Missing Russian soldier tells CBS News he and his comrades were ‘lied’ to and soon realized ‘the war was wrong’ in Ukraine

Kyiv — Six months after the start of his war against Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin calls on his country to equip itself with a larger army. He ordered an increase of 137,000 men from January.

But if CBS News correspondent Debora Patta’s rare and candid conversation with a Russian paratrooper is any indication, Putin’s plans could be met with growing resentment among the young men sent to the other side of the Russian border to lead the leader’s fight. war in ukraine.

Paratrooper Pavel Filatyev told Patta he was so disgusted by the war that he defected and decided to tell his story – despite it putting him in personal danger. His account is all the more remarkable as he is the first Russian soldier to break ranks and publish an inside story of what it is like to fight in Putin’s war.

A file photo provided to CBS News by Pavel Filatyev shows the Russian paratrooper, who fled Russia into exile after serving in the military during its invasion of Ukraine’s Kherson region.

Courtesy of Pavel Filatiev

As the missiles rained down on Ukraine in the early hours of February 24, it became impossible to ignore that Vladimir Putin had something truly horrific planned. Surprisingly, many Russian soldiers on the front lines had no idea that they had just invaded Ukraine. They weren’t even told what to do.

“We’ve just started to move forward,” Filatyev told CBS News. “When the shelling started, we thought it was NATO approaching us, not Ukraine.”

He told Patta he had served in the Russian 56th Air Assault Regiment, which was sent across the border to capture the southern region of Kherson at the start of the conflict.

“It wasn’t until 10 days later that I realized there was no NATO here, only Ukrainians,” he said.

Russian forces ride a tank during their invasion of Ukraine.

Russian military document

Patta asked the Russian soldier if he felt cheated.

“I know we’ve been deceived for many years, and everything shown on [Russian] State television has nothing to do with reality,” he said. “Everyone in Russia knows that. We were lied to for many years and unfortunately the same thing is happening now in war.”

Filatyev provided documents that appear to verify his credentials and support his claim to have served in the regiment, but CBS News could not independently verify his account.

He said he was eventually evacuated due to an injury, but until then he felt trapped.

“The Russian Parachute Brigade has a similar attitude to the United States Navy Seals – it’s cowardly and shameful to lay down your arms and abandon your post,” he told Patta. “Even though we began to realize that this war was wrong, we didn’t know what to do.”

Six months after the start of the Russian invasion


With outdated weapons and no food, water or blankets in the first freezing days of spring, Filatyev said he and his fellow soldiers were forced to steal supplies, but he said many had gone too far.

“There’s been a lot of looting of laptops and cellphones. I understand why – not only are they paid very little, but when they think they might die tomorrow, human greed takes over,” a- he declared.

Filatyev said he and other Russian soldiers’ phones were confiscated by commanders during the fighting, which is why he has no video or photos of the fighting.

Regarding the war crimes Russia stands accused of committing in places like Bucha and Irpin, Filatyev said he only heard about the allegations when he left the fights and finally got internet access. He insisted that he himself had not witnessed any atrocity.

Residents react to alleged massacre by Russian forces in Bucha


“At first I didn’t want to believe it was true,” he said. “It’s horrible for me to realize that in my army, in our country, there are people who have done this.”

As the terrible, ugly truth began to sink in, Filatyev said many of his comrades went to extreme lengths to avoid fighting Ukraine.

“They were deliberately shooting themselves in the legs and pretending it was an accident, so they would be sent home and given huge compensation,” he told Patta.

When asked what made him take the risk of telling his story, Filatyev replied that it was “because if nothing is done, there will be a nuclear war, or our government will transform the Russia in North Korea”.

Filatyev fled Russia after coming forward to tell his story, which he first published in a 141-page memoir detailing his role in the invasion of Kherson. But although he managed to escape, he does not reveal his whereabouts. He now lives mostly in hiding, fearing for his own safety.

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