Ukraine: Drone captures destruction in Bakhmut
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Defiant Russians fighting for Ukraine against Vladimir Putin’s forces have vowed to fight tooth and nail to repel his invading hordes – and warned their countrymen: “All of your enemies are sitting in the Kremlin”. The Free Russia Legion was formed in March 2022, with Ukrainian insiders suggested its founding members were Russian soldiers who defected shortly after Putin ordered his invasion on February 24 – almost 12 months ago.
Their manifesto describes them as “free citizens of Russia who take responsibility for themselves and are beginning to fight for a New Russia” – and for the last year they have been locked in a bloody battle with their own compatriots.
Many are based in Bakhmut, currently held by Ukrainian forces and the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the entire war.
Two of them, who go by the call signs of Tsezar (Caesar in English) and Tikhy (which translates as “quiet”) explained their reasons for joining.
Tsezar said the situation had got more intense since Putin ordered his military mobilisation in September, as well as the move by mercenary army the Wagner Group to begin recruiting convicts from Russian jails.
He explained: “We can feel the difference since mobilisation.
“Now you can just shoot without aiming and you’ll definitely hit someone. Earlier we had to search for targets to corner Russian groups. Now, there are a lot of them – in every hole.”
He continued: “They have been able to advance a bit, but at the cost of enormous losses.
“I feel sorry for the poor guys. I would like to be able to tell them: ‘You have no enemies in Ukraine. There are no enemies in Paris or New York.
“All of your enemies are sitting in the Kremlin.”
The precise number of Free Russia Legion troops is a closely guarded secret – but estimates suggest there are roughly 4,000 of them.
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“February 24 came as a shock. My children were looking at me with tears and asking: ‘Papa, how can this be? How could Russia attack Ukraine?’
“I told them not to worry because Ukraine would win in the end.“I couldn’t just stand by. I tried to volunteer for the international legion, but they weren’t taking Russians then. When Free Russia was formed, I applied, went through some background checks, and ended up here.”
While Tzezar was confident Ukraine would ultimately prevail, with Volodymyr Zelensky using today’s visit to London to try to persuade Rishi Sunak to supply him with fighter jets, he agreed victory would be hastened by Western weapons.
He explained: “You saw how 20 or 30 HIMARS units changed the course of the war.
“And the West has hundreds more. And thousands of tanks. I won’t even mention aircraft.
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“If Ukraine had even a tiny fraction of these weapons, Tikhy and I would be celebrating our victory somewhere on a beach in Crimea.”
Tikhy hails from the city of Tolyatti on the Volga river.
The former construction worker said he was in Kyiv in February when it came under attack.
He explained: “At first, I simply couldn’t believe it. Only after the third rocket flew by did I understand what was happening. I gathered up my family and we hid in the basement.”
Explaining his reasons for signing up, he added: “I’m done with Russia. I don’t even want to hear about it after what they did in the Kyiv region and elsewhere.”
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