Hungry Russians sent to Ukraine with rusty guns

Russia’s military was in such bad shape before its invasion of Ukraine that soldiers had to buy their own gear, use rusty rifles and sleep among stray dogs, a former paratrooper has revealed.

Avel Filatev, whose detailed account of the war has been published in book form, was part of an elite unit that stormed Kherson from occupied Crimea in February.

In the 141-page account of the beginnings of the conflict, the 34-year-old revealed that hunger-stricken troops were being sent across the border with little tactical direction and little knowledge of the larger war.

The unit stormed into the southern port city under rocket fire, empty stomachs and no sleep, having been turned “savages” by the conditions they endured in the six months leading up to the invasion.

Describing the moment they found an abandoned cafe, he wrote: “Like savages we ate everything there: oatmeal, porridge, jam, honey, coffee. We didn’t care, we were already at the limit.”

Others of the “exhausted and frenzied” forces entering Ukrainian territory in unarmored vehicles “started grabbing computers and any valuable goods they could find,” Filatyev said.

As the war dragged on, he and his unit were pinned near Mykolaiv under Ukrainian artillery fire for nearly a month.

There, a grenade exploded, throwing mud into his eye and causing an infection that nearly blinded him, and he was pulled off the front line and taken to a hospital. Then he began to write his report.

The problems didn’t start when Russian forces stormed Kherson and launched their full-scale invasion, wrote Filatyev, who arrived in Crimea on the base of his elite parachute regiment after returning to the military last August.

The barracks, infested with stray dogs, had no places to sleep, so soldiers were forced to move into a cheap hotel on the peninsula illegally annexed by Moscow in 2014.

He also spent 10 days waiting for his military uniform to arrive, but had to buy a pair of boots after his shoes were delivered the wrong size.

Boots are often stolen by corrupt Russian officers and sold for profit.

The rifle he was given was rusty and had a broken strap, he said.

Despite the status of his unit, very few of his fellow paratroopers knew how to pack their parachutes, delaying their first practice jump by several days.

Even then, they were mistakenly dropped from a plane over a cemetery.

“It’s good that the weather was good, everyone rolled out, nobody landed on a cross or a grave,” Filatyev wrote about the operation.

He and others also contracted pneumonia in the cold, damp conditions.

Since the publication of the memoir of his experiences, Filatyev, who served in the 56th Guards Air Assault Regiment, has been assisted in leaving Russia by a team led by France-based human rights activist Vladimir Osechkin.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] Hungry Russians sent to Ukraine with rusty guns

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