Furious Russians turn on Vladimir Putin to join Ukrainian forces

Horrified by the images emerging from Russian-occupied areas in Ukraine, soldiers have left the Russian forces to turn against their home country.

The men were disillusioned by the blind support for Russian President Vladimir Putin or the apathy toward the war among their compatriots. 

Packed and determined, they navigated the challenges and reached Ukraine, where they joined the ranks of Kyiv’s troops fighting against Russian forces.

Today, these men form the Siberian Battalion, a unit comprised of Russians who have aligned themselves with the Ukrainian military to resist their homeland’s actions, harboring hopes of eventually contributing to the ousting of President Putin. The majority of its members come from ethnic minorities in Russia’s far east.

When Russia initiated a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the members of the Siberian Battalion were dismayed by the widespread support for Putin or the indifference displayed by most Russians.

In contrast to other volunteer units with Russian nationals, the Siberian Battalion is officially integrated into the regular Ukrainian army, subjecting its fighters to thorough security checks before training and deployment.

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Recently, during a training exercise near Kyiv, over a dozen Russians from the battalion participated in firing practices, demonstrating their commitment to the cause.

Fighters from eastern Siberia within the battalion aspire to see a Ukrainian victory as a step toward dismantling Moscow’s political control over their impoverished region.

Some members of the battalion, belonging to ethnic communities like Yakut and Buryat, report experiencing racism and oppression in Russia, fueling calls for independence. Some Russian fighters in the battalion have openly voiced their desire for the removal of Putin’s administration, emphasizing that Russia must cease to be a source of sudden aggression.

These Russian defectors left behind their entire lives, families, and friends, undertaking a complex journey through third countries to reach Ukraine. Integration into the Ukrainian forces involved a meticulous process of document scrutiny and extensive questioning upon arrival.

Formed six months ago, the Siberian Battalion currently consists of a few dozen fighters. Ukrainian military leaders are optimistic that more will join their ranks, with applications suggesting a target of a 300-strong battalion of Russian fighters. Some members have already been deployed near Avdiivka, a city in the Donetsk region, where clashes between Ukrainian and Russian forces have been fierce.

The Siberina Battalion believes there are potentially tens or hundreds of thousands of Russians willing to stand with Ukraine in its fight for freedom.

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