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EXCLUSIVE War in Ukraine

Russian citizens fighting on Ukraine’s side

In an exclusive interview with the Kyiv Post, a fighter with the call sign Caesar from the Freedom of Russia legion talks about his service in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the principles and motivatio

In an exclusive interview with the Kyiv Post, a fighter with the call sign Caesar from the Freedom of Russia legion talks about his service in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the principles and motivation of Russian fighters who defend Ukraine. This interview was carried out, exceptionally, in Russian. 

What is your motivation? Why did you leave Russia and your life there to fight for Ukraine?

I left my homeland to defend Ukraine. I am a tribute to the opposition, which believes that only an armed uprising can bring freedom to Russia. When the hot phase of the war in Ukraine began on Feb. 24 and the Russian army invaded from all sides, I, as a Russian person, as a Christian, could not just look aside.

I contacted the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), the Freedom of Russia legion, applied, passed a preliminary check, and, after saying goodbye to my family, arrived in Ukraine to fight on your side, on the side of good.

I hope your family is safe.

Yes, that’s right, my family is safe now.

What is it like to fight against your compatriots?

I do not fight against my compatriots, the ones who, like Cain, raised a stone against his brother, against the fraternal Ukrainian people. They are not compatriots for me. They are either a bastard or a coward. Everyone in life has a choice: You could go on the run. You could hide abroad. You could even go to jail. However, going to kill your brothers in faith just for the sake of some ambition of a crazy dictator – Putin and his thieving FSB gang – is a terrible sin. I have no sympathy or pity for these people.

The Kremlin called people like you mercenaries and traitors. What is your answer to this?

Do not confuse Putin’s Russian Federation (RF) with the people of Russia. We legionnaires did not betray anyone, and we did not take an oath to Putin. We did not elect him. We defend the freedom of Ukraine and the free future of Russia.

As a descendant of an ancient princely family, I am doing what my ancestors have been doing for centuries – protecting my people. I defend it, fighting for Ukraine. I will protect the Ukrainian people from genocide. If I live to see the moment when all of Ukraine is liberated, I will continue to liberate Russia.

The Kremlin also said that your unit is not real and that it is just a public relations project. What do you say to that?

For the Kremlin, it’s a nightmare that the Freedom of Russia legion has appeared. Usually, the Russian riot police faced hipsters and pensioners – people who could not fight back.

We are young, mature men who have taken up arms, and we understand that this is the only way to fight the Putin regime. Of course, we are a nightmare for Putin because we will destroy this regime.

Tell it to those whom we killed and wounded. Those who do not believe in our existence can come to the front line for dinner and make sure.

What are your plans after the end of the war in Ukraine? Is there any chance you can return to Russia?

When I go to war, I place myself in the hands of God. I don’t know how this will end for me, but after the liberation of Ukraine, many of my comrades will go to liberate Russia – this is our final goal.

What is your unit’s official status?

We are an official unit and are part of the foreign legion, which takes part in the defense of Ukraine. We fight shoulder-to-shoulder with volunteers from other countries.

Please describe what it is like for a Russian unit to work with the Ukrainian military. Are there any differences? Have you experienced distrust on the part of the Ukrainian military?

For many, of course, it is surprising that Russians leave their homeland to fight their compatriots, but when this shock passes, then we are treated well. We are respected. We are not cowards and do not run away from problems, and we do not want to shift the solution to our political problems onto Ukraine. We are ready to pay any price for the freedom of Ukraine and the freedom of Russia.

Is your division growing? How numerous is your unit without giving away military secrets, and where do new volunteers come from?

We have over 5,000 applicants to join our legion, but we do not accept everyone. There is a thorough selection process. At the beginning of the war, there were many prisoners of war, but not in our battalion: I represent the second battalion. Now the third battalion is being formed, which will go to the front and fight with us after training. There are those who recently mobilized and went over to the side of Ukraine.

The Putin regime and its illiterate leadership are doing everything to fill our ranks as much as possible.

In what well-known battles did your unit participate? What tasks does your department usually perform?

Our legion fought near Kharkiv, then near Severodonetsk. Now we are fighting in the Bakhmut direction. It is one of the hottest areas, where the troops of the Russian Federation are still trying to advance.

How are things going with the material support of your unit? Do you have enough weapons, equipment, vehicles, and materials for the tasks?

Everything is fine with us. The AFU are well provided. We have excellent training. No one is thrown to the front untrained. We also go through a meticulous selection process. Many complain that we do not muster for a long time because people must pass selection and there is very difficult mental and physical training. It is so hard that I turned yellow after several hours of such training, and I was almost sent to the hospital. We are being prepared very seriously.

And how long does it take, on average, to train a fighter?

First, we have a general training course for a fighter which does not depend on specialization. Any of our fighters must be at least a good foot soldier and then there is already quite a long specialization. I won’t give you exact dates. I don’t want to disclose information.

Your compatriots, our enemies, consider you traitors. If your fighters are captured, what happens? Do you have a strategy?

We are not captured, and for us such an option and a possibility are not considered. We fight to the end. We have very competent management and competent interaction with the AFU, excellent training, and equipment. Our soldiers have not yet been captured – I hope this will not happen.

Of course, we had the wounded and the dead, but there have been no war prisoners from our side. We do not leave anyone on the battlefield, unlike the troops of the RF.

Are you getting paid? Do you have a base and a place to stay when your unit is not at war?

We have good living conditions and comfortable training conditions, and we rest during the rotation. Usually, we have practically no rest. We do not mess around – we either fight or train. We study military affairs. We are the same military personnel as the AFU fighters, and we are also supplied and well-fed. We receive monetary allowances in this regard. We are no different from Ukrainian soldiers.

Have there been misunderstandings with our Ukrainian military? You have a Russian pronunciation of speech. Were you asked to say a special password at checkpoints, or maybe you were arrested by mistake?

We have comrades who solve such issues so there have been no problems.

What is the reaction of civilians in Ukraine when they find out that they were liberated from the Russians by Russians? How do Ukrainians react?

Of course, many are shocked. We are very sad to see traces of terrible war crimes found in the liberated territories, and we are very bitter about what happened and what is happening there. We understand what our compatriots have done and we will stop it. We are ready to pay a debt of honor to the Ukrainian people with our blood and, if necessary, with our lives.

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