It should be quick. Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin (69) wants to take over Ukraine within days in February 2022. But his Blitzkrieg plan failed. Since then, the Russian military has been trying to capture Donbass. Months eat Russians. No wonder: many comrades have already fallen in battle. Material becomes scarce and morale erodes.
Some Russian soldiers refuse to fight. Some go a step further. You switch sides. About 100 soldiers are said to have joined the so-called “Free Legion of Russia”. According to the independent Russian news portal, it consists of other Belarusian and Russian fighters and other factions. “Moscow Times” reported.
Arnie is one of them. He did not want to give his real name. He wishes to remain anonymous. No age, no real name. “I have finished this war one way or another. I told myself that I would either die as an aggressor and a murderer or with a clear conscience. So I changed sides,” Arni tells “Moscow Times”.
For a new Russia, against the Putin regime
“Freedom of Russia” since March. It was one of several units created by the Ukrainian military as part of the war. In a statement of sorts, the faction said it wanted to “fight for a new Russia and get rid of President Putin’s authoritarian rule.”
It is not clear how many soldiers are fighting for the “Freedom of Russia”. They don’t want to show proper force. According to experts, “a few hundred to 1,000 soldiers” belong to the faction.
Arnie also doesn’t give exact figures. However, every day, about 300 people submit an application to fight with the Legion. “But that doesn’t mean that many people are coming to us every day. We have to review these requests. In addition, the Russian secret services are deceiving us with fake investigations. His statements cannot be independently verified.
“I want to fight Putin”
A soldier with the nom de guerre “Professor” is also fighting against Putin’s forces. According to his own statements, he came from “a region in the center of Russia” and decided to go to war relatively early. “I was ashamed and could not see,” says the “Professor” in an interview with “Moscow Times”.
“I took the risk because I want to fight Putin. I want a free Russia,” the 25-year-old continues.
For security reasons, the real names of the soldiers and the backgrounds of the militants were not revealed in the interview. Additionally, the Ukrainian military has not announced where the unit will be stationed. The group is active on social media, but there are no details about the activities.
The Russians did not believe this regiment existed
Because of little information, there is always doubt about how big the unit really is and how many Russian soldiers are actually fighting against Putin. Ukrainian war correspondent Ilya Ponomarenko told the “Moscow Times” that there were “certainly some Russian fighters”. How the troops were organized and structured is not known.
In Russian state media, the Legion’s existence is completely dubious. The Legion was “fake and staged by the Ukrainian Secret Service”. Again, there are Russian media reports of Russian soldiers being arrested for joining “enemy forces”.
Although they fought for a new Russia, in their view, for a good reason. It is even more difficult to take up arms against one’s own people. “I feel a certain resistance in myself when I have to fight against my comrades,” says the “Professor”. But: “I have principles I stand by. I want a free and democratic country – that’s what I’m fighting for.” (jis)
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