A Russian paratrooper who fought in Ukraine says troops are deliberately shooting themselves in the leg to escape the war and get a $50,000 payout.
Pavel Filatyev, 33, published a 141-page memoir outlining his experience on the front lines of the Ukraine war on the Russian social-media platform VKontakte two weeks ago, The Guardian reported. Insider has seen the memoir.
The memoir — titled “ZOV” after the Russian pro-war symbol — is the most detailed account of a Russian soldier fighting in Ukraine so far.
It describes how some Russian soldiers are facing so much chaos, hunger, and destruction that they are looking for any way out.
“Someone began to shoot himself in the limbs … to get 3 million rubles and get out of this hell,” Filatyev wrote in his memoir.
His account mirrored similar reports from the New York Post and MailOnline earlier this year, which said Russian soldiers were telling family members that their comrades were shooting themselves in the leg in order to go home.
A Reuters report published in July confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had announced that injured soldiers could claim compensation of 3 million roubles, the equivalent to what the average Russian worker would earn in four years.
Filatyev was a member of the 56th Guards air assault regiment based in Crimea, the peninsula which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014, the memoir said. Paratroopers are widely considered the elite of the Russian army, The Guardian reported.
He was sent to mainland Ukraine on February 24, the first day of Russia’s invasion, and fought in the cities of Kherson and Mykolaiv before he was wounded and evacuated from the frontlines with an eye infection in early July, The Guardian reported.
“It took me weeks to understand there was no war on Russian territory at all, and that we had just attacked Ukraine,” he told The Guardian.
In his memoir, Filatyev also described Russian troops as “savages” who stole valuables from Ukrainian homes because it “worth more than their salaries.”
“Like savages, we ate everything there: Oats, porridge, jam, honey, coffee … We didn’t give a damn about anything, we’d already been pushed to the limit,” he wrote. “What a wild state you can drive people to by not giving any thought to the fact that they need to sleep, eat and wash.”
Insider was unable to independently verify all the details of Filatyev’s story.
Filatyev fled Russia last week via an undisclosed route, The Guardian reported, and it is unclear where he is currently based.
He told The Guardian that he wrote the memoir because felt like he “can’t stay quiet any longer.”
“I am not afraid to fight in war. But I need to feel justice, to understand that what I’m doing is right,” Filatyev told The Guardian. “And I believe that this is all failing not only because the government has stolen everything, but because we, Russians, don’t feel that what we are doing is right.
Russia’s Ministry of Defence did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.