Soldiers are refusing to obey orders – including to shell Ukrainian towns – while others have walked away from battle.
Russian troops are "operating in complete disarray", their morale sapped and "crying in combat", voice recordings of frontline soldiers obtained by a British intelligence company suggest.
Intercepted radio messages indicate that troops are refusing to obey central command orders, including to shell Ukrainian towns, while complaining bitterly about running out of supplies of food or fuel.
Separate video recordings show one group of Russian military walking away from the battle front and heading back across the border, having had enough.
In a text message to his mother, one soldier purportedly said: "The only thing I want right now is to kill myself."
A senior Pentagon official said on Tuesday that parts of the Russian army made up of young, poorly trained conscripts were "ill-prepared" for battle and in some cases had "deliberately punched holes" in their vehicles' fuel tanks to make sure they did not reach the front line.
The defence official declined to reveal the source of the intelligence, but indications of poor Russian morale can be heard in audio recordings of radio messaging between troops obtained by British intelligence company ShadowBreak Intl.
The Telegraph has been unable to independently verify the recordings, but has listened to some of the 24 hours of material obtained by ShadowBreak since the start of the Russian invasion six days ago.
Parts of the Russian military are reliant on mobile phones and analogue "walkie-talkies", making them vulnerable to interception by radio enthusiasts.
The intercepted conversations shed light on troops' confusion about engaging targets in civilian areas and voice stress and frustration about the lack of supplies. In one conversation, a soldier sounds as though he is crying.
In the first recording, a soldier seemingly speaking from the command centre says: "We will cover the town… with artillery fire."
There then follows a tense exchange in which his contact on the ground appears to disobey the order and reminds the more senior officer that civilians – or "the goods" – have to be removed from the town before the army can open fire. The man in command sounds annoyed, but accepts that civilians need to leave first.
In another clip, the same man who suggested shelling a town loses his temper asking for what appears to be supplies or fuel. "We've been here for three days! When the hell is it going to be ready?" he exclaims, as Russian expletives fill the airwaves.
In a third audio recording, a soldier who sounds to be in tears pleads with command. "It's slow, it's slow…" are the only words that are audible from the ground. In response, only the command "quickly" can be heard through the static.
Ukrainian forces also had no problem jamming the Russian communications, which are often interrupted by recordings of the Ukrainian national anthem.
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Footage showed Russian troops looting a Ukrainian supermarket Credit: Rob Lee/ Twitter