The Hill

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said Thursday that the Russian military is executing soldiers who aren’t following orders amid Moscow’s war with Ukraine.

Kirby said Russia “continues to show no regard for the lives of its soldiers,” and the United States thinks there have been thousands of casualties, with “some of them on the orders of their own leaders.”

“We have information that the Russian military has been actually executing soldiers who refuse to follow orders. We also have information that Russian commanders are threatening to execute entire units if they seek to retreat from Ukrainian artillery fire,” Kirby said.

Kirby said the move is a symptom of how poorly Russia is doing against Ukraine and how significant its losses have been. But he warned that Russia still maintains offensive capabilities and may be able to achieve tactical gains in the coming months.

“It’s reprehensible to think that you would execute your own soldiers because they didn’t want to follow orders and now threatening to execute entire units; it’s barbaric. But I think it’s a symptom of how poorly Russia’s military leaders know they’re doing and how badly they have handled this from a military perspective,” he said.

“From the very beginning, we’ve been talking about poor command and control, poor logistics and sustainment. They can’t feed their guys in the field, for crying out loud. And now, again, they’re willing to shoot them for not following orders,” Kirby added.

The national security spokesman also said the execution of soldiers points to what the White House describes as desperation amid a crunch in military forces during the war.

“They are in such desperate need to make some kind of progress, particularly in the Donbas, that they are literally throwing young men into the fight who haven’t been properly trained, haven’t been properly equipped, and certainly are not being properly led,” he said.