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Russian troops shooting themselves in legs to escape Ukraine war

Russian-Belarusian military drills (Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/WikiCommons)
August 18, 2022

Russian troops are shooting themselves in the leg to get out of the nation’s war with Ukraine, according to a report this week by a Russian defector who fought in the conflict. 

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Pavel Filatyev, 33, wrote in a 141-page memoir titled “ZOV” that Russian troops are suffering from hunger amid the chaos and destruction, The Guardian first reported Wednesday. As a result, soldiers are looking to escape the conflict by any means necessary – even if they have to deliberately shoot themselves to get out. 

“Someone began to shoot himself in the limbs … to get 3 million rubles and get out of this hell,” Filatyev wrote. 

As a member of the 56th Guards air assault regiment based in Crimea, Filatyev was part of an elite group of paratroopers in the Russian army. He was deployed to Ukraine on Feb. 24, the day the invasion began. Roughly five months later, Filatyev was wounded and evacuated. 

Filatyev told The Guardian that it took him weeks to “understand there was no war on Russian territory at all, and that we had just attacked Ukraine.” 

Filatyev wrote in his memoir that Russian troops behaved like “savages” in Ukraine, stealing valuables from homes because they were “worth more than their salaries.”

“Like savages, we ate everything there: Oats, porridge, jam, honey, coffee … We didn’t give a damn about anything, we’d already been pushed to the limit,” he wrote. “What a wild state you can drive people to by not giving any thought to the fact that they need to sleep, eat and wash.”

Knowing that he would be considered a traitor, and following the advice of his fearful mother, Filatyev eventually fled Russia. He is the first known Russian soldier to flee the country in opposition to the war with Ukraine. He told The Guardian that he had to write the memoir because he couldn’t “stay quiet any longer.”

“I don’t see justice in this war. I don’t see truth here,” he told a journalist in Moscow before leaving Russia. “I am not afraid to fight in war. But I need to feel justice, to understand that what I’m doing is right. And I believe that this is all failing not only because the government has stolen everything, but because we, Russians, don’t feel that what we are doing is right.”

Vladimir Osechkin, leader of the human rights network, helped Filatyev escape Russia. 

“It’s very important that someone became the first to speak out,” he said “And it’s opening a Pandora’s box.”