Russian morale on brink of collapse after 1000s call surrender hotline

Ukraine’s border guards send message to mobilised Russians

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Vladimir Putin appears to be facing a catastrophic collapse in army morale after a Ukrainian surrender hotline was flooded with thousands of calls from anxious Russian troops. The Russian leader announced a “partial” mobilisation towards the end of September, as he looks to beef up numbers among his front line troops in Ukraine. Russian generals have long complained that they have insufficient manpower to be able to fulfil their military goals.

The mobilisation has spread panic and fear among those eligible for the compulsory draft.

Over 100,000 Russians are believed to have fled abroad in a desperate bid to avoid being sent to their deaths in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s military has taken advantage of the turmoil to launch a surrender hotline called “I want to live”.

Kyiv’s commanders hope to persuade Russian soldiers that their lives are not worth sacrificing for the whims and obsessions of their leader.

And it would now appear that their message has got through loud and clear to Putin’s demoralised troops.

Vitaly Matviyenko, a spokesman for the initiative, told reporters that the hotline had been inundated with calls.

He said: “We have already received more than two thousand applications.

“Both servicemen of the Russian army and their relatives who want their sons and husbands to stay alive are calling.”

Mr Matviyenko guaranteed Russian soldiers who give them themselves that they will be treated according to the Geneva Conventions.

He said: “Among other things, we are talking about three meals a day, medical care, and the opportunity to contact relatives.

“The only chance to avoid death in Ukraine is to surrender.”

Andrii Yusov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence, noted that Russians who had yet to be conscripted were also getting in touch.

He commented: “The hotline has received a lot of calls from Russians who were called up recently, and even from some who have not even been called up yet.

“They’re calling and asking ‘What should I do if I get called up? What do I have to do, what’s the right way to surrender?’”

He added that the Russians were lacking motivation and suffering from low morale.

The prospect of thousands of its soldiers waving the white flag has clearly alarmed the Kremlin.

Just days after announcing his mobilisation, Putin was forced to introduce harsher punishment for army deserters.

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Those who voluntarily surrender can expect up to 10 years in prison, according to a new law.

Moreover, the legislation also allows for the same length of incarceration for any reservists or draftees who refuse to fight.

It comes as Ukrainian forces achieved a major breakthrough on their southern front, after bursting through Russian lines.

Reports suggest that Ukrainian units are advancing rapidly along the Dnipro River and are threatening to encircle thousands of Russian troops.

Kyiv gave no official confirmation of the gains, but Russian sources acknowledged that a Ukrainian tank offensive had advanced dozens of kilometres along the river’s west bank, recapturing a number of villages along the way.

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