Former paratrooper Pavel Filatyev recounts the brutal looting of the Kherson port occupied by Kremlin troops at the beginning of the conflict
We are used to labeling wars in terms of absolute values, as an extension of the eternal struggle between good and evil. And the Ukraine is no exception. Now, the Russians, all of them, are the bad guys, the ones who invaded a country that was not theirs to submit to the dictates of its president, Vladimir Putin. But life, in reality, is a painting full of shades of gray. And it is not at all strange that there are soldiers of Mother Russia who are very critical of what the government of her country is doing and who, at the same time, continue on the front lines obeying orders. This is what happened to former paratrooper and dissident Pavel Filatyev, alias ZOV, who was immersed in an “unjust” war conflict, as he describes in the memoirs he shares these days on social networks.
Thanks to his memories, we can get a rough idea of how the Ukrainian war began from the point of view of the invaders. And Filatyev’s version of those days at the end of February, which already seem distant, are, to say the least, horrible. “They turned us into savages,” the Russian army dissident recalls of the looting of his unit at the port of Kherson. “Have you ever seen the paintings of the Sack of Rome by the barbarians? This is the best way to describe what was happening around me », he says.
Pavel Filatyev explains that they were exhausted and that they searched the port facilities in search of food, water, a shower and a sheltered place to spend the night after a month full of discomfort. The reality was that the Russian military began to seize anything they could find of value, such as computers. The former paratrooper himself stole a hat from a wrecked truck because his balaclava was icy and cold. But that didn’t make him feel any less guilty, although his theft hardly mattered compared to what his classmates were doing, some of them watching the news on television with a confiscated bottle of champagne.
The looting was especially virulent in a cafeteria. “Like savages, we ate everything there: oatmeal, porridge, jam, honey, coffee. We didn’t care about anything, they had already pushed us to the limit », he recalls. “Everything around us gave us a feeling of vileness; As unfortunates, we were just trying to survive », he adds in the story of him collected by various Western media such as ‘The Guardian’. “I was upset about all this, but I realized that I was part of everything. Although I have a lot of courage, I decided to keep it low in the shower line », he continues with the pragmatism of someone who finds himself in an extreme situation and only does what is necessary to regain strength and survive.
After cleaning up, he slipped into an office and prepared to use a table as a bed just before midnight. “For the first time in a week, I took off my bulletproof vest and thermal underwear, placed my belongings along with the weapons on the large two-meter-long table and lay down on it. I was in a state of great happiness, my whole body buzzed with a desperate need to sleep, explains the ex-military man. At that moment, he remembered, as if “in another life”, that he too had worked in an office. “I was a different person then. Now, I’m lying like a savage on the office table with everything upside down, feeling like I’m sleeping in a five-star hotel if one ignores the occasional gunshots coming from outside,” he confesses.
Pavel Filatyev, in military uniform. /
‘Not to the war’
In a second entry, the soldier is highly critical of Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. “Why does someone else have the right to start the war?” he asks himself. In this sense, he explains that “I cannot bring our army back home, but I can share my experience and my thoughts about participating in this war and encourage fellow citizens to take care of their country, which has so many problems of its own with the to deal with.”
In this sense, Pavel Filatyev confesses feeling “in a vicious circle of some kind, we are all to blame, but we must draw the correct conclusions and correct our mistakes. Where is the breadth of the Russian soul? Where did our nobility and spirituality disappear? “Our ancestors shed much of their own blood for the sake of freedom. It may not change anything, but I refuse to participate in this madness », he adds.
Something that many Russian commanders did not understand, as evidenced by the optimistic conversation this soldier had with a battalion commander. “He told me that everything was fine, that everything would be over soon.” At that time, no one in the invading ranks could have foreseen that, five months later, the end of the war would seem distant and shrouded in the mists of uncertainty. “Ethically it would be easier for Ukraine to attack us, but the truth is that we invaded Ukraine and the Ukrainians did not invite us,” he acknowledges.