Russian soldiers say they joined Ukraine after witnessing atrocities

‘I’m Russian, I kill my countrymen… but they’re criminals’: Soldiers who defected from Putin’s military say they joined Ukraine after witnessing atrocities…and have each killed as many as 15 of their former comrades

  • Soldier said he has shot dead at least 15 Russian troops since joining Ukraine
  • Another Russian soldier defected when he saw atrocities committed by troops
  • Since Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine, evidence of war crimes has mounted  

Russian soldiers who defected from Vladimir Putin’s military have said they decided to fight for Ukraine after witnessing atrocities committed by their former comrades.

One soldier, who goes by the call-sign ‘Caesar’, said he has shot and killed at least 15 Russian soldiers on the battlefield since joining Ukraine’s foreign legion. 

‘Yes, I kill my countrymen, but they have become criminals,’ Caesar, who is fighting alongside Ukrainian troops in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, told CNN. ‘They came to a foreign land to rob and kill and destroy. They kill civilians, children and women.’

Another Russian, with the call sign ‘Silent’, defected and fought for Ukrainian forces when he saw the atrocities committed by Russian troops near Kyiv, saying that seeing the dead bodies of children and women in person ‘turned everything upside down’.

One soldier, who goes by the call-sign ‘Caesar’, said he has shot and killed at least 15 Russian soldiers on the battlefield since joining Ukraine’s foreign legion

Silent, whose real identity has not been revealed for his safety, had been visiting family near Kyiv when he saw the atrocities in Bucha, Irpin and Borodianka – and decided to stay and fight for Ukrainian forces.

‘I was just outside Kyiv, not far from those places, and when they were kicked out of that territory, we went there to help people and saw what they had done,’ Silent said.

‘Dead bodies, children, women, executions… When you see it in person, of course everything inside turns upside down. I decided to stay here until the end and join the legion.’ 

Since Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine nearly 10 months ago, evidence of the soldiers committing war crimes has continued to mount. Russia has been accused of raping hundreds of women and girls, as well as murdering and torturing civilians in Russian-held towns.

Another defector, identified only by his call-sign ‘Vinnie’, said that he knows he will be tortured and killed by Russian troops if he is captured.

Another defector, identified only by his call-sign ‘Vinnie’, said that he knows he will be tortured and killed by Russian troops if he is captured

A Ukrainian serviceman walks near a tank in Bakhmut, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Monday

It comes after a former Wagner group mercenary, Yevgeny Nuzhin, 55, was brutally executed with a sledgehammer after he changed sides and fought for Ukraine.

Nuzhin had his head taped to a brick wall and was beaten to death with the sledgehammer when he was recaptured by his former colleagues. His execution was applauded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the infamous mercenary group, with the leader saying a ‘dog receives a dog’s death’ in response to the clip.

Vinnie says he is sure that he will meet a similar fate if he is recaptured by Russian forces.

‘There won’t be an exchange for sure. It will be the end, 100 per cent,’ he said. ‘It will just be more painful.’

Caesar, Silent and Vinnie are among hundreds of soldiers who are fighting against Russian forces in the town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.

This still taken from a video published on Telegram shows Yevgeny Nuzhin moments before his brutal extrajudicial murder by pro-Putin Wagner private military company

Caesar, who is a Christian, said Putin’s war is ‘offensive’ to him and once Ukraine is ‘free’, he will fight to free Russia from ‘tyranny’. 

He added: ‘I believe that these people have broken the law of man and the law of God. I have no pity for them. I take them prisoner if I can. But most often, I just have to kill them.’

It is not known how many Russian soldiers have defected to fight for Ukraine. But in a sign that the number could go into the thousands, Ukraine said in October that 2,000 people had called a Ukrainian hotline to surrender and defect.

Calls have come from soldiers in Ukraine, those still in Russia who have been conscripted, and some who have not even received draft orders yet who wanted to check the procedure, Andriy Yusov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence, claimed at the time.

And two months on, the ‘I Want To Live’ hotline is still receiving about 100 enquiries a day from Russian soldiers.

It comes after Putin ordered 300,000 conscripted men to be sent to the frontlines  Ukraine in order to prop up his failing invasion.

Meanwhile, in Bakhmut, where ‘Caesar’, ‘Silent’ and ‘Vinnie’ are fighting alongside Ukrainian soldiers, Ukraine’s military said today its forces had repelled Russian attacks there. 

Ukrainian military’s Grad multiple rocket launcher fires rockets at Russian positions in the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Monday

Russian soldiers were attempting to cut roads to Bakhmut from the west and northwest, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said on YouTube.

Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told Ukrainian television late on Monday that there were only about 12,000 people left in Bakhmut, from 80,000 before the war, and there was no electricity or gas.

In Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia region, at least two people were killed and several houses destroyed by Russian missile strikes on Monday, an official in the presidential office said.

Reuters video showed two bodies next to a damaged car in the village of Novosofiivka, about 16 miles east of Zaporizhzhia city.

An elderly woman pulls a trolley bag past a destroyed building in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on December 4

‘Both of my neighbours were killed,’ Olha Troshyna 62, said. ‘They were standing by the car… seeing off their son and daughter-in-law.’

Ukraine’s air force said it downed over 60 of more than 70 missiles fired by Russia on Monday.

In recent weeks, Russia has been pounding Ukrainian infrastructure – including power plants – with military strikes and keeping an offensive going in the east, notably in and around the town of Bakhmut.

Russian forces have also been digging in near the southern city of Kherson, which was recaptured by Ukrainian forces last month after an 8-month occupation.

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