Russians who are fighting for Ukraine - they love their motherland but hate Putin
We have heard about the Russian soldiers who refuse to fight Putin's war in Ukraine but not as much about Russians who are choosing to fight for Ukraine. A courageous move considering that the Kremlin must view this as the ultimate act of treason for any Russian.
Time magazine reported that there appear to be at least several hundred Russians who are fighting to defend Ukraine. One can't help but wonder, who are these Russians who choose to take up arms against their own compatriots?
Photo: UATV screenshot
It seems it is a mix of Russian soldiers who've been captured by Ukraine and flipped sides along with those who see the act as a kind of political protest. Join us as we examine the stories of the Russians choosing to fight for Ukraine.
Igor Volobuev, the former vice-president of Gazprombank, had a clear notion since the war broke out that he did not support his homeland's move to attack Ukraine.
Photo: Odesa Film Studio screenshot/ YouTube
Volobuev, who is fifty years old, told The Guardian: "The moment war broke out, I knew right away I wanted to go and defend Ukraine."
Photo: screenshot CNN
Igor grew up in the Sumi region of Ukraine and felt an urgency to join the territorial defense unit there. So, he left Russia for Ukraine and spent many weeks trying to sign up for the Ukrainian military service. However, he soon found out that he legally could not fight there as a Russian.
However, Volobuyev soon discovered there was another option - join the "Freedom of Russia" legion. This special military unit made up entirely of Russian nationals forms a part of the Ukrainian armed forces.
Photo: By Yeremeev.d - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=118076053
Volobuyev was very happy to find this opportunity to what he considers to be his calling. On June 11, he made a video address in which he appeared holding an automatic gun announcing his success: "I am very glad I have achieved my first goal. But now I have to quickly undergo military training so I can actually go and fight. I can't stop halfway."
Another example of a Russian who chose to support Ukraine in the fight against his motherland is a 30-year-old IT worker who asked to be identified as Yan. Yan spoke to Time about his decision saying, "I am here to oppose Russian aggression and also defend Ukraine."
"No Russian should have crossed the border with a weapon in his hand," Yan told Time. Yan has been working in the Ukrainian territorial defense forces since the war began in February.
Yan said that he would describe himself as an anarchist and has taken part in protests against Putin's rule in the past. Three years ago, he moved to the Russian Ural mountains out of fear of imprisonment when his office was raided.
Yan supports the Ukrainian forces by delivering medical supplies to Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines and scouting, identifying potential artillery targets.
Yan told Time that in his platoon, which is made up of roughly 40 men in the Ukrainian Territorial Defense force, there a quite a few Russians. Yan said, "There is a reasonable number of us across Ukraine."
Yan added that for the most part, his Ukrainian colleagues tolerate the Russians that join them in their fight quite well. However, that doesn't mean that the Russians are often on the receiving end of quite a few jokes.
Pictured: the flag and insignia used by The Freedom of Russia Legion
Photo: Freedom of Russia Legion/YouTube
However, Yan takes it well, telling Time, "And why not, you know? Ukrainians are going through huge psychological trauma so this is totally understandable. I am not offended."
Time magazine also spoke to a 25-year-old Russian political science student who goes by the name "Vitya" who told the publication he joined Ukraine in the war against Russia so as to continue his fight against the Kremlin.
The young man said he began attending anti-government protests as a teenager in Moscow, where he grew up. Vitya noted that while his parents know he is in Ukraine, they have no idea what he is really up to, as he told them he was donating blood to help Ukrainians.
Vitya, who is stationed in Kyiv, told Time, "I love my motherland. Hopefully, this war will break the political regime. I would like to return home one day."
Other Russians may not be fighting alongside the Ukrainians but have found a way to offer their support to the war effort. The Guardian spoke to Maxim Motin, who previously worked as a local opposition deputy in Moscow.
Motin told the newspaper he had hoped to change Russia from the inside through politics for many years. However, in 2018 after receiving threats from Russian security services, he was forced to flee.
Motin has been living in Kyiv for four years, and when the war broke out, he decided to help the Ukrainian army by setting up production lines to make helmets and body army vests.
Motin told The Guardian, “Especially in the early days of the war, there was a big demand for body armour. We have made over 700 vests so far and many helmets.”
He went on to say, “I don’t associate myself at all with the bloody regime in Russia and everyone who supports the war. I believe Russia needs to lose, on the battleground.”
However, being a Russian who aids Ukraine comes at a high price. Motin says that he was recently informed that Moscow has opened two criminal cases against him, including a terrorist financing charge, because of the aid he is giving to the Ukrainian army.