1:03 am ET, May 23, 2023
This group of Russian volunteers is fighting their own people
Analysis by CNN’s Sam Kiley on eastern Ukraine
Vasco Sousa Godovio/CNN
Freedom of Russia Legion — a group that apparently took responsibility Penetration into Russian territory – Have an ambition. As “Caesar” says in a video statement he recorded with his comrades before joining the cross-border attack on his homeland: “Russia will be free.”
The group numbers a few hundred hardened, battle-hardened Russian volunteers fighting alongside their own people as part of the Ukrainian armed forces. Caesar is a former teacher, father and wife living in Kiev. He told CNN last year He dedicated his life to bringing down Russian President Vladimir Putin and marching in Red Square and the Kremlin.
Caesar is a devoted member of the Orthodox Church and nostalgic for the pre-Soviet Tsarist era. His unit is well equipped with modern armored vehicles, gun sights and latest automatic weapons.
The Freedom of Russia Legion, previously engaged in bitter fighting south of Pakmut, says it has now entered Russia and continued combat operations against Russian forces in areas near the border as of Monday afternoon.
In a Telegram post, the group said it had “liberated” a settlement in Russia’s Belgorod region.
Ukrainian officials have acknowledged that the unit entered Russia, but insist that members of the brigade were acting independently as “Russian citizens”.
Legionnaires themselves admit that they are often treated with suspicion by Ukrainian soldiers, but are confident that they will overcome them with bravery on the battlefield.
Their apparent penetration of the border, which is often used by Russian mortar groups and artillery to launch attacks into Ukraine, will help further cement their reputation.
It also serves as part of an ongoing psychological operation aimed at undermining support for the war in Russia and the fighting spirit of Russian soldiers – implying that they could be attacked at any time, by their own countrymen.