VLADIMIR Putin’s hopelessly corrupt generals are siphoning off “billions” from the army while soldiers flog stolen gear and vehicles on Russia’s version of eBay, an investigation by The Sun Online has revealed.
Online marketplace Avito is awash with state-of-the-art Russian military kit at a time when Putin’s soldiers are being sent to the frontline in Ukraine poorly armed and poorly supplied.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of state-of-the art armour, rifle attachments and bullet-proof military vehicles are being flogged on the site – as uncovered by The Sun Online.
And this is not all old equipment which can be easily picked up at military surplus depots – this is equipment which remains in service with Russian troops.
Weapons expert Sam Cranny-Evans, from the think tank RUSI, told The Sun Online the practice of Russian officers selling off military equipment online is surprisingly common.
He said the salaries of unit commanders are so low they’ve been known to “supplement their income” by “selling whatever they’ve got”.
Shipments of new body armour or equipment is often sold online rather than being issued to troops – with sometimes recruits even having to buy the gear back just so they have some protection.
And this apparent corruption comes right from the top of the Russian military, with experts saying even generals are stealing cash from the coffers.
Putin’s mafia state is one of the most corrupt in the world – being ranked 136 out of 180 countries in 2021 by Transparency International.
- Russia’s version of eBay – Avito – is awash with current military gear seemingly from Putin’s army
- Body armour used on the frontline can be purchased for as little as £84
- High tech gear from Russia’s new ‘Ratnik’ system is also available for purchase
- Some anonymous sellers identify their locations as being near known Russian military bases
- Experts say the practice of Russian officers selling gear is ‘common’
- Others say corruption is endemic – with “billions” potentially being stolen by the top brass
Russia’s disastrous invasion of Ukraine which as seen rampant brutality and military blunders shows how much of a broken institution Putin’s army seems to be – with little guidance from the top.
The Sun Online discovered items such as body armour, helmets, equipment and vehicles all up for sale on Avito.
One savvy seller posted an ad for a GAZ 2330 Tiger infantry vehicle – used in the Russian army since 2006 – fit with armour plates, spall liners and bulletproof glass windows for £250k.
“The ad is real. Please do not distract, call and write only on business,” reads the ad – which was posted near a military base outside of Moscow.
It boasts that the armoured car is the 2011 model with just 17,400miles on the clock.
“It means that [Russian troops] will be given sub-standard equipment
Dr Rod Thornton
Also on sale is 6B45 body armour – the standard Russian military armour being used in Ukraine – for around £85, along with high-grade special ops helmets and granite bulletproof coverings.
And a full vest with helmet will set buyers back £250 – with a pair of granite bulletproof plates for £125.
Buyers can also pick up other items from the ‘Ratnik’ system to augment their armour – such as water filters and radios.
Nick Brown, from defence-intelligence firm Janes, told The Sun Online the equipment being sold online is currently being used by the Russian army.
He said: “The vehicles and armour, plate carriers etc are all current in-service Russian equipment.”
And it comes as the Russian army has been hopelessly exposed in Ukraine, with one of the world’s largest military forces being turned back by the much smaller resistance.
Vladimir Putin is believed to have expected he could roll over the country in a matter of days.
But instead his army has lost 45,000 soldiers, nearly 2,000 tanks, more than 400 aircraft and thousands of trucks.
Mr Cranny-Evans, from the thinktank RUSI, said officers flog armour and other training kit online, keeping the cash for themselves and hand conscripts with rusty, dated gear.
He told The Sun Online: “What happens is that senior soldiers sell that uniform on Avito and keep the proceeds and hand down [uniforms] from the previous year.
“Now imagine that happening with body armour. Eventually you end up in a very bad situation where the body armour they do have available is rotten, destroyed, or just not there.”
Mr Cranny-Evans said there were also “deals are done between the defence ministry and those defence institutions. They’re dominated by oligarchs, back-handers”.
“It leads to so many problems,” the added.
Another truck, from 2005, is on sale for just over £225k and comes with “windows and doors [that] have a ballistic resistance level… and correspond to the armour level of the car body,” the ad reads.
“It provides protection for the crew from secondary armour fragments when armour-piercing bullets, shell fragments and mines hit the hull,” the seller, who will only do business over the phone, writes.
It also comes fit with a khaki interior and can accommodate nine people, including the driver and appears to have been sold two times previously on Avito.
One photo on the advert shows a man in casual clothes filling up the gigantic truck at a gas station.
“Passed full MOT. Write and call on business!” the ad from Moscow ends.
It’s not clear whether the vehicle was purloined from the Russian army – but it does show how easily it is for Avito buyers to get their hands on military-grade vehicles.
CHEAP AND NASTY
Russian troops fighting in Ukraine have reportedly been forced to buy basic equipment at their own expense.
It has been reported that Putin’s men could have to spend their entire monthly wage on basic equipment.
And those that have gear have complained about how flimsy the equipment is – with pictures showing basic tin helmets easily crushed under foot let alone being shredded by shrapnel.
Dr Rod Thornton, a leading security expert at Kings College London, told us that corruption has always been a “massive” issue for Russia but has shot out of control since the war in Ukraine.
He said Russian generals “clean off a lot of the defence budget for themselves”, possibly to the tune of “billions of dollars”.
This was having an immediate knock-on effect on soldiers who are being given “sub-standard” kit while more expensive materials are sold online.
“It means that they [Russian troops] will be given sub-standard equipment, that’s the first thing they’ll notice; things like the ammunition won’t work,” the senior lecturer said.
It also follows reports that Russia’s tinpot army has been forced to use off-the-shelf cameras, gamepads, and sat navs to fix up its planes and drones.
And while you can buy high end military armoured cars, desperate Russians have been creating “Mad Max” vehicles with extra armour bolted on in fear of being wiped up by anti-tank NLAW missiles.
It’s gotten so bad, Mr Crann-Evans said, that troops are resorting to crowdfunding to raise money for vital supplies such as helmets, radios, backpacks, camouflage nets, sleeping bags, travel mats, and even bulletproof vests.
Ukrainian Defence Intelligence reported in mid-April that Russian soldiers were arriving in Ukraine with decommissioned body armour, rotten fabric and rusted plates.
And it doesn’t stop there. Russian bloggers have called on donations of boxes of socks, t-shirts and thermals to be sent to servicemen in Ukraine after they were left without cold weather gear and waterproof clothing.
One Russian influencer, who goes by the name Razvedos on VKontakte – Russia’s version of Facebook – called on followers to donate 6B43 combined-arms bulletproof vests after receiving requests from troops.
“The extended kit was supplied to the units in a very limited way,” a post from September 1 read.
“[This is] a cry for help on the topic of ‘armor’ because he himself [sic] has already lost hope of conveying it to our superiors”.
He goes on to claim “additional sets” of armour were rotting in warehouses.
“I want to scream, but it’s useless.”
Mr Cranny Evans said it was no surprise people were turning to online marketplaces to buy basic equipment.
He said Russian troops are receiving personal medical kits which have not changed since the 1960s, which typically consist of one rubber tourniquet, one bandage, a few purifying tablets, and a painkiller.
And he also said Russian officers tend to use military vehicles without consent and run them down.
“What will often happen is that the commander of a battalion will tell one of his junior officers to drive into town to buy flowers for his wife and his girlfriend and the junior officer thinks up ways he can get away with it without spending his own money,” he said.
“So, he’ll do two things: He’ll take money from a conscript and then drive a military vehicle to go buy these things and comes back and gives it to the senior officer,” a process which runs down to the lowest ranks of the army, Sam claimed.
“What you get is people using military vehicles on a very regular basis to do errands which shouldn’t be done so when it comes to actually going to train in those vehicles, they’ve actually been used a lot more than they’re supposed to have been without servicing and there’s no fuel in them. It seems so benign.”
He also said Russian commanders screwed up the modernisation of army comms.
They were supposed to funnel cash into buying two types of tactical radios that would have been impenetrable to outside interference.
Instead, billions of roubles were “creamed off” and only a small number of radios were delivered, which meant troops had to “crowdsource” to buy one or resorted to using their mobile phone in the battlefield.
Russia’s Ministry of Defence has been contacted for comment.