White House: Russia is executing soldiers who refuse to follow orders

Russian conscripts depart for garrisons from a recruitment centre in Simferopol

By Steve Holland and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States has information that the Russian military is executing soldiers who do not follow orders related to the war with Ukraine, the White House said on Thursday.

"We have information that the Russian military has been actually executing soldiers who refuse to follow orders," White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.

"We also have information that Russian commanders are threatening to execute entire units if they seek to retreat from Ukrainian artillery fire," Kirby said.

Representatives from the Kremlin, the Russian defense ministry, and the Russian embassy to the United States did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the issue.

Russia's ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, in a comment on the Telegram messaging app, made no reference to the White House allegations.

But referring to the latest military aid package to Ukraine of $150 million, Antonov branded the U.S. move as "provocative and inflammatory actions in the international arena that look more like pouring oil on the fire" than trying to ease conflict.

"It is long past time to halt the mindless multi-billion dollar flow to the bankrupt Kyiv regime," Antonov wrote on Telegram. "Time to stop showing total disdain towards the opinions of your own citizens and indifference to the growing number of victims dying from American weaponry."

Ukrainian officials said on Wednesday that Russian forces were disregarding heavy losses and pressing on with a drive to capture the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka.

The United States has strongly condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine and has been providing significant aid to Kyiv.

Kirby said Russia's mobilized forces were undertrained, underequipped, and unprepared for combat. He said the military was using "human wave tactics" by throwing groups of poorly trained soldiers into the fight.

Kirby said threats to execute the soldiers was barbaric.

"I think it's a symptom of ... how poorly Russia's military leaders know they're doing and how bad they have handled this from a military perspective," he said.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Ronald Popeski and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Daniel Wallis)