Ukraine: the secrets of a Russian sergeant who said no to war

“It may not change anything but I will no longer participate in this madness”. By making these remarks, Pavel Filatiev incurs prison in Russia, in particular since the Kremlin has reinforced the sanctions against those who refuse to fight, or criticize the army.

Athletic build, short hair and dark eyes despite his light eyes, this ex-sergeant of the 56th airborne assault regiment has been a refugee in France since the end of August. A career soldier like his father, the paratrooper was deployed on February 24 in Ukraine, from the Crimea, and assigned to a mortar company, without having been trained in their use. Sitting in the back of an old Ural truck without brakes, he drives into Ukrainian territory while a thick fog covers the horizon, as well as the real objectives of the mission. “Is NATO attacking? he asks himself. Soon, radio communications will be cut off. In the column of vehicles flown over by dozens of planes and helicopters, the men are initially galvanized. “The spectacle is both enchanting and frightening, terrifying and superb. »

“We ate everything like savages”

The army enters Kherson and seizes the airport. But the disappointment is not long in coming. Under heavy Ukrainian artillery fire, the Russians failed to break through the enemy lines at Mykolaiv, which would have opened the way to Odessa. Aviation disappears. For a month, without a sleeping bag and in freezing cold, the soldiers loot for food. “We ate everything like savages,” wrote Pavel Filatiev in his war diary. This is called ZOV, like the acronyms “Z”, “O” and “V” painted on Russian military vehicles.

They are promised very high bonuses for each Ukrainian soldier killed: the wages of fear. After eight weeks of combat, denying having witnessed war crimes, he was evacuated from the front due to a bad eye infection, while “some soldiers shoot themselves in the leg to be kept away”.

War in Ukraine: the latest news

During his convalescence, disgusted by what he has been through, Filatiev publishes a 141-page document on the Russian social network Vkontakte. He denounces the unpreparedness of the Russian army, the endemic corruption of the officers, who steal the uniforms before their arrival in the barracks, and the low morale of the troops. “In Russia, it is easier to hide problems than to solve them”.

No chance of avoiding the prison space

The decline of the army is displayed in broad daylight. After asking to resign, the ex-soldier is under pressure to return to the front. Trying to mobilize public opinion, he realizes that he has no chance of avoiding prison. The ex-sergeant therefore defected, helped by a team of whistleblowers and human rights defenders. First passing through Tunisia, where he was arrested by the security services, Pavel Filatiev finally landed in France, his new land of asylum, where he lived under police protection.

(Photo Albin Michel editions)

“ZOV. The man who said no to war”, by Pavel Filatiev published by Albin Michel. 224 pages. €19.90

letelegramme Fr Trans

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