An “entire platoon of the Russian army” fled their positions on the front lines and tried to escape to Crimea, a Ukrainian military official has claimed.

Oleksandr Shtupun, the spokesman for the Tavria Grouping of Troops, said the incident happened “recently” and Kremlin military authorities are having to resort to extreme measures to make their soldiers fight.

“Nearly 40 invaders left their trenches and tried to flee toward Crimea, while remaining armed,” he told Espreso TV.

“I’m talking about an entire platoon of the Russian army. There were reports that they were being hunted down in an attempt to bring them back.”

Shtupun said Russian commanders on the front lines are issuing execution threats to get men to assault Ukrainian positions, saying: “This is how they stimulate invaders to execute assault missions.

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“They put pressure on them both mentally and physically. The newly mobilized soldiers, who have just been deployed, have not yet seen those horrors and do not understand what is going on.

“That is why it’s those who have already been on assault missions and somehow survived who refuse to go on another offensive as they are terrified of going there again.”

Shtupun also said a recent cold snap and unsanitary conditions are causing a rise in desertions with 30 Russian soldiers surrendering in a four-day period.

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Kyiv Post could not independently verify Shtupun’s specific claim but increases in desertion rates among Russian troops have been documented by independent groups in recent months, as well as several videos of soldiers being maltreated or claiming they’ve been deceived into fighting on the front.

Last month a video emerged of a group of Russian soldiers in an expletive-laden video expressing their outrage at learning they will not be territorial defense soldiers as they thought, but would be assault troops sent to the front with no training.

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And in November, video emerged showing Russian soldiers being beaten, forced to dig holes in which they were made to stand for hours, and facing mock executions.

And for those who do make it to the front, a shocking video published just this week shows the hopeless situation Moscow’s soldiers find themselves in – Ukraine’s military released footage appearing to show Russian soldiers shooting themselves dead during fighting.

In the 9-second clip, three Russian soldiers are seen beside an infantry fighting vehicle (BMP).

Two lie down, while one sits in the middle. At the sixth second, the soldier on the left fires a shot, followed by two shots from the soldier on the right.

Clues to why Russian soldiers take such drastic measures can be found in the testimony of Russian POWs interviewed last year by Kyiv Post.

One man said he was told by his commanders that it’s better to use a grenade to kill himself and any enemies approaching rather than surrender and face “torture.”

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