Ukrainian intelligence operatives said they intercepted a telephone call between two Russians — at least one soldier — discussing direct orders to kill civilians, which would clearly constitute war crimes.
In the tape, released on social media and translated by Coffee or Die Magazine, a male voice believed to be the Russian soldier says: “Until now, we haven’t even been allowed to look toward the civilians. Now we are told to fucking kill everybody, just everybody: civilians, children, not children. They’ve told us to fucking kill everybody, just everybody. There are few of us here, dammit, we’ve been surrounded here.”
The other Russian replies, “Holy shit.”
СБУ перехопила розмови окупантів: у Харкові їм дали команду стріляти в цивільних
Російська армія кидає все більше сил на оточення міста, але це не дає бажаних результатів, а втрати окупантів – незрівнянні.
Ми продовжуємо збирати факти воєнних злочинів РФ. pic.twitter.com/prARMFQv5t
— СБ України (@ServiceSsu) March 12, 2022
A senior Pentagon official speaking to reporters Monday confirmed that officials there were aware of the audio but would not address its authenticity, saying only that the US has seen extensive evidence the Russian forces are targeting civilian populations with long-range fires such as artillery and missiles.
The Security Service of Ukraine released the audio file of the conversation on Twitter, describing it as an intercepted conversation between two Russians, at least one of them being a Russian soldier. In having the conversation translated, Coffee or Die found that two male voices seemed to be discussing Russian forces’ lack of military progress and the rules of engagement involving civilians.
“Why can’t they just properly take—” one Russian male says before a second voice cuts him off to say that they had not previously targeted civilians, but now are being told to.
❗❗❗Розстріл цивільного авто з людьми 🇷🇺російськими загарбниками! pic.twitter.com/zYU9sxh1Gr
— 🇺🇦Armed Forces (@ArmedForcesUkr) March 8, 2022
Coffee or Die has not been able to independently verify the audio as coming from Russian soldiers, and the Security Service of Ukraine has not returned requests for further information.
Images of dead civilians — including women and children — contrasted by fallen soldiers from both sides have blasted across the internet since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. From reports of bombs raining down in Chernihiv to the destruction of the Mariupol Maternity Hospital No. 3, evidence of Russian forces indiscriminately killing civilians grows each day. The Kremlin continues to refute any accusations of attacking civilian infrastructure or targeting civilians, saying it’s the work of “Ukrainian radicals and neo-Nazis.”
In the recorded conversation, one man tells the other that about 2,000 militiamen from the Russian-controlled Luhansk region of Ukraine have been reduced to approximately 20 to 25 survivors.
The two go on to discuss those killed and injured, which one of the men explains to the other is referred to in Russian military slang as “200s” and “300s” respectively. One of the men did not know the slang, possibly indicating that he is new to or not in the military, according to the translator who provided Coffee or Die a transcript of the conversation.
The intercepted conversation follows the recent allegations from the Kremlin that Ukraine is overrun by “neo-Nazis” and extremists. Ukrainian military officials alleged other war crimes recently, claiming the Russian military had, late on the night of Saturday, March 12, bombed the Svyatogorsk Lavra, a major Orthodox Christian monastery in the Donetsk region where several refugees had taken refuge.
“I wonder how Russian propaganda will justify this inhumane act?” one voice asks. “Will he say that the Lavra became the center of Nazism, and the priests are disguised militants?”
It’s unclear whether Russia knew refugees were inside the church at the time, but several were wounded during the attack, Ukrainian authorities said.