Strolling round Kiev in his new Ukrainian army uniform, Igor Volobuyev felt as if he had lastly achieved his aim.
For weeks after leaving Russia for UkraineGazprombank’s former vice chairman spent his days making an attempt to influence officers to supply him with Ukrainian paperwork and permit him to enlist within the army to struggle in opposition to a rustic the place he had spent most of his life. grownup.
“The second the struggle broke out, I instantly realized that I needed to go and defend Ukraine,” Volobuyev stated in an interview within the Ukrainian capital.
“Initially I needed to affix the territorial protection models within the Sumy area, the place I grew up. “I contacted many officers, however legally it was not doable to struggle there as a Russian.”
Quickly, nevertheless, Volobuyev was launched to the choice of becoming a member of the Freedom for Russia Legion, a particular army unit that’s a part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and consists totally of Russian residents.
He stated he embraced the prospect with open arms and on Saturday in a video tackle, Volobuyev, holding an computerized weapon, introduced he had joined the legion.
“I’m very completely happy that I achieved the primary aim. However now I’ve to rapidly undergo army coaching to have the ability to go and struggle. “I can’t cease midway,” he stated.
The 50-year-old has Ukrainian roots however has a Russian passport and lived most of his life in Moscow, the place he turned vice chairman at Gazprombank, Russia’s third-largest financial institution owned by vitality firm Gazprom . He was considered one of a handful of high-profile Russian deserters who condemned the struggle.
Now, his determination to take up arms in opposition to Russia is one other turning level in a unprecedented historical past. His public departure had already brought on shock waves given his senior function in an organization that’s on the coronary heart of the Russian founding and is headed by Alexei Miller, CEO of Gazprom, who’s near Vladimir Putin.
“I’ve compromised with myself for a very long time… However in February 24 [the day Russia launched its invasion]”Any speak of compromise turned unimaginable,” he stated. “I couldn’t be a part of this crime.
Not a lot is thought in regards to the Freedom Legion for Russia, which Volobuyev joined. Information of his formation was introduced within the Telegram on March 12, and a few of its members – carrying hoodies – held a press convention in Kiev in early April. On her Telegram channel, she usually posts photographs of her members concerned in army preparations.
“I used to be already identified to the general public, so I might converse,” Volobuyev stated. “However for the opposite members and their households, it’s extremely harmful to speak about it, so the group may be very secretive.”
Volobuyev declined to say how giant the legion was and the place it fought, citing army secrecy, however added that the unit was usually concerned in energetic fight.
He harassed that the unit “was not a bunch of mercenaries”, however an official a part of the Ukrainian armed forces and due to this fact, if captured, the troopers must be handled in accordance with worldwide humanitarian regulation.
The official badge of the unit seems on Volobuyev’s uniform. The white and blue flag is utilized by Russian protesters in opposition to the struggle inside and out of doors the nation. It mimics the design of the Russian flag, however with the crimson belt modified to white to take away the hyperlink with “blood and violence,” Volobuyev stated.
Whereas Volobuyev’s principal motivation for taking on arms was the protection of Ukraine, which he described as “his solely homeland,” he stated most Russians within the legion have been searching for regime change in Moscow.
“From what I’ve already seen, there’s a group of extremely motivated Russians who imagine that defeating Russia is now the one solution to create a democratic and civilized nation,” he stated.
Artyom (not his actual identify), one other member of the unit, stated he joined “as a result of it was the one solution to do away with this regime” and had been engaged in opposition politics in Russia earlier than leaving the nation in 2020.
He stated he moved to Ukraine shortly earlier than the struggle, feeling an imminent Russian assault. “I like my homeland,” he stated. “I would really like it to not come this far, however we should finish this technique. “I hope I can go dwelling after the struggle.”
Some Russians have discovered different methods to contribute to Ukraine’s army efforts.
Shortly after the struggle broke out, Maxim Motin, a former Moscow-based native opposition MP who has lived in Kiev for the previous 4 years, rapidly arrange a number of manufacturing traces to make armor vests and helmets for the Ukrainian army.
“Particularly within the first days of the struggle, there was a fantastic demand for armor. Now we have remodeled 700 vests thus far and lots of helmets, “Motin stated in a phone interview from the western Ukrainian metropolis of Lviv, the place he coordinates the manufacturing of military gear.
For years, Motin stated he needed to vary Russia from inside via politics, however he stated he was compelled to depart the nation completely in 2018 following threats from Russian safety providers.
Now, he stated, he didn’t suppose twice about supplying army gear to assist the Ukrainian military in its struggle in opposition to his homeland.
Motin stated authorities in Moscow had not too long ago opened two prison instances in opposition to him for his help of Ukraine, together with the intense cost of financing terrorism.
“I don’t affiliate myself in any respect with the bloody regime in Russia and all those that help the struggle,” Motin stated. “I imagine Russia ought to lose, on the battlefield.”