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Russia is reportedly setting up a second line of troops behind the front line to shoot down any Russian soldiers fleeing combat, according to what Ukraine’s intelligence services claim is an intercepted phone call.

The five-minute audio clip, released by Ukraine’s intelligence agency, appears to capture the internal rifts between Vladimir Putin‘s men during their invasion of Ukraine, with some apparently being forced to shoot dead any deserters.

In the audio, described by Ukraine as an intercepted phone call between a Russian soldier and his wife, the man describes how his commander has ordered him to ‘wipe out’ any Russian troops who flee from the front line.

The Russian soldier said that new recruits, many of whom are prisoners, are on the front line and his unit has been positioned on a second line to shoot anyone who tries to run away. 

In the apparently intercepted phone call, the Russian soldier tells his wife: ‘They moved us back to the second line, there’s shooting somewhere ahead of us, but we’re back for now in the trenches.

‘They brought the inmates here from prison but they led them somewhere on the front. And we’re sitting here as a retreat-blocking detachment.’

He added: ‘If someone runs back, we snuff them out.’

Russian President Vladimir Putin inspects a training ground in the Ryazan region for recruits who were summoned into military service under a mobilisation order on October 20

Russian President Vladimir Putin inspects a training ground in the Ryazan region for recruits who were summoned into military service under a mobilisation order on October 20

His wife responds: ‘What a nightmare.’

The Russian soldier continued: ‘That’s how we have it set up. We sit on the second line, guarding the first. Behind us, there’s another line.

‘If you go that way, you also won’t make it. So it’s impossible to run away. We shoot our own.

‘If someone goes that way, you need to wipe them out.’

It is not clear where the Russian soldier is based, but he described harsh living conditions where he struggled to find food or stay warm. 

There are complaints among Russian soldiers of equipment shortages, poor living conditions and scant training for new recruits. 

Since Putin announced the mobilization of 300,000 Russians on September 21, independent media, human rights activists and those called up have painted a bleak picture of a haphazard and chaotic effort to round up as many men as possible and push them quickly to the front lines, regardless of skill, training and equipment.

Conscription protests have been harshly put down, and tens of thousands of men fled Russia to neighbouring countries to avoid being pressed into service.

A Ukrainian soldier examines a destroyed Russian tank in Tsupivka village in the north of Kharkiv Region, north eastern Ukraine

A Ukrainian soldier examines a destroyed Russian tank in Tsupivka village in the north of Kharkiv Region, north eastern Ukraine

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday acknowledged persisting problems with equipment for the draftees, but ‘vigorous measures taken to rectify the situation are already yielding the first positive results.’

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He said regional authorities are involved in providing ‘the missing gear,’ and now Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov ‘is personally responsible for this’ in a coordination council Putin has created.

Russian media reported multiple deaths of reservists in Ukraine, with their relatives telling news outlets that they had received very little training.

When asked by a reporter why several reservists had died in Ukraine only three weeks after being called up, Putin confirmed that training could last as few as 10 days and as many as 25.

Military analyst Pavel Luzin said Russia isn’t able to train hundreds of thousands of men. ‘The army was not ready for mobilization. It never prepared for it,’ he said.

Putin has promised to finish the mobilization drive by November, when the regular fall draft is scheduled. Military experts and rights groups say enlistment offices and training camps can’t process both at the same time, warning that the call-up may resume months later.

As of mid-October, 222,000 reservists have been recruited, Putin said. Whether it will be possible to enlist another 80,000 in the remaining two weeks is unclear.

To try to broaden the pool, the Russian parliament on Wednesday lifted a ban on mobilizing men who have been convicted of a grave criminal offense and who have been released from prison but whose convictions are still on the books.

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