Moscow’s Interior Ministry has issued an arrest warrant in absentia for the former vice president of the state-owned Gazprombank, who joined a pro-Ukrainian militia after Moscow's invasion, Russian state media reports.

Fifty-two-year-old Igor Volobuyev, who was born in northeastern Ukraine but raised in Moscow, was the main spokesperson for Russia’s energy giant Gazprom between 2000 and 2016, and was vice president for industrial asset development at Gazprombank until he went to enlist in Ukraine’s war against Russia. He said at the time that he was joining the Freedom of Russia Legion because he wanted to cleanse himself of his Russian past and “to help make Russia a free democratic country.”

The Freedom of Russia Legion is a Ukrainian-based paramilitary group formed by Russian citizens who opposes Vladimir Putin’s regime and his full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The legion was formed in March 2022 as one of a number of units manned by volunteers from former Soviet Union countries that are said to be part of Ukraine's International Legion fighting against the Russian invaders.

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In April 2023, Volobuev was seriously wounded. In an August interview, with the Estonian news site Postimees, he said his life had been saved by one of his comrades, a 20-year-old volunteer who he did not name but described simply as “a young boy.”

He gave a harrowing account of the incident in which he was injured, recounting how he and the young soldier were trying to transport a wounded volunteer by stretcher from a mud-filled trench onto a nearby road to be evacuated.

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Looking for children, doctors, and hospital staff under the rubble, hundreds of Ukrainians organized themselves to help the victims, despite the critical destruction.

Volubev took the front of the stretcher with his colleague at the rear. As they began to move there was a large explosion in the trench behind them. He told the journal that he was protected from the worst of the blast by the bodies of the other two, who both died in the attack. “The boy was torn apart, with parts of him penetrating my whole back. I will find his relatives and bow to them…”

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The medal and citation given to Ihor Volubev. PHOTO: Facebook

He gave the interview shortly after being awarded the Golden Cross of Combat Merit. The medal was established by President Zelensky in May 2022 to recognize those servicemen, fighting in Ukraine’s war against Russia, who display: “outstanding personal bravery and courage or carry out an outstanding heroic act during a combat mission in conditions of danger to life and in direct contact with the enemy.”

When asked why he had been awarded the medal, Volubev answered modestly “For the successful completion of combat missions.” He published a picture of his medal and citation on Facebook under which he wrote:

“I serve the Ukrainian people!”

Last October, Russia’s Ministry of Justice added Volubev to its register of foreign agents before adding him to its wanted list last week with the statement:

“Volobuev Igor Mikhailovich. Wanted under an article of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation,” without specifying which article he has been accused of contravening.

According to the Postimees interview Volubev returned to duty in June after being hospitalized. 

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Asked how important he thought the giving of medals was and if his receipt of the Golden Cross had changed his attitude towards military service, Volubev just smiled and said: “No way - I’m not here for awards.”

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