Hundreds of Russian soldiers have deserted or refused to fight the war in Ukraine, The WSJ reported.
One soldier said he fled his base the morning of the invasion and went into hiding.
Russian ground forces have also experienced heavy losses in Ukraine.
A Russian soldier who went into hiding to avoid the war in Ukraine said most soldiers, like him, didn’t want to go.
“None of us wanted this war,” Albert Sakhibgareev told The Wall Street Journal.
The 24-year-old was stationed at a military base in Russia near the border with Ukraine in February. On the morning of February 24, the day Russia launched its full-scale invasion, shelling landed within two miles from his location and military aircraft in the sky appeared to be heading to Ukraine, The Journal reported. When Sakhibgareev saw a headline on Telegram that said “Russia Invades Ukraine” he panicked and left the base.
He’s one of hundreds of Russian soldiers who have deserted or refused to fight since the war in Ukraine began, according to the report published by The Journal on Wednesday. At least 115 Russian national guardsmen said they were fired after refusing to fight, according to The Guardian.
The unwillingness to fight has been compounded by the heavy losses Russian troops have experienced in Ukraine. The UK’s defense ministry said last month Russia had likely lost one-third of its ground combat forces in Ukraine since the invasion began.
After months of setbacks, including getting pushed out of Kyiv and Kharkiv, Russian forces have made recent gains in the Donbas region after shifting their focus to eastern Ukraine. Analysts told Insider’s Bill Bostock the advances for Russia marked a reversal from earlier stages of the war, but that the momentum may not last long.
Sakhibgareev was eventually contacted by Russian military officials, who convinced him to come back but allowed him to instead go to a base that was further from battle, The Journal reported. Sakhibgareev’s lawyer, Almaz Nabiev, told the outlet the military could still decide to press charges against him for desertion.
Reports of low morale among Russian soldiers have also emerged throughout the war. One Russian soldier said his commander shot himself in the leg just so he could go home, according to intercepted audio released by Ukrainian officials.