“Putin has to be put on trial and hanged. But only in accordance with the law,” former Vice President at Gazprombank Igor Volobuev said to the Telegraph.

These are the words the Russian bank executive said after leaving Moscow and deciding to take up arms with the Ukrainian forces against his very own country. Vice President of the state-owned Gazprombank Igor Volobuev has fled Russia in a protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his war in Ukraine.

Volobuev, 50, who held a senior position at Gazprombank, claimed that he had Ukrainian roots and family living in Ukraine, which is why he was forced to choose sides in a conflict that sees Russians and Ukrainians fighting and living on both sides of the border between the two countries.

“On the first day of the war, my phone burst. I was born and graduated from school in Okhtyrka. My father, younger brother, and friends live there,” Volobuev said in an interview with liga.net.

Former Vice President of Gazprombank Igor Volobuev during an interview (Screenshot from Swankest CZ). Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yI5iq-6hZao
Former Vice President of Gazprombank Igor Volobuev during an interview (Screenshot from Swankest CZ/Youtube)

This defection makes him the 4th Russian top executive and Putin ally that has publicly removed themselves from Russia’s sphere of influence due to their personal dislike for Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.

He then revealed a grim truth: His father, who was living in Ukraine, had been killed by Russian forces at the early onset of the war, which was the final straw for the former Russian bank executive.

“In just a few days, I decided that I could no longer live in Russia. Because the Russians killed my father, killed my acquaintances, close friends. My father lived in a cold basement for a month,” Volobuev revealed.

“I’ve been told by people I’ve known since I was a kid that they were ashamed of me. You know what I was told? ‘So that we never hear again that you are an Okhtyrchan, that you are Ukrainian. Never.’ I packed my bags and left Russia on March 2,” he continued.

He would leave a lavish life in Russia after working at Gazprombank for six years. Before that, he worked for Gazprom for 16 years. His defection to Ukraine has been notable as Gazprom is headed by Alexey Miller, a known Russian oligarch, and Putin ally. He said that he “couldn’t be around those people anymore” and could no longer pretend that the war did not concern him.

It is unknown how he managed to get into Ukraine in the first place as he holds Russian passports and documents which would immediately raise suspicions. However, he made it to Kyiv and joined the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces.

“I came to Ukraine to defend my Okhtyrka with weapons in my hands. Back in 2014, when Crimea was occupied, I made a promise to myself that if Russian tanks came to my Okhtyrka, I would go to war with them.”

Volobuev and the Russia-Ukraine Gas Wars

Volobuev revealed that he thinks the Russian war against Ukraine had begun a long time ago – some 20 years ago during the “gas wars.”

“Ukraine as a reliable supplier of gas was discredited in the eyes of European consumers. Gazprom has done a lot for this.”

During this time, he admitted that he had direct participation in the gas wars as he was a PR specialist for Gazprom during those years. He revealed that he was tasked to show that the Ukrainian gas transmission lines were already rotten and that it was an “emergency.” These “rotten” pipes were too expensive to refurbish and that it would be easier and less costly to replace. Millions of dollars were reported to be put into the campaign.

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The PR strategy worked as “this allowed them to quite reasonably declare to Europe that it is necessary to build workarounds: Nord Stream, Turkish Stream, Nord Stream-2. To deprive Ukraine of the status of a transit state,” he explained.

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller and Russian President Vladimir Putin signing a $400 billion dollar gas deal in 2014 (Kremlin.ru, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons). Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Russia_and_China_sign_major_gas_deal.jpeg
Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller, on behalf of Russia and China, sign a USD$ 400 billion dollar gas deal in 2014. (Kremlin.ruCC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Volobuev would then be responsible for preparing research, official reports, and releases. However, the ideas for this information and strategies would not come from him and his team. He divulged that all of these strategies were led by Alexei Gromov, Putin’s Press Secretary during that time.

He admitted that he was at fault for working with the Russians as he was Ukrainian. Expressing his regret, he also admitted that it would be difficult to wash away his “Russian past.”

“I don’t just understand. My fault for working for the Russian government for so many years is doubly greater than that of the Russians. Because all my life, I considered myself Ukrainian, and my responsibility is double. It will be much more difficult for me to wash away from the Russian past,” he stated.

Volobuev is one of many stories that further provide evidence of Ukrainian-Russian ties. These historical ties have effected Russian troops’ willingness to kill Ukrainian soldiers as Russians have family in Ukraine, and Ukrainians have family in Russia.   This led Russia to recruit Syrian fighters, Chechens and private military contractor companies like Wagner Group to fight for them.

SOFREP has previously reported that there was a small number of Russian elites that were opposed to Putin’s war in Ukraine and that this number was slowly growing in size. This is not surprising as the evidence does show a number of Russian elites actively exiting Russia out of disagreements with Putin. One such ally is Putin’s long-time adviser Anatoly Chubais, who quit his job as the Russian climate envoy and left Russia for Istanbul in March.

Earlier in April, we also reported on former Russian lawmaker Ilya Ponomarev taking up arms against Russia. He is a longtime Russian ally of Ukraine as he was the only one to vote against the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, with the Russian Duma voting 445-1.