Russian paratrooper says it was weeks before he realized that Russia hadn't been attacked and that he had actually invaded Ukraine




A Russian soldier patrols a destroyed part of the Illich Iron & Steel Works Metallurgical Plant in Mariupol, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People
A Russian soldier patrols a destroyed part of the Illich Iron & Steel Works Metallurgical Plant in Mariupol, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People's Republic, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 18, 2022.  
  • A former Russian paratrooper said he didn't understand why his unit invaded Ukraine.

  • Pavel Filatyev told the Guardian that it took him weeks to realize Russia wasn't under attack.

  • The Kremlin peddled a propaganda narrative that it started the Ukraine war to defend itself.

A former Russian soldier who invaded Ukraine as part of an airborne unit said it took him weeks to realize the war was unprovoked and that his homeland was not under attack.

Pavel Filatyev served with the Russian military's 56th Airborne Regiment, part of the country's elite airborne forces based in Crimea. He spent weeks fighting in southern Ukraine and recounted his experiences in a 141-page memoir titled "ZOV" in reference to Russia's pro-war symbol. He published his experiences on social media in early August.

In a recent interview with the Guardian from Moscow, 33-year-old Filatyev described how his VDV unit entered Ukraine in late February with no information about logistics or objectives and little understanding about what had ignited the war in the first place.

"It took me weeks to understand there was no war on Russian territory at all, and that we had just attacked Ukraine," Filatyev told the Guardian.

In the lead up to the Russian invasion, the Kremlin's propaganda operation worked overtime trying to peddle quite a few baseless narratives they could use to justify military action against Ukraine.

False narratives from Russian President Vladimir Putin included blaming NATO expansion and characterizing it as a security threat, claiming without evidence that Ukraine was committing genocide against ethnic Russians, arguing that Ukraine is not a real country, and unsubstantiated concerns over nuclear weapons.

For weeks, Western intelligence and leaders warned that Russia would use these false narratives to justify invading Ukraine, which Putin's troops went on to do.

In his newly released memoir, Filatyev described how his elite unit was tired, underfed, and poorly equipped when they stormed into Ukraine. He said he was deployed to the war with a rusty rifle that jammed and came with a broken strap.

Filatyev said that when his unit arrived in Kherson - the first major Ukrainian city to fall to Russia, his fellow soldiers acted "like savages" and looted food, computers, valuables, and clothes.

"We didn't give a damn about anything, we'd already been pushed to the limit. Most had spent a month in the fields with no hint of comfort, a shower or normal food," the ex-paratrooper said.

"Everything around gave us a vile feeling," he wrote. "Like wretches, we were just trying to survive." Insider has not been able to independently verify the details of what happened in Kherson from Filatyev's memoir, though the Guardian was able to review documents reportedly proving his service.

Filatyev recounted that he was wounded during an artillery fight and evacuated out of the conflict after his eye became dangerously infected. Amid concerns that he could face some sort of punishment for his revelations, he left Russia this week.

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