Last week, a dramatic video emerged of a Ukrainian drone operator rescuing … a Russian soldier. Here is the video, omitting some gory preceding footage:
Amazingly, the drone operator got to interview the Russian POW, and it was quite the remarkable interview.
Here’s the video with translation included, but here is a handy running commentary on the video, with some of my comments interspersed.
The Russian conscript in the same trench who ended up killing himself with a grenade after being injured by a Ukrainian drone was initially trying to shoot down the drone, so the decision to drop the grenade on him was made.
The video above omits this horrible part. It’s exactly as described, all caught by the same drone that rescued the POW above, proving the other Russian didn’t need to pull that grenade pin. He could’ve similarly surrendered.
Anitin [the POW] used sign language and devised a communication method with the Ukrainian drones, for example - one flash of light is Yes, two flashes - No.
Ukrainians always have multiple drones in the air, so they were able to continue communication throughout the evacuation even when one drone would lose battery charge. During the rescue operation, one Ukrainian drone was lost to Wagner's artillery aimed at Anikin.
Ukrainian drone pilot says they have a concrete rule not to drop explosives on Russian soldiers who are unarmed and do not exhibit aggressive actions.
This is actually quite remarkable and the first time I’ve seen this policy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be consistently communicated to front-line Russian soldiers. Even this guy, Anitin, didn’t know about the policy. He happened to luck into it.
Also, if you watch the video, he asks again and again whether they’re going to kill him—miming the “slit my throat” gesture with his hand. Each time, the drone literally nods “no,” you see the side-by-side swivel. He feels the need to be constantly reassured he’s doing the right thing.
He is familiar with situations where a Russian soldier would feint surrender to the Ukrainians, and then another Russian soldier starts ambushes and starts shooting and killing Ukrainian soldiers from the rear.
Ukraine uses drones to communicate with Russian units once they're surrounded by Ukrainian soldiers to give them an opportunity to surrender
In the video, Ukraine sends a drone with surrender instructions and drops them outside the trench. I imagine Anatin thought for a moment he was getting bombed!
Before being mobilized by Russia, Ruslan Anitin was an inspector of the security department of a Russian prison, Penal Colony No. 3 of the Pskov Region. 2015-2022.
Anitin arrived in Bakhmut either on May 6 or 7. Wagner mercenaries did not talk much, but gave the Russian mobilized soldiers orders. The Russian army command ordered the mobilized to subordinate themselves to Wagner [...]
One Wagner mercenary assumed command of the 3 mobilized and led them to the trench, and told them they'll be shot if they retreat.
There are so many stories about the Chechen Kadyrovite militia being used as “barrier troops” to keep frontline Russian soldiers from defecting. But again, here is more evidence that in the most active front, they don’t exist. I truly believe that this is a fairy tale. As for Wagner, we’ll see later on, they will shoot anyone leaving their positions.
It took them around 1.5 hours to reach the trench on the night of May 8th under mortar fire. No night vision. The other two who killed themselves in the trench: Dmitry Ivanov and Viktor.
In the trench, Anitin saw countless dead bodies of Russian soldiers, some as minced meat. Some bodies were clearly weeks old. Anitin was armed with a helmet and an AK-47. No binoculars.
The bodies were piled on each other in the trench. At least 30-40 bodies. Some were "half of bodies." He saw bodies of Wagner mercenaries as well as Ukrainian soldiers.
It is a holy tenet of American (and Western) military doctrine that you don’t leave your fallen comrades behind. When a situation doesn’t allow for it and it happens, it’s literally the worst anguish. These Russians? They don’t give a damn about their own, why would anyone expect them to give a damn about non-Russians?
All 3 of them were injured by the Ukrainian drones dropping explosives on May 9. Once one shot himself and the other blew himself up with a grenade, Anitin realized he had no way out of the situation.
Oh yeah, there’s a video of the guy shooting himself as well. Brutal. And Ukrainian drones have just been picking off these Russians at this trench for weeks, to the tune of dozens. I can’t imagine being sent to a trench with those drones buzzing overhead, dropping death on them.
There was no cover in the trench and Anitin knew he'd be shot by his own Russians if he were to try to retreat. After getting injured, Dmitry blew himself up with a grenade and Viktor shot himself.
Osechkin [the Ukrainian drone operator] asks Anitin: Today is May 13th, how is it that you are alive today after all of that?
Anitin: They radioed the Russians that they were all injured and the response was radio silence. Dmitry ran by Anitin and then a drone dropped an explosive hitting Dmitry's spine.
After, the two other soldiers killed themselves.
Russians don’t even pretend to care about each other. Instead, they drink themselves into oblivion, and blow themselves up if merely injured. They know no one in the rear gives a damn about them. Reminds me of this video, where a Russian is injured by a drone-dropped grenade, and his two colleagues, rather than help him, steal his helmet.
This thread discusses the same: “‘The most you can get is a slight injury, if you get something more – that’s it, you will die,’ says a Russian military paramedic.” He adds, “more than half of the Russian soldiers who have died in Ukraine lost their lives because of improperly provided medical care, with a third of amputations due to improper tourniquet application.”
Once Anitin saw the drone, he began to try to signal the drone not to drop any explosives. He realized the drone responded by moving away. He lit up a cigarette and then the drone returned and dropped a note to surrender.
Anitin has a child and wife. 4 year old daughter. No parents. Anitin tells them he loves them very much and wants to return to them. He thanks Osechkin for the opportunity.
Putin doesn’t care. No one else in Russia cares.
Osechkin asks about how Anitin established communication using sign language with the drone. [Anatin] was concerned he could be shot or tortured if he were to surrender. He asked the drone to flash once for Yes and twice for No. The drone responded in the negative.
Osechkin: Where did the idea that Ukrainians would kill or torture prisoners of war? Anitin: Russian commanders told them that is what happens to Russian POWs in Ukrainian hands.
Osechkin: When you were following the drone, did you realize it was the Russians trying to kill him with machine guns and artillery? Anitin: Not immediately, but then realized the mortar fire was coming from behind him - the Russian side.
This part of the video is harrowing, as you actually see multiple mortar shells drop around him. We have Russian units crying about “shell hunger” and a lack of ammunition, and yet here they expend significant ammo to try and kill one of their own. All of this, after failing to give a rat’s ass that two of their comrades were injured and needed help.
Anitin realized it was the "Not one step back" policy of the Russian army. He thinks it was about 2 magazines from assault rifles, one full tape from a machine gun, and several mortars.
Seriously, seeing Anitin run the gauntlet of fire from his own side was harrowing.
His trust in the Ukrainian drone did not change, and was desperate to get away from the Russian side, and had about 20-25 meters to the Ukrainian trench. Once he got there, the Ukrainian soldiers immediately took him to cover.
It was a sudden shift in that he clearly became an enemy of the Russian army, and they were doing everything to try to kill him before he could get to the safety of the Ukrainian trench.
It was a simple calculation—if he went back, he’d be dead. Ukraine could drop more grenades on him, or his own side would kill him. If he went forward, maybe he’d get tortured and executed, but there was a chance. And if Ukraine wanted him dead, this was a weird way of showing it. Finally, he was a poor, ignorant mobik. His value to Ukraine was in replenishing the “exchange fund,” which they could use to trade him for Ukrainian POWs. It was in their interests to keep him alive.
That aside, it’s also in Russia’s side to show some humanity, and they don’t have any of it, not even for their own kind. The contrast with Ukraine, and the efforts it made to save this Russian’s life, is stark. We really are rooting for the good guys.
Anitin has no idea of the objective of sending 3 mobilized to the trench. They wouldn't have been able to offer any resistance to the Ukrainians. He believes his army command knew that they'll all die very quickly.
Who’s to say that this isn’t the situation over the thousands of kilometers of trenches and defensive lines Russia has established throughout the occupied territories? The assumption is that Ukraine will face heavy resistance when they hit those lines in their upcoming counteroffensive. But what if they don’t? What if they face thousands of Anitins and his comrades, unable to resist, and serving as mere speedbumps to any Ukrainian advance?
We haven’t seen anything that would suggest otherwise. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Yesterday I wrote about Russian VDV airborne troops being sent into Bakhmut, likely to try and wrestle credit for the city’s final capture from Wagner mercenaries that have done most of the work. Wagner CEO Yevgeny Prigozhin isn’t amused.
Meanwhile, the latest reports have Ukraine advancing another 500 meters on the flanks while Russia is digging in Bakhmut.
Yesterday I wrote about the value of Klischiivka in Bakhmut’s southern flank. In that video above, Prigozhin also says Ukraine has retaken “the area of Klischiivka.”
Whether that’s the settlement or the land around it is unclear. Other unconfirmed sources claim it’s the former.
And then there’s this:
By targeting bridges west of Bakhmut, Russia is admitting that it no longer intends to keep pushing forward. The only strategic case for Bakhmut was the fiction that Russia could keep pushing toward the twin fortress cities of Slovians and Kramatorsk. They can’t even pretend about that anymore, as they’re literally destroying the bridges that lead to those cities. Russia clearly intends to settle into defense.
Dimitri of WarTranslated has been doing the essential work of translating hours of Russian and Ukrainian video and audio during the invasion of Ukraine. He joins Markos and Kerry from London to talk about how he began this work by sifting through various sources. He is one of the only people translating information for English-speaking audiences. Dimitri’s followed the war since the beginning and has watched the evolution of the language and dispatches as the war has progressed.