The widow of a Russian sergeant who was executed by Chechen forces when he refused to lead his troops into battle in Ukraine has joined a legion of disgruntled Russians fighting for Ukraine against their compatriots
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The widow of a Russian sergeant who was executed by Chechen forces when he refused to lead his troops into battle in Ukraine has joined a legion of disgruntled Russians fighting for Ukraine against their compatriots.

The woman, whose chose to conceal her identity, appeared in footage shared by the Freedom for Russia legion – a group of fighters comprised mostly of Russian and Belarusians who switched sides amid Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Sitting in front of a blue and white flag now synonymous with the anti-Putin legion, the defector announced defiantly: ‘We all need to stop the war together and bring true freedom to Russia. The Putin regime must be overthrown.

‘Stop tolerating the tyrant. Join our legion,’ she implored her fellow countrymen and women in an attempt to drum up numbers for the rag-tag unit of defectors. 

The group’s exact numbers are not known but it is thought hundreds of Russians have crossed into Ukraine and signed up since it was formed in March.

The widow of a Russian sergeant who was executed by Chechen forces when he refused to lead his troops into battle in Ukraine has joined a legion of disgruntled Russians fighting for Ukraine against their compatriots

The widow of a Russian sergeant who was executed by Chechen forces when he refused to lead his troops into battle in Ukraine has joined a legion of disgruntled Russians fighting for Ukraine against their compatriots

Sitting in front of a blue and white flag now synonymous with the anti-Putin legion, the defector announced defiantly: 'We all need to stop the war together and bring true freedom to Russia. The Putin regime must be overthrown'

Sitting in front of a blue and white flag now synonymous with the anti-Putin legion, the defector announced defiantly: ‘We all need to stop the war together and bring true freedom to Russia. The Putin regime must be overthrown’

Legion members fly a white and blue flag that has become synonymous with the anti-Putin group

Legion members fly a white and blue flag that has become synonymous with the anti-Putin group

The widow's Russian husband was executed by Chechen forces loyal to leader and Putin crony Ramzan Kadyrov (centre)

The widow’s Russian husband was executed by Chechen forces loyal to leader and Putin crony Ramzan Kadyrov (centre)

The woman told The Times she entered Ukraine in May after her husband was shot by soldiers loyal to Chechen leader and Putin crony Ramzan Kadyrov.

The sergeant had reportedly refused to send his men ‘to slaughter’ in Ukraine and he was promptly executed for insubordination.

His widow meanwhile was given the callsign ‘First’ when she joined the legion of disgruntled Russians because she was the first woman to do so.

She is joined in the legion by one extremely notable defector – the former Vice President of one of Russia’s biggest banks.

Igor Volobuev, 50, was a distinguished member of Gazprombank – the third largest bank in Russia in terms of sheer asset size.

But he was shocked to his core when Putin decided to invade neighbouring Ukraine and defected, opting to lead the Freedom for Russia legion in an attempt to fight back.

‘Guys from Russia – if you hate Putin’s regime and want Russia to become a free, democratic country, join us,’ Volobuev declared in a call to arms last month.

‘I came here to defend my motherland.’ 

Many of the legion’s troops are made up of Russian prisoners of war, who upon being treated well by their Ukrainian captors and educated about the impact of Putin’s ‘special military operation’ agreed to switch sides. 

'Guys from Russia ¿ if you hate Putin's regime and want Russia to become a free, democratic country, join us,' former Gazprombank VP Igor Volobuev declared in a call to arms last month

‘Guys from Russia – if you hate Putin’s regime and want Russia to become a free, democratic country, join us,’ former Gazprombank VP Igor Volobuev declared in a call to arms last month

Igor Volobuev, 50, was a distinguished member of Gazprombank - the third largest bank in Russia in terms of sheer asset size - before defecting and joining the Freedom for Russia legion

Igor Volobuev, 50, was a distinguished member of Gazprombank – the third largest bank in Russia in terms of sheer asset size – before defecting and joining the Freedom for Russia legion

Another legion member, 48-year-old Volodymyr Grotskov, told The Daily Mail last month his anti-Putin awakening began 11 years ago when pro-democracy protests erupted across Russia following ballot-rigging and fraud to fix the success of the Russian president’s party in parliamentary elections.

Grotskov joined small demonstrations in his home town of Kandalaksha after discovering a video posted by Alexei Navalny – the anti-corruption campaigner who has since survived a poisoning attack and been jailed.

The video, based on documents obtained by Navalny, exposed how billions of pounds were stolen from an oil pipeline project by one of Putin’s closest cronies.

Grotskov said: ‘I was shocked by the scale of corruption and injustice that was organised at the highest level. I started to look into the political and economic situation and realised that we need to fight this regime.’

The soldier, whose family remain in Russia, began putting up posters and joining protests. But after Putin illegally seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, he decided it was immoral to pay taxes to fund a thieving and toxic dictatorship. 

‘I’ve always been the kind of person who wants to fight for justice,’ he said. ‘I left for Ukraine because I knew the hottest spot of fighting Putin’s imperial regime is here in this country.’ 

Volodymyr Grotskov, 48, says he loves his country and sees the Kremlin as a destructive 'cancer' threatening the world's peace and security. 'It might sound pretentious but I'm fighting for freedom and democracy,' he insists.

Volodymyr Grotskov, 48, says he loves his country and sees the Kremlin as a destructive ‘cancer’ threatening the world’s peace and security. ‘It might sound pretentious but I’m fighting for freedom and democracy,’ he insists.

Grotskov said: 'I'm not personally against Putin (pictured) because if it's not Putin there will be someone else. Russia, the way it is today, should not exist. It is a cancer on the world's body. Take any military conflict around the world ¿ such as Syria or in African countries ¿ and you can always find the Kremlin's hand'

Grotskov said: ‘I’m not personally against Putin (pictured) because if it’s not Putin there will be someone else. Russia, the way it is today, should not exist. It is a cancer on the world’s body. Take any military conflict around the world – such as Syria or in African countries – and you can always find the Kremlin’s hand’

Initially he intended to set up an online project with friends inside Russia to spread information about corrupt state officials, expose the government’s failure to prosecute them and encourage the imposition of stricter Western sanctions.

But after Putin stirred up a separatist insurgency in Donbas and war broke out later in 2014, Grotskov joined the Ukrainian volunteer forces despite living illegally in the country – and ended up fighting in one of the most vicious battles near Donetsk. 

He is infuriated by the complicity of his fellow Russians: ‘Many people get the same information I had but they ignore it. When the war started I realised that 99 per cent of people are happy to see Ukrainians suffering, to see them bombed and killed.’

Grotskov who was granted the right to remain in Ukraine last autumn, said he is proud to fight for Kyiv having joined up again four months ago, adding: ‘I feel like it’s my home. My friends are here, I love this country and I will fight for it.’ But he also believes he is fighting to protect ‘the whole civilised world’ and to defeat dictatorship.

He wants to see Moscow’s empire crushed since he argues that Russia’s problem goes far beyond the current president.

He added: ‘I’m not personally against Putin because if it’s not Putin there will be someone else. Russia, the way it is today, should not exist.

It is a cancer on the world’s body. Take any military conflict around the world – such as Syria or in African countries – and you can always find the Kremlin’s hand.’

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