The troops are part of Russia’s First Tank Army and have been engaged in fierce battles around the town of Izyum in eastern Ukraine. Vladimir Putin’s army has been trying to force its way south from the town, in an attempt to outflank Ukrainian units defending the eastern front line. However, Putin’s soldiers have made little to no progress in their endeavour due to the determined and skilful resistance from their opponents.
In the process the Russian army has continued to suffer high casualties, with recent Ukrainian estimates suggesting a total loss of personnel now exceeding 25,000.
Radio and phone intercepts by the Ukrainian military intelligence has highlighted the desperate need for reinforcements on the eastern front.
Yet calls for help from Russian troops appear to be going unheeded by their commanders.
Commenting on the intercepts, Liubov Tsybulska, an advisor to the Ukraine Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “My favourite one though is a talk of a Russian guy from First Tank Army who is at Izyum area now.
“He says instead of reinforcements, the army commander sent them 6 litres of vodka to remember the dead.
“That’s support you expect on the battlefield.”
Ms Tsybulska noted that Russian soldiers continue to suffer from low morale and are increasingly losing trust in the abilities of their senior officers.
She wrote: “Analyzing calls of RU soldiers to their relatives,I observe 2 explicit trends.
“They’re increasingly unhappy with incompetence of their commanders.
“Many want to leave the army or refuse to carry out orders, wondering what punishment might follow according to the RU legislation.”
Alcoholism appears to be a widespread problem for the Russian army, with numerous reports surfacing of soldiers going on a drinking binge.
Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces noted in March that Putin’s army had been taking to the bottle while stationed in Belarus.
They wrote: “Along the routes of Russian military convoys on the territory of the Republic of Belarus, there have been many instances of Russian soldiers selling fuel and provisions or exchanging them for alcoholic drinks.”
A New York Times article by Jeffrey Gentleman and Oleksandr Chubko highlighted the desperate attempts by Russian troops to get hold of alcohol in Borodyanka.
The town is situated to the north-west of Kyiv and was the scene of horrific atrocities committed by the Russian army against civilians.
The journalists reported: “Administrators at Borodyanka’s mental health home said that Russian soldiers robbed their pharmacy of rubbing alcohol to drink.”
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They added: “Russian soldiers scrawled profane messages on the walls — in human excrement.”
Malik Kaylan, a war correspondent, has covered many Russian conflicts in the past and says alcoholism is an ever present problem for Moscow.
In an article for Forbes, he said: “I have seen Russian soldiers in several combat theatres and they were always drunk.
“I even interviewed (for the Wall Street Journal) a tank commander on Georgian soil during the 2008 invasion and he was red-faced, slurry, and slow of speech.
“I witnessed a morning roll-call of tank crews – the officer in charge and the rest of his men were all wobbly.”