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The corruption hobbling Russia’s advance

Russia’s 40-mile armoured column: out of fuel

The Russian army’s unexpectedly poor performance in the first days of the invasion isn’t just down to Ukrainians fighting the good fight, says Polina Beliakova in Politico. It’s also due to “systemic corruption”. Take rations. Some Russian soldiers have reportedly been given food that went off in 2015; their tiny portions of bacteria-ridden chow are said to be worse than the slop served in prisons. Most of the companies responsible for these supplies are connected to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Putin who has been awarded hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of military contracts.

Russian soldiers steal and sell on so much fuel that it is known as the army’s “second currency”, so it’s no wonder there are reports of Russia’s invasion being slowed due to a fuel shortage. Top officials are also on the take. In 2012, a $26m contract for a missile interception system was channelled through shell companies registered to the addresses of some public toilets. The missile system never materialised. All this graft has a knock-on effect on military strategy: top security officials riding the gravy train don’t want to give Putin realistic, disappointing reports that could mean they lose their jobs. That might explain why the Russian president thought it was a good idea to invade in the first place – no one dared tell him that his soldiers would be greeted “with Molotov cocktails” rather than open arms.