In the midday sun on May 9, Russian conscript Ruslan Anitin, trapped in the trenches of war-torn Kupiansk, Ukraine, made an unexpected plea for mercy to a seemingly unlikely arbiter – a DJI Mavic 3 drone.

Bombarded by drones dropping miniaturized explosives, Anitin, wearied and dehydrated, signaled his submission to the aerial observer. As reported by the WSJ, his desperate entreaty, transmitted to a control center of Ukraine’s 92nd Mechanized Brigade, led Col. Pavlo Fedosenko to make a rather unusual command: “Try to take him alive.”

Drones Of Mercy: A Russian Soldier's Desperate Surrender

Modified DJI Mavic 3 drops an explosive on the Russian soldier.

Anitin’s case tells of the Russian army’s dwindling morale, even before Ukraine’s counteroffensive. Over 17,000 inquiries have been received at a Ukrainian hotline designated for Russian soldiers wishing to surrender since September, and posts on social media suggest inadequacies in provisions for drafted soldiers.

The challenges faced by the Russian…