The Kremlin’s justification for invading Ukraine “is a lie,” a Russian paratrooper who previously publicly condemned his country’s war in Ukraine has told CNN.
Two weeks ago, Pavel Filatyev spoke out against the conflict in a 141-page-long testimony posted to his VKontakte social media page, then fled Russia. He is the first serving member of the Russian military to publicly criticize the invasion of Ukraine and leave the country.
Now he tells CNN that his fellow troops are tired, hungry and disillusioned — and that the Kremlin’s war effort is “destroying peaceful lives.”
“We understood that we were dragged into a serious conflict where we are simply destroying towns and not actually liberating anyone,” Filatyev told CNN’s Matthew Chance. CNN is not disclosing the location of the interview for the security of the interviewee.
“Many understood that we do not see the reason that our government is trying to explain to us. That all of it is a lie,” he said. “We are just destroying peaceful lives. This fact immensely influenced our morale. That feeling that we are not doing anything good.”
Filatyev, 33, told CNN “corruption” and repression are rife in his home country and said his unit — which was based in Crimea and sent to Ukraine entering Kherson early in the conflict — was ill-equipped and given little explanation for Russia’s invasion.
According to Filatyev, the soldiers and their commanders did not know what they were expected to do in Ukraine. He added that they soon became disillusioned with the government’s reasoning for its invasion after arriving in Kherson and facing resistance from locals who did not want to be “liberated.”