"It was very different from what I saw on TV. Parallel reality."
In a rare interview with CNN, captured Russian POWs painted a grim picture of what it's like on the front lines of the Russian invasion of Ukraine — and put bluntly, it sounds like absolute chaos.
"It was very different from what I saw on TV," one POW, who spoke under the pseudonym Sergei, told CNN. "Parallel reality. I felt fear, pain and disappointment in my commanders."
Another POW, who went by Slava, told CNN that commanders were known to get high on a stock of painkillers before giving orders to frontline soldiers.
According to Slava, these commanders sent Russian soldiers into mortar fire and gave "nonsensical orders" while under the influence.
"We had no morale," Slava, who was recruited from a Russian prison and promised his freedom if he agreed to fight, told CNN.
If confirmed, it's a grim peek into a disorganized Russian front that lacks soldier morale and proper leadership as the invasion wages on. And sadly, as it stands, there's still no end in sight.
There are some notable reasons why we should take these accounts with a grain of salt. CNN admitted that the accounts couldn't be independently verified. At the same time, though, the POWs' stories are "consistent with videos posted by Russian conscripted convicts who say they were deployed to the frontline with little support."
The accounts also fit into a broader picture of internal Russian turmoil. Though Russian citizens were originally told back in 2022 that the country's "special military operation" in Ukraine would last only a few days, the conflict has dragged on for well over a year, claiming the lives of many thousands of Russian soldiers — and resulting in a mass exodus of young Russian men fleeing to avoid conscription.
And amid reports of bubbling Russian dissatisfaction with longtime president Vladimir Putin's invasion, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Putin insider and the leader of the Wagner Group, launched an armed coup against the Kremlin, but was persuaded to abandon the coup before reaching Moscow.
In any case, it's bone-chilling to hear about squad leaders allegedly popping pills on the frontlines before sending young men to slaughter — especially considering that Ukrainian civilians are ultimately the ones who continue to suffer the most.
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