FOR many Russian soldiers it is a war they don’t want against people they do not see as enemies.
But now the horrors of Vladimir Putin’s bloodbath in Ukraine can be heard in their own words.
Thousands of their phone calls home were hacked by intelligence services – with help from Britain’s GCHQ.
In a cache, revealed by the New York Times, fed-up troops call Putin a fool and confess to horrific war crimes — including gunning down unarmed civilians in a forest full of bodies.
Other intercepted calls, released by Ukraine’s SBU, include accounts of rape and torture — and shooting a man off his bicycle.
One soldier told his mother about a “sea of corpses” in a forest. Others revealed the invading army’s catastrophic losses — with units almost totally wiped out in the botched assault on Kyiv.
Talking on mobile phones was against Russian soldiers’ orders — but shockingly widespread.
The respected RUSI think tank said elite Russian paratroopers gave away their main objective in the first phase of the war by discussing it on open lines.
Ukraine’s armed forces were lying in wait as VDV airborne forces tried to storm Hostomel airfield some 30 miles outside Kyiv.
The SBU said Russian soldiers had to use open telephones because their encrypted radios did not work.
Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, BND, also obtained calls. In one of the most chilling, Russian soldiers discuss interrogating enemy troops before shooting them in captivity.
And a soldier called Max was taped saying: “I do what I want here, I kill everyone. I don’t care at all if it’s a civilian or non-civilian.”
A soldier called Yevgeniy described comrades as “savages”.
The calls also confirmed reports of rock-bottom morale and anger at “moron” commanders.
One soldier described his comrades as “crying and suicidal”.
He said: “I’m so f****** tired of being afraid of everything.”
Another, called Roman, spoke to his girlfriend about his commanders and declared: “Turns out, they don’t really know anything. They can only talk big in their uniforms.”
A soldier named Sergey said a captain ordered him to kill three men who had been walking past their “storehouse”.
Sergey told his girlfriend: “If we let them go, they could give away our position. So it was decided to shoot them.”
His girlfriend asked: “Why didn’t you take them as prisoners?” He replied: “We would have had to feed them, and we don’t have enough food ourselves.”
Later, he told his mother: “There is a forest where the division headquarters is. I walked into it and saw a sea of corpses in civilian clothing.”
In another call to his girlfriend, Sergey said: “I’ve already become a murderer. That’s why I don’t want to kill any more people, especially ones I will have to look in the eyes.”
The calls obtained by the New York Times were intercepted around Bucha, a western suburb of Kyiv, in March.
They reveal the gulf between Putin’s propaganda and the bloodcurdling reality of the war.
One soldier asked: “What are they saying on the news?” His father replied: “Victory here, victory there. That’s all we see.”
Yet Russian soldiers spoke of heavy losses. One fighter told his mum: “There were 400 paratroopers. And only 38 of them survived . . . because our commanders sent soldiers to the slaughter.”,
A comrade called Nikita told his partner that 90 men were killed around him in an ambush.
The intercepted messages also indicated that Russian troops had been involved in looting and taking armour from Ukrainians’ corpses to wear themselves.
NYT reporters cross-checked the hacked phone numbers against Russian social media profiles and leaked Dark Web databases to identify the troops and their loved ones — but withheld their full names to protect them from Kremlin reprisals.
President Putin claims a Special Military Operation is ridding Ukraine of fascists and Nazis
But a soldier told his girlfriend: “Nobody understands why we have to fight this war.”
Another said: “Mom, we haven’t seen a single fascist here. This war is based on a false pretence.”