – had lost 55 percent of its original force.

Russian forces are instead focusing on conquering the region’s other oblast, Luhansk, Ukrainian officials say.

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