Some Russian troops in Ukraine have surrendered en masse or sabotaged their own vehicles to avoid fighting, a senior Pentagon official said Tuesday.
Poor morale, as well as fuel and food shortages, have been blamed.
After facing a surprisingly strong Ukrainian defense, some entire Russian regiments have laid down their arms without a struggle, according to the official.
A large proportion of the Russian troops are young conscripts who have been poorly trained and unprepared for the full-scale attack.
Russian troops have also punctured holes in their vehicles’ gas tanks, apparently to avoid fighting, according to the official.
However, the Pentagon official declined to say how the military made these assessments — presumably a mosaic of intelligence including statements from captured Russian soldiers and communications intercepts — or how widespread these setbacks may be across the sprawling battlefield.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational developments.
The development comes also after the Ukrainian ambassador to the UN read out what he claimed were text messages sent between a slain Russian soldier and the man’s mother.
In the messages, the soldier says that he is “afraid” of the war raging in Ukraine and writes: “Mama, this is so hard.”
Kyslytsya read out the exchange in Russian, starting with the mother asking her son if he is “really in training exercises.”
“Mama, I’m no longer in Crimea. I’m not in training sessions,” the soldier replied, per Kyslytsya’s speech.
The mother then asks if she can send a parcel to her son and asks “what happened” to which he replies that she cannot.
“Mama, I’m in Ukraine. There is a real war raging here. I’m afraid,” wrote the Russian soldier, per Kyslytsya’s speech. “We are bombing all of the cities together, even targeting civilians. We were told that they would welcome us, and they are falling under our armored vehicles, throwing themselves under the wheels and not allowing us to pass.”
“They call us fascists. Mama, this is so hard,” the soldier wrote.
But taken together, these factors may help explain why Russian forces, including an ominous 40-mile convoy of tanks and armored vehicles near Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, have come to a near crawl in recent days, U.S. officials said.
Russia’s vaunted air force has yet to gain air superiority over Ukraine, with Russian warplanes thwarted by Ukrainian fighter jets and a surprisingly resilient and potent array of air defenses, from shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to much larger surface-to-air weapons, the Pentagon official said.
The logistics failures may help explain the presence of the long, slow-moving convoy of military equipment that is coming toward Kyiv, a tactical failure that is presenting a key target for the Ukrainian military, the European official said.