Soldier of Ukraine's 5th Regiment of Assault Infantry react after firing a US-made MK-19 automatic grenade launcher towards Russian positions in less than 800 metres away at a front line near Toretsk in the Donetsk region


  • Russian soldiers who joined Ukraine cited moral outrage over the invasion as their reason for defecting
  • Some also cited a dislike for the actions of their comrades in the war
  • The legion operates under the umbrella of Ukraine's International Legion

Some members of the Russian army have switched sides and joined the Ukrainian army in the war, leading them to kill their own comrades, according to a report.

Many Russian soldiers who decided to instead fight for Ukraine cited a variety of reasons, including a sense of moral outrage over Moscow's invasion, a desire to defend their adopted homeland of Ukraine, or a dislike of President Vladimir Putin, The New York Times reported.

One Russian soldier who spoke to the outlet also said he wanted to put a stop to the crimes his comrades are committing against Ukrainian civilians, including rape.

"A real Russian man doesn't engage in such an aggressive war, won't rape children, kill women and elderly people," the Russian fighter with the military call sign Caesar told the outlet. "That's why I don't have remorse. I do my job and I've killed a lot of them."

Caesar and several hundred Russian soldiers are part of a unit called the Free Russia Legion. First formed in March 2022, the unit's first members were soldiers who defected from the Russian army shortly after Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine in February of the same year. However, it took until August for Ukraine to finalize legislation that allowed the Legion to legally join the war.

In their manifesto, which was posted on Telegram, the legion's members described themselves as "free citizens of Russia, take responsibility and begin the struggle for New Russia," as translated via Google Translate.

It is unclear how many soldiers are in the legion, but Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), citing media reports, said there are likely about 4,000 fighters in the unit. As of Monday, several hundred members were concentrated around the besieged city of Bakhmut, which has become the site of brutal fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces over the past months.

Last week, Russia filed a suit with the country's supreme court to recognize the Free Russian Legion as a terrorist organization.

The Free Russia Legion operates under the umbrella of Ukraine's International Legion, a fighting force with units made up of American, British, Belarusian and Georgian volunteers.

The Berdyansk port in southeastern Ukraine has been under Russian control since the first weeks of the war
Representation. A Russian soldier at the port of Berdyansk in southeastern Ukraine. AFP / Yuri KADOBNOV