Russian Soldiers Told They Were “Saving” Ukraine

By: Julia Ordaz

Can war ever be justified? Russian soldiers invading Ukraine seem to think so. 

In the war Putin has waged on Ukraine, the number of destroyed Ukrainian communities and casualties are rapidly increasing, and there are no signs that any of this will slow in the coming days.

On Ukraine’s southern border lies the city of Kherson. Kherson was invaded February 24th, 2022, and since then the city has been under Russian control. In a firsthand account of Khersons’ experience, two anonymous journalists have claimed that, “The weather has become much more severe. So have we, getting more conscious of the consequences we can see of participating in protests every day. There is a clear smell of danger in the air.” 

Despite Khersons’ citizens’ obvious despair, Russian state media celebrated the Ukrainian city´s downfall as the first “liberation” in Russia’s mission. 

In an interview with UNIAN (Ukrainian Independent Information Agency), captured Russian officer Lieutenant Colonel Astakhov Dmitry Mikhailovich described the conditions that they thought they were going into war under: “We were told this while being in Russia… that Ukraine’s territory is dominated by fascists’ regime nationalists, Nazis have seized power.” 

In an interrogation another Russian officer stated, “Frankly speaking [military superiors] tricked us. Everything we were told was a fake.” 

Artem Mazhulin an English teacher from Kharkiv, Ukraine said that some of the invading forces, “thought they were on military exercises,” and that “they didn’t expect resistance.” Perhaps different explanations were given to different divisions in the Russian force in order to keep a confusion over the soldiers. Many believed their names would be praised for saving Ukraine from a fascist regime, while others simply believed they were participating in regular training. Did their views change when they saw the obliteration of lives? 

In his plea for mercy Mikhailovich recognized that the war is a genocide and he claimed that he and his fellow soldiers, “will go to jail or whatever we deserve. We’re ready for everything.” Addressing the soldiers still fighting in Kyiv he said, “I’m begging you stop [before] it’s too late. Our task is to avoid total destruction of these two nations. This is terrible. I cannot find the words to say sorry to the Ukrainian people.”

The validity of a captured soldiers’ claims can always be questioned, but coming out of war, no one is able to praise it.

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