It takes guts to fight for Russia, but it takes a whole new level of courage to go against it. Yet, this is what Pavel Filatyev did as he exposed the Russian army’s major problems during the early months of the Ukraine invasion.
Filatyev ( Павел Олегович Филатьев) was born on Aug. 9, 1988, and was a former Russian soldier who was part of the frontline fighting during the Ukraine invasion. He was with the ground troops in the early offensive that would ideally conquer cities and towns along the border. But, he was injured and sent back to Russia to recuperate. He took this time to write his memoir on the Russian social media site Vkontakte.
“They simply decided to shower Ukraine with our corpses in this war,” he wrote.
They Were Savages With No Clear Command and Goals
The 34-year-old Filatyev was enlisted in the first campaign, and they arrived at the training ground in Stary Krym, Crimea. Their unit was composed of about 40 people who slept on plank boards and made do with one makeshift stove. He said that even their poorest living conditions in Chechnya were organized better than what the military had prepared for them. Filatyev had joined the elite(supposedly) paratroopers of the Russian army, who were said to be getting the very best in terms of supplies and equipment.
“Here we had nowhere to wash up and the food was horrible. For those who arrived later than the rest, me and about five other people there was neither a sleeping bag, nor camo, armor, or helmets left.”
As a soldier, you’re not sure what kind of gear you’re getting or where you’re going to be assigned. It felt like a fast food chain scenario where you had to come first before the fries ran out.
Then, Filatyev finally received his rifle. He thought he’d feel the excitement to fight for mother Russia, but he noticed it had a broken bolt and was rusty. Even after cleaning, the rifle kept on jamming. Then, Feb. 20 came, and they were ordered to march.
“Some people joked that now we would attack Ukraine and capture Kyiv in three days. But already then I thought it is no time for laughter. I said that if something like this were to happen, we would not capture anything in three days.”
The day before the attack, they were informed of their salary per day ($69). This was a sign that Moscow was putting money into this attack. Rumors within the infantry began to spread about the possibility of attacking Kherson. But for Filatyev, that seemed impossible.
1/ A 34-year-old former Russian paratrooper, Pavel Filatyev, has published a remarkable in-depth account of his experiences of the Ukraine war. He served with the Feodosia-based 56th Guards Air Assault Regiment and fought in southern Ukraine for two months. A 🧵 follows. pic.twitter.com/upGQAejb12
— ChrisO (@ChrisO_wiki) August 17, 2022
Then, at 4 a.m. on Feb. 24, shooting began. Gunpowder smells were in the air, and the sky was lit up with missiles. But, even within their battalion, nobody knew what was happening. Then, at around 6 a.m., a dozen helicopters, planes, and armored assault vehicles started to arrive on the field. Tanks also appeared bearing Russian flags.
Just as you’d think the Russian advances were getting more aggressive, by 1 p.m., their troops together with the armored vehicles, got stuck in the mud. There were immobilized. Still, they were all ordered to push for Kherson and capture the Dnieper bridge.
“I understood that something global was happening, but I did not know what exactly. Many thoughts were spinning in my head. I thought that we couldn’t just attack Ukraine, maybe NATO really got in the way and we intervened. Maybe there are also battles going on in Russia, maybe the Ukrainians attacked together with NATO. Maybe there is something going on in the Far East if America also started a war against us. Then the scale will be huge, and nuclear weapons, then surely someone will use it, d**n it.”
Then, on Mar. 1, they finally arrived at the port of Kherson. Some of the advanced units have already occupied the port, and you can see Russian soldiers rummaging the place, trying to find spots to sleep in and clean themselves.
“Have you ever seen the paintings of the Sack of Rome by the barbarians? This is the best way to describe what was going on around me.”
Russian soldiers were exhausted and hungry and looked “feral.” They were scouring buildings in search of anything and everything that would keep them alive because supplies were not enough to feed everybody. Even showering became a luxury.
In the chaos, Filatyev saw a battalion commander and greeted him. They shared a cigarette together, and he was able to ask him about the situation. He was hoping someone could finally shed some light on what was happening.
“He told me that everything was fine, that it will all be over soon … With these thoughts in mind and hoping deep down inside that this all will end soon, I returned to the offices occupied by the mortar division to get some sleep.”
Everyone looked like savages as they continued to rummage through the cafeteria kitchen and fridges. Anything they could find, they would eat right away. There were cereals, porridge, jam, honey, and coffee. Nobody was in the right mind to “fight for mother Russia.” Everyone was pushed to the point of survival.
“Everyone was in a rush, looking for a place to sleep, and people were fighting for a place in the shower queue. I was disgusted by all this yet realised that I was part of it all. The command must not have cared about its people who were giving everything to carry out their plans, which were not so clear to us. They turned people into absolute savages, ignoring the fact that they need to sleep, eat, and take a shower.”
Lost and Left Out
Filatyev and the troops were then ordered to push towards Mykolaiv and Odessa even though the Russian campaign had stalled at the time. This was the first week of March. At this point, the troops were left wandering in the woods, trying to reach Mykolaiv (about 40 miles away) by foot. Just as he’s done before, he tried asking a senior officer about their plan, and the commander told him he had absolutely “no clue what to do.”
“F*** you, putin!” – Pavel Filatyev, a former russian paratrooper, who publicly criticized the invasion in a 141-page testimony.
The fugitive reached Paris. In protest, he tore up his passport, military ID, and veteran's ID right in the airport.
Source: https://t.co/eEl7LZ7xfn pic.twitter.com/kIUsJoNeNR
— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) August 29, 2022
Then, reinforcements arrived from Donetsk. They were not from the Russian military but from separatist forces. Filatyev described them as men over 45 who were shabby and felt like they were fatigued. Unlike those enlisted, they were forced to go to the front lines when many regular Russian army soldiers refused to.
In mid-April, they were digging in. They were being bombarded by advanced shelling around the region (probably HIMARS-launched missiles) and Russian aviation was nowhere to be seen. They just kept on holding their position in the trenches, and they had no way to eat or sleep. It was a terror of partially sleeping and waking between attacks, hoping nothing would land in the dug trenches.
[Ukrainian forces] could clearly see us from the drones and kept shelling us, so almost all of the equipment soon went out of order. We got a couple of boxes with the so-called humanitarian aid, containing cheap socks, T-shirts, shorts, and soap.
Filatyev said some soldiers even began to shoot themselves just to get the reward promised by the government. One of the captured Ukrainian prisoners even cut his fingers and genitals.
“Dead Ukrainians at one of the posts were plopped on seats, given names and cigarettes.”
The artillery shelling was so intense the villages and towns almost became useless as shelters. Nobody was getting fed. Nobody was getting instructions from Moscow. No reinforcements and their senior commanders had nowhere to go.
“Everyone was getting angrier and angrier.”
“Some grandmother poisoned our pies. Almost everyone got a fungus, someone’s teeth fell out, the skin was peeling off. Many discussed how, when they return, they will hold the command accountable for lack of provision and incompetent leadership. Some began to sleep on duty because of fatigue. Sometimes we managed to catch a wave of the Ukrainian radio, where they poured dirt on us and called us orcs, which only embittered us even more. My legs and back hurt terribly, but an order came not to evacuate anyone due to illness.”
“I kept saying, ‘God, I will do everything to change this if I survive.’… I decided that I would describe the last year of my life, so that as many people as possible would know what our army is now.”
Wake Up Russia
It seemed like Filatyev’s prayers were answered. He survived the war, but he knew he had to do something. He wanted to show the world that not all Russians like this war. Not everyone wants to be in this war. He said that if he did not have the right to say “No to war,” nobody would have the right to start the war.
He wanted to use his voice as a way to encourage fellow soldiers and citizens to take care of their country internally because Russia has so many problems to deal with at home before it can even start occupying another nation.
“This is a vicious circle of some kind, we are all to blame, but we need to make the right conclusions and correct our mistakes. Where is the breadth of the Russian soul? Where did our nobility and spirituality disappear? … Our ancestors shed so much of their own blood for the sake of freedom. It may not change anything, but I refuse to take part in this madness. Ethically, it would be easier if Ukraine attacked us, but the truth is that we invaded Ukraine and the Ukrainians did not invite us.”
Filatyev added that Russia is bullying its own military and has no regard for the life of its soldiers.
“I will tell you a secret. The majority in the army, they are dissatisfied with what is happening there, they are dissatisfied with the government and their command, they are dissatisfied with Putin and his policies, they are dissatisfied with the Minister of Defense who did not serve in the army.”
Filatyev’s location is confidential at the moment for security purposes, but he vows to continue to use his voice to help the soldiers in battle and his fellow citizens to see the light.
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