In a CNN exclusive, aired on Monday, reporter Matthew Chance interviewed Pavel Filatyev, a former Russian soldier in hiding, who attracted international attention last week after risking his life to condemn the war against Ukraine and highlight the crimes being committed by the Russian Army.
Putin has broadly claimed to the Russian people that the invasion of Ukraine is simply a limited, strategic operation to provide security to so-called "independent Republicans" declared by Kremlin-backed separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. But Filatyev, having seen the war up close, understands better.
"It's awful to realize that Russia is destroying Ukraine and Ukraine hates Russia because of what we are doing," said Filatyev through an interpreter. "And that the whole world thinks Russians are animals and bad people." He went on to add, "We were dragged into this serious conflict where we're just destroying towns and not actually liberating anyone. All of that's a lie. We are simply destroying peaceful lives."
"And we've seen those lives destroyed," noted Chance for viewers. "Russian troops [are] killing thousands of Ukrainian civilians in a bloody rampage across the country. Human rights groups and others documenting alleged war crimes including rapes and killings. But that's something Filatyev denies witnessing at all, although he does describe how grinding battles, poor conditions and a severe lack of basic supplies turned Russian soldiers like him into savages."
"Many of us had no food, no water, nor even sleeping bags," said Filatyev. "Because it was very cold at night and we couldn't sleep, we would find some rubbish, some rags just to wrap ourselves in to keep warm. Some took laptops, computers and other technology. Perhaps because their salary does not provide for them to get those in an honest way. Many robbed abandoned stores with mobile phones and other things. I don't want to justify their actions. You about it is important to understand that their poor level of life pushes them to do such things during war."
Asked about whether Filatyev feels guilty for his own role in the war, he replied, "Look, the majority of Russian servicemen did not break the laws of combat. But morally, I feel guilty. Guilty for being used as an instrument in political games which will not even bring Russia any benefit. Our army has been destroyed. My government has destroyed almost every sphere with corruption, and everyone in Russia knows it."
Pavel Filatyev speaks out about Russian atrocities www.youtube.com