‘They turned us into savages’: Russian soldier describes start of invasion of Ukraine | Ukraine

These are excerpts from Pavel Filatyev’s memoir ZOV, which he published on his social media page Vkontakte on August 1. ZOV, named after the tactical markings on Russian army vehicles adopted as a symbol of war, is the most detailed volunteer account of a Russian soldier who took part in the invasion of Ukraine.

In the first translated excerpt, Filatev describes how his unit sacked the port of Kherson hours after Russian troops entered the city.

1st March 2022

Half an hour later we reached the port of Kherson. It was dark. The units marching ahead of us had already occupied the port. The soldiers looked for a place to sleep and to clean themselves. The territory consisted of a checkpoint, an office and a building resembling a dormitory with warehouses, changing rooms and shower points. The ships were at the pier. The mortar department moved into a large office on the ground floor. Other divisions such as the 247th Guards Air Assault Regiment and the Stavropol Spetsnaz (the former Russian military intelligence agency) began to enter the port. I decided to explore the area.

Have you ever seen the paintings of the sack of Rome by the barbarians? That’s the best way to describe what was going on around me. Everyone looked exhausted and wild, and we all began searching the buildings for food, water, a shower, and a place to sleep; some began grabbing computers and whatever valuable goods they could find. I was no exception: I found a hat in a wrecked truck and took it with me. My balaclava was too cold. Despite my wild state, I was disgusted with all the looting.

In an office with a TV, a few people were watching the news; They had found a bottle of champagne there.

Coming out of the building, I saw a battalion commander and saluted him, as was customary in our military rules. He greeted me, shook my hand, and I bummed a cigarette from him, Marlboro Red. As I smoked, I asked him how things were going. He told me that everything was fine, that it would all be over soon… With these thoughts in my head and deep hope that this would all end soon, I returned to the Mortar Section offices to get some sleep .

In the offices there was a cafeteria with a kitchen and refrigerators. Like savages, we ate everything there: oatmeal, porridge, jam, honey, coffee. We didn’t care, we were already at the limit. Most had spent a month in the fields without the slightest comfort, a shower or normal food.

What a wild state you can drive people into if you don’t think about their need to sleep, eat and wash.

Everything around us made us feel disgusting; like wretches we just tried to survive.

Everyone was in a hurry, looking for a place to sleep, and people were fighting for a seat in the shower line. I was disgusted by all of this, but realized that I was a part of everything. The command must not have cared about its people, who gave everything to carry out their plans, which were not so clear to us. They turned people into absolute savages, ignoring the fact that they need to sleep, eat, and shower.

Despite having a lot of nerve I chose to keep it low in the shower line. I was sure that we would now hold Kherson for some time and I would still get a chance to shower.

It was approaching midnight. For the first time in a week, I removed my bulletproof vest and thermal underwear, placed my gear along with the guns at the large, 2-meter-long table, and lay down on it. I was in a state of great bliss, my whole body humming in a desperate need for sleep

The office was nice. Lying on my back on this table, my head covered with a uniform, I remembered my previous work in a similar office. I was a different person then and felt like it happened in a different life. Now I’m sprawled like a savage on my office desk, with everything upside down, and if you ignore the occasional gunfire outside, I feel like I’m in a five-star hotel.

Russian soldier Pavel Filatev.Pavel Filatev.

In the second excerpt, Filatev expresses his anger at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

I fought in Ukraine and if I don’t have the right to say no to the war, why does anyone else have the right to start the war? I can’t bring our army home, but I can share my experiences and my thoughts on taking part in this war and encouraging fellow citizens to take care of their country, which has so many problems of its own to deal with.

This is a kind of vicious circle that we are all to blame for, but we must draw the right conclusions and correct our mistakes. Where is the expanse of the Russian soul? Where has our nobility and spirituality gone? … Our ancestors shed so much blood of their own for freedom. It may not change anything, but I refuse to take part in this madness. Ethically it would be easier if Ukraine attacked us, but the truth is that we invaded Ukraine and the Ukrainians didn’t invite us.