Multiple reports from Belarusians describe Russian soldiers stationed in Belarus in the lead-up to the war. A typical description is: “They drink a lot and sell a lot of their diesel fuel”. It seems selling diesel fuel and dry rations to buy vodka is common in the Russian army. Fuel is often referred to as the Russian military’s “second currency.” No wonder the military of a country that is one of the world's biggest oil and gas producers is always running out of fuel.
According to a Telegram channel that covers developments on Belarus's railroads:
"Military equipment is frequently dropped from the platforms during unloading," the channel wrote.
"After unloading, a lot of abandoned equipment -- body armor, helmets, personal gear -- remained."
Andrey Kozyrev, Russian foreign minister from 1990-1996, tweeted about the corruption that has hobbled the Russian military:
"The Kremlin spent the last 20 years trying to modernize its military. Much of that budget was stolen and spent on mega-yachts in Cyprus. But as a military advisor you cannot report that to the President. So they reported lies to him instead,"
I wonder if Putin really didn’t know, but rather chose to ignore it. Graft and corruption is one of the perks that Putin can offer to those willing to deliver unquestioned loyalty to the supreme leader. Corruption was a tool for PutIn to aggregate absolute power to himself. After all, honest government officials who care about the future of the country are not going to support a corrupt dictator. The sort of yes men, ass-kissers and opportunists that Putin needed, required a steady stream of illicit income to keep them loyal.
Polina Beliakova writing in Politico reported:
“Early on in the invasion, there were accounts indicating that some Russian soldiers received rations that had expired in 2015. Most companies responsible for providing food to the Russian military are connected to Yevgeny Prigozhin — the patron of PMC Wagner”
“Several years ago, Prigozhin’s companies were accused by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny of forming a cartel and gaming the state’s bidding system for defense orders, receiving contracts for several hundred million dollars. The quality of food and housing in the Russian military is reportedly worse than in its prisons, with unreasonably small meals and some carrying harmful Escherichia coli bacteria.”
Russia’s Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu is up to his ears in corruption. In his previous position, his mistress, a former airline stewardess, managed to make US$100 million from deals with the ministry he ran. Shoigu has built himself a $24 million palace according to research published by Alexei Navalny, the head of the Anti-Corruption Foundation and leader of the opposition. Not too shabby for a guy on a government minister's salary. In an age of hyper-expensive electronic weapons systems, one can only imagine the impact this has had on the readiness of Russia’s advanced computerized weapons systems. Do they meet spec? Do they even function? Did half the R&D budget get diverted into Shoigu’s palace? How much did minor officials and defense contractors siphon off?
From a BBC report: A Russian conscript who was convinced by recruiters to sign up with promises of a steady income and learning how to drive discovered the reality of military service in Russia:
“They "convinced him"... "[They told him] you can retire early, you will have a steady salary, you will learn how to drive."
Nikita became a driver in a mechanized infantry division, but his earnings did not translate into a comfortable standard of living. His monthly salary of 18,000 roubles - $240 (£180) before the rouble crashed - was just enough to get by on in rural Russia. And, he told his grandmother, he was expected to pay for uniform and petrol out of that salary. He had free accommodation in barracks but could not bear the freezing conditions - there was no heating or hot water - so had to pay for rent as well, she says.”
Ukrainians have been shocked at the lack of maintenance they are discovering in captured Russian equipment.
Along with rancid food rations, and lack of fuel, the tires on Russian heavy military vehicles are all dry-rotted and not safe for service:
Considering all the above it’s no surprise that a lot of the Russian equipment losses have been because of abandonment, not from destruction by Ukrainian artillery. There are dozens of videos of abandoned Russian armored vehicles being commandeered by Ukrainians and abandoned Russian military equipment being towed away by Ukrainian farmers. There are dozens of videos of Russian POWs who had no idea they were being sent to Ukraine and had no training, support or clue as to what their mission was. There are multiple videos of Russian soldiers calling home desperate to get out of Ukraine and out of the Russian army. There are also videos of Russian soldiers, desperate for food, looting Ukrainian supermarkets. Putin can hide the truth of this war from Russians but he can’t hide the truth of the war from the Russian soldiers in Ukraine.
The fish rots from the head. Putin made himself uncontested Tsar of Russia by creating an empire of graft, thuggery and sleaze. That corruption has acted like a malignant cancer in the Russian military machine destroying it’s combat effectiveness. It’s given the Ukrainians a fighting chance against a foe far larger and better armed. The corruption that Putin used to acquire absolute power in Russia may lose him this war and wind up consuming him.