Russian soldiers in Ukraine made worried calls home as their efforts in Ukraine faltered — but their loved ones weren’t the only ones listening.
Ukrainian forces used the cell phone calls made by Russian soldiers to locate them and wipe the troops out in large numbers, according to an investigation published by The New York Times that details Russia’s blunders throughout the war.
“We listened to the Russian soldiers as they panicked and called their friends and relatives,” a Ukrainian official who leads the efforts to intercept the phone calls told The Times. “They used ordinary phones to make decisions about their further moves.”
Ukrainian authorities who monitor cell networks for criminal activity noticed that a large number of calls were being placed from foreign phone numbers in an area along the Ukraine and Belarus border. The officials deduced the unusual uptick in foreign numbers on the Ukrainian network were likely Russian soldiers.
Ukraine deployed teams of women to follow the soldiers’ calls and alert the Ukrainian military, which would carry out attacks using the information. “We understood where the enemy was, what numbers they were using,” the Ukrainian official told The Times.
At one point, Ukrainian forces used both the cell phone calls and a TikTok video to locate a unit of Chechen soldiers outside of Kyiv. Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, chief of Ukraine’s military intelligence, told The Times the unit’s location was confirmed only 40 minutes after the video was uploaded. Ukrainian forces then struck them with three missiles.
Ukrainian officials have frequently intercepted phone calls made by Russian soldiers since the invasion 10 months ago. Audio of the calls obtained by various outlets have captured Russian soldiers complaining about being unprepared and unorganized and hoping they would get injured so they could be sent home.
In new audio published by The Times, soldiers could be heard complaining about Russian President Vladimir Putin and saying they are being treated like “cannon fodder.”
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