People in Ukraine are marking the country’s independence from Soviet control despite the ongoing war with Russia. In the capital, large events and celebrations have been banned over concerns of Russian attacks. Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Russia would try “something ugly” this week, which also marks six months since troops first invaded.
Now, the first serving Russian soldier to publicly criticise the invasion said the war is “destroying peaceful lives”.
Speaking to CNN, Pavel Filatyev said he will either be put in prison or silenced by Russia “taking him out” for speaking out about the war.
Mr Filatyev said “corruption” is rife in Russia and troops are given little explanation for the invasion before moving to the front line.
The 33-year-old was part of Russia’s 56th air assault regiment sent to capture the city of Mykolaiv.
He said: “We understood that we were dragged into a serious conflict where we are simply destroying towns and not actually liberating anyone.
“Many understood that we do not see the reason that our government is trying to explain to us. That all of it is a lie.
“We are just destroying peaceful lives. This fact immensely influenced our morale. That feeling that we are not doing anything good.”
Mr Filatyev claimed Russian troops lack basic equipment and commanders were not given any insight into the war before travelling to Ukraine.
He continued: “Our barracks are about 100 years old and are not able to host all of our servicemen … all of our weapons are from the times of Afghanistan.
“Several days after we encircled Kherson many of us did not have any food, water, or sleeping sacks on them.
“Because it was very cold at night, we couldn’t even sleep. We would find some rubbish, some rags, just to wrap ourselves to keep warm.”
READ MORE: NATO issues dire warning over ‘dangerous threat’ from Russia
Marking Independence Day Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said the country was “reborn” when Russia invaded but it would never give up.
“We will not sit down at the negotiating table out of fear, with a gun pointed at our heads. For us, the most terrible iron is not missiles, aircraft, and tanks, but shackles. Not trenches, but fetters,” he said.
He vowed that Ukraine would recapture lost territory in the industrial Donbas region in the east as well as the peninsula of Crimea that Russia annexed in 2014.
“What for us is the end of the war? We used to say: peace.
Now we say victory,” he said.