Russian troops retreating from Ukraine: “Their troops literally ran from their positions, leaving all their belongings behind”

By the time the Russian soldiers knew what was happening, their commanders had already fled the battlefield in panic.

If the Ukrainian advance encircled them, there was only one way to get out alive. They stripped off their military uniforms and abandoned their tanks, bunkers and machine gun nests in a last-ditch attempt to flee into the fields and villages surrounding Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city. But they soon ran into trouble.

“We caught some of these guys trying to flee in civilian clothes,” a commander of a Ukrainian intelligence unit said yesterday. “You told an incredible piece of nonsense trying to save himself,” added the soldier, known by his callsign Birdie.

Birdie’s unit had been spying on Russian forces’ response to Ukraine’s surprise offensive in the Kharkiv region for the past five days. Instead of fighting back, he had witnessed the extraordinary collapse of the Kremlin’s northern front line.

Birdie’s account of Russian soldiers fleeing in panic is one of the earliest eyewitness testimonies from the battlefield.

The 31-year-old’s intelligence unit is part of the Kraken Regiment. It had spent a week intercepting radio communications and observing Russian positions with drones around Balakliya.

“I saw small units of up to five of our people on foot destroying large numbers of Russian vehicles. Three tanks at once,” he said.

The Russian collapse had surprised even the Ukrainian armed forces.

“It was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said of his unit’s work, which coordinated Ukrainian ground forces via drone while they attacked Russian positions.

“They left behind such a large amount of vehicles and ammunition that we couldn’t move everything to the rear or evacuate,” Birdie said.

In an intercepted communication, Birdie described frantically asking a Russian armored unit what had happened to their commando.

“We’re totally screwed,” Birdie heard her say. “Then they fled. Later we found their burnt shell.”

Other Russian troops were unable to distinguish their own forces from the advancing Ukrainian troops.

“I heard them asking what the white crosses on the vehicles were. Then I heard them die in real time as I listened,” he said.

White crosses are a hallmark that the Ukrainian Armed Forces placed on their tanks and armored vehicles. The Russian Armed Forces have used Zs and Vs as identifiers, symbols adopted by pro-war activists in Russia.

Marty, a 25-year-old soldier in Birdie’s unit who hails from a liberated village, said: “I think this is the beginning of the end for the Russian occupiers. They literally ran from their positions, leaving all their belongings and leaving the occupied territories.”

The eyewitness accounts add first-hand evidence to a growing body of photos and videos circulating online showing the Kremlin military’s escape.

Dozens of tanks were abandoned and entire arsenals, neatly stocked floor to ceiling with grenades, small arms ammunition and grenades, were confiscated.

Unconfirmed video shows a Russian tank column charging toward Russia over a bridge spanning the Oskil River, which flows into Ukraine about 90 miles east of Kharkiv, south of Russia.

Another photo reportedly shows Lieutenant General Andrei Sychevoi, one of Russia’s top commanders, kneeling on the ground in handcuffs.

If his capture is confirmed, he will become the highest-ranking Russian officer captured since World War II.

The intelligence picture that is building is that Russian soldiers did not have the time, discipline, morale or intention to withdraw in good order, despite statements by Russian officials that their forces had ordered a tactical withdrawal.

“They were really scared. Their chain of command was in chaos. The officers left the area before the fighting started,” Birdie said.

The US-based Institute for the Study of War has described the Russian retreat from its northeastern front as a flight. Ukrainian officials said they had retaken around 3,000 square kilometers of their occupied homeland.

This is the biggest loss of territory for Russia since it was forced to withdraw from outside Kiev in March.

The casualties have irritated Russian military bloggers, who diligently follow the conflict and were once loyal to the Kremlin line. They have criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for spending Saturday celebrating the 875th anniversary of Moscow’s founding by opening a new Ferris wheel and watching fireworks while his forces were routed.

(© Telegraph Media Group Ltd. 2022)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] Russian troops retreating from Ukraine: “Their troops literally ran from their positions, leaving all their belongings behind”

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