took a few weeks of sleeping on crates of grenades for a bed and hiding his face from Ukrainians amid a growing sense of guilt, for the Russian junior officer to come to his conclusion: This wasn’t his battle to fight.

“We were dirty and tired. People around us were dying. I didn’t want to feel like I was part of it, but I was a part of it,” the officer told CNN.
He said he went to find his commander and resigned his commission on the spot.
CNN is not naming the officer or including personal details that would help to identify him for his security.
His story is remarkable, but it could also be one of many, according to opponents of the war in Russia as well as in Ukraine who say they have heard of a lot of cases of soldiers — both professional and conscript — refusing to fight.
Russian troops have been struggling with low morale and heavy losses in Ukraine, according to the assessments by Western officials including the Pentagon.
 

 

The officer who spoke to CNN says he was part of the massive troop build-up in the west of Russia that triggered global fears for Ukraine. But he said he did not think much about it, even on February 22 this year when he and the rest of his battalion were asked to hand over their mobile phones while stationed in Krasnodar, southern Russia, without any explanation.
That night they spent hours painting white stripes on their military vehicles. Then they were told to wash those off, he said. “The order has changed, draw the letter Z, as in Zorro,” he remembered being told.
The Z symbol, seen here on a column of Russian military vehicles, has become a motif of the invasion of Ukraine.

“The next day we were taken to Crimea. To be honest, I thought that we would not go to Ukraine. I didn’t think it would come to this at all,” said the man.
As his unit gathered in Crimea — the Ukrainian region annexed by Russia in 2014 — President Vladimir Putin launched his further invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
But the officer said he and his comrades were unaware, as no news was passed to them, and they were out of touch with the outside world without thei 
 
Two days later they were themselves ordered into Ukraine, the officer told CNN.
“Some guys refused outright. They wrote a report and left. I don’t know what happened to them. I stayed. I do not know why. The next day we went,” he said.
It's nearly three months since Russia invaded Ukraine. Here's where things stand

It’s nearly three months since Russia invaded Ukraine. Here’s where things stand
The officer said he did not know the goal of the mission; that the bombastic claims from Russian President Vladimir Putin that Ukraine was part of Russia and needed to be “de-Nazified” did not make it through to the men asked to fight.
“We were not hammered with some kind of ‘Ukrainian Nazis’ rhetoric. Many did not understand what this was all for and what we are doing here,” he said.
He told CNN he had hoped for a diplomatic solution and felt guilty about Russia invading Ukraine. But he added he was not well versed in politics.

Into conflict

The first thing the soldier remembers after his unit drove over the border in a long column of vehicles was seeing boxes of Russian dry rations scattered everywhere and piles of destroyed equipment.
“I was sitting in the KAMAZ [truck], holding a gun tightly to me. I had a pistol and two grenades with me,” he said.
The force drove northwest, in the direction of Kherson. As they approached a village, a man with a whip jumped out and started whipping the convoy and screaming: “You all are f**ked!” the officer recalled.
“He almost climbed into the cabin where we were. His eyes were teary from crying. It made a strong impression on me,” he added. “In general, when we saw the locals, we tensed up. Some of them hid weapons underneath their clothes, and when they got closer, they fired.”
He said he would hide his face for shame as well as safety because he felt embarrassed to be seen by Ukrainians there. On their land.
He said the Russians came under heavier attack too, with mortars aimed at them on the second or third day they were in Ukraine.
“For the first week or so, I was in a state of aftershock. I didn’t think about anything,” he told CNN. “I just went to bed thinking: ‘Today is March 1. Tomorrow I will wake up, it will be March 2 — the main thing is to live another day.’ Several times the shells fell very close. It’s a miracle none of us died,” he said.

 

  • Ukraine rules out ceasefire, concessions
  • Russia launches assault in Luhansk, Mykolaiv
  • Ukraine must decide own future, Polish president says

KYIV, May 22 (Reuters) – Ukraine ruled out a ceasefire or any territorial concessions to Moscow as Russia stepped up its attack in the eastern and southern parts of the country, pounding the Donbas and Mykolaiv regions with air strikes and artillery fire.

Kyiv’s stance has become increasingly uncompromising in recent weeks as Russia experienced military setbacks while Ukrainian officials grew worried they might be pressured to sacrifice land for a peace deal.

“The war must end with the complete restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Andriy Yermak, Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff said in a Twitter post on Sunday.

Polish President Andrzej Duda offered Warsaw’s backing, telling lawmakers in Kyiv on Sunday that the international community had to demand Russia’s complete withdrawal and that sacrificing any territory would be a “huge blow” to the entire West.

“Worrying voices have appeared, saying that Ukraine should give in to (President Vladimir) Putin’s demands,” Duda said, the first foreign leader to address the Ukrainian parliament in person since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion. read more

“Only Ukraine has the right to decide about its future,” he said.

Speaking to the same parliamentary session, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy renewed a plea for stronger economic sanctions against Moscow.

“Half-measures should not be used when aggression should be stopped,” he said.

Shortly after both finished speaking, an air raid siren was heard in the capital, a reminder that the war raged on even if its front lines are now hundreds of kilometres away.

Zelenskiy said at a news conference with Duda that 50 to 100 Ukrainians are dying every day on the war’s eastern front in what appeared to be a reference to military casualties.

Russia is waging a major offensive in Luhansk, one of two provinces in Donbas, after ending weeks of resistance by the last Ukrainian fighters in the strategic southeastern port of Mariupol.

The heaviest fighting focused around the twin cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, interior ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko told Ukrainian television on Sunday.

The cities form the eastern part of a Ukrainian-held pocket that Russia has been trying to overrun since mid-April after failing to capture Kyiv and shifting its focus to the east and south of the country.

Victory will be bloody,” he said in a Ukrainian television interview broadcast Saturday, and “the end will certainly be in diplomacy.”

But he and other leaders stressed that Russia shouldn’t keep control of territory it has seized during hostilities. Although Russian forces failed to take the capital, Kyiv, and the northeastern city of Kharkiv, they have captured the cities of Kherson and Mariupol in southern and southeastern Ukraine.

Bloody fighting continues in eastern Ukraine, which the United States believes is part of Moscow’s strategy to annex broad swaths of the country and install leaders loyal to Russia in a move echoing the 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

“We want everything returned, and Russia doesn’t want to return anything,” Zelensky said in the interview. “And this is what it will be in the end.”

His comments come as the Russian invasion falters and military leaders are overhauling their strategy by firing commanders and increasingly relying on artillery and long-range weapons after losing thousands of troops.

President Joe Biden on Monday plans to unveil a long-sought economic plan for engaging a region coming increasingly under the influence of China, as he enters the second leg of his debut tour of Asia.

The announcement is one of the centerpieces of Biden’s visit to the continent, which began last week in South Korea and is continuing this week in Japan. Before Biden unveils the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which his aides refer to as IPEF, he called on Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and sat for bilateral talks with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, where security topics are expected to arise.
“The United States remains fully committed to Japanese, Japan’s defense, and we will face the challenges of today and the future together,” Biden said in his meeting with Kishida, their first formal face-to-face.
“The purpose of the visit is to increase our cooperation with other nations of the region and deliver concrete benefits to the people of the Indo-Pacfic region,” Biden said, going on to thank Kishida for joining a US-led effort to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
Biden was welcomed to the Akasaka Palace with a stately ceremony that included the playing of national anthems and an inspection of ceremonial honor guards. Biden watched and placed his hand on his heart for the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.
Japan turns away from post-WWII pacifism as China threat grows

Japan turns away from post-WWII pacifism as China threat grows
China has loomed over each of Biden’s stops, a mostly unspoken but ever-present factor in his push to reorient American foreign policy to focus more on Asia. When he meets Tuesday with leaders of a revitalized “Quad” grouping — the United States, Japan, India and Australia — it will be with the tacit intention of countering Beijing’s attempts to expand its influence among its neighbors.

Prospect of Russian victory fades

Even as analysts and experts view Russian President Vladimir Putin’s long-term objectives as unsustainable, the invasion continues to exact a toll on Ukraine, particularly in the eastern Donbas and Luhansk regions, where Russian troops are concentrated.

Zelensky said Sunday that as many as 100 soldiers a day are killed in the hard-hit east.

The southern port city of Severodonetsk — one of the last major cities in eastern Luhansk province still in Kyiv’s control — has emerged as the latest flash point in hostilities.

Regional authorities urged the thousands remaining in the once 100,000-person city to flee as heavy shelling continues and after Russian forces on Saturday destroyed a bridge used for evacuations and aid deliveries.

Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region, said that “if they destroy one more bridge, then the city will be fully cut off, unfortunately.”

Smoke rises during shelling in the city of Severodonetsk, eastern Ukraine, on May 21. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

Lyudmila Denisova, Ukraine’s human rights ombudswoman, warned in a post on the Telegram messaging app that Severodonetsk is becoming “a new Mariupol” — another southern port city now in ruins with civilians cut off from basic necessities after months of bombardment.

Russia contends that Mariupol is entirely under its control after Ukraine last week ended its defense of a steel plant where civilians and fighters holed up for weeks.

The mayor of Mariupol, where the plant is located, has warned that the city is “on the verge of an outbreak of infectious diseases” because of the war.

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