On Friday, The New York Times profiled a Russian national, identified only as Kandalaksha, who defected to Ukraine years ago in protest of Vladimir Putin's regime — and now leads Ukrainian soldiers in the fight to repel the Russian invasion.
"Kandalaksha is something of an anomaly. He is from Russia, and describes himself as a political refugee. An opponent of President Vladimir V. Putin’s government, he left his homeland in 2014 when Moscow annexed Crimea and began supporting a separatist war in the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk," reported Carlotta Gall. "'I was fighting the Putin regime,' he said, 'and I understood the hottest place to fight against the Putin regime was in Ukraine.' Soon after arriving in Ukraine he took a step beyond political activism and joined a volunteer military unit in 2015. 'I was searching myself and I looked for a way to be useful,' he said. 'I thought it would be most honest to go to fight for the country.'"
According to the report, Kandalashka fought against Russian forces when they tried to seize control of the capital city of Kyiv earlier this year — then after that offensive failed and they pulled back to focus on the separatist regions, he was sent east to fight there too.
"Every few days soldiers from this unit of the 95th Air Assault Brigade head to the frontline, which they call ground zero, giving others a break from the pounding artillery," said the report. "The soldiers are caustic about the type of warfare they are undergoing on the open country of eastern Ukraine. They describe themselves as cannon fodder, and reduced to “cotton” or stuffing under the heavy barrages of artillery. But their morale seems high and, as volunteers, most said there were convinced of the need to stand up to Russian aggression."
Per the report, Kandalashka was particularly enraged by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger asserting that Ukraine could end the war by giving up territory.
"'That is a horrendous thought,' he said. 'The whole world has to destroy the Russian cancer. It is the quintessence of evil and should be defeated by all humanity,'" said the report. "He said large-scale Western support for Ukraine would help change minds in Russia as people would see the improvements and development of freedoms. The youth in Russia already understood how unjust their system was, he said."
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