top of page

A Russian draftee says he surrendered to a Ukrainian drone after 2 wounded comrades killed themselves, leaving him alone and under fire on the front lines

Story by (Ryan Pickrell)

A Russian draftee surrendered to a Ukrainian drone last month and is being held at a detention center.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he shared his experiences on the front lines in Bakhmut.

Before he surrendered to the drone, he saw two other men in the trenches with him take their own lives.

A Russian draftee who surrendered to a Ukrainian drone last month revealed the hellish conditions poorly trained and ill-equipped soldiers are being thrown into on the front lines in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, which also talked to the Ukrainians who nearly killed him.

Ruslan Anitin, a 30-year-old husband and father to a 3-year-old daughter, was abruptly and unexpectedly drafted for service in the armed forces last September as Russian leadership mobilized hundreds of thousands of civilians to make up for the catastrophic manpower losses in Ukraine.

After being shipped off to another town, Anitin received a military uniform and training that lasted only a matter of weeks, during which time he only fired his Soviet-era weapon twice, The Journal reported.

Anitin was initially told he would be guarding the border at positions inside Russia, but he was quickly shipped off to Ukraine. In Luhansk, he primarily built fortifications, but then in May, he was told he was being sent to Bakhmut, a city that he, like many others before him, described as a "meat grinder."

Related video: Watch: Russian Soldier Surrenders to Drone on Bakhmut Battlefield (The Wall Street Journal)

Eastern Ukraine's Bakhmut has seen some of the war's most horrific combat. The destroyed city was recently captured by Russian forces, Wagner Group mercenaries in particular, after months of hard fighting at tremendous cost, but the Russians are struggling to hold it as Ukraine turns up the pressure.

Anitin's commander dropped him and two other green recruits within a few hundreds yards of the front lines and instructed them to make their way into the trench system, where they met a Wagner fighter who threatened to shoot them if they ran or failed to carry out the mission.

During a lull in the fighting after a period of intense mortar fire, the three men crawled in the dark over what they later discovered were dead bodies, and hid in a different section of the trench.

On the morning of May 9, an explosion rocked their position. Anitin told The Journal that he grabbed the walkie-talkie and radioed command, but no one answered. As small drones dropped bombs on their positions and mortar fire rained down, Anitin's fellow soldier and friend Ivanov was seriously wounded, as was the third soldier in their group.

Ivanov, 21, pulled the pin on a hand grenade and put it against his head, ending his life in the trenches, and the other man shot himself, leaving Anitin alone to dodge enemy fire for hours.

By later afternoon, he had run out of energy. He couldn't run anymore.

So, he tried the only thing he could think of. He stepped out of the trench and attempted to surrender to one of the Ukrainian drones circling overhead, an unusual scene that was caught on video and released last month.

A 26-year-old Ukrainian drone operator was ready to kill him but took mercy on him. The operator, who goes by the call sign Boxer, told The Journal he "felt sorry for him."

Command instructed Boxer to send Anitin a message to follow the drone to surrender, which he did.

Anitin's journey through no man's land between the Russian and Ukrainian lines was fraught with dangers, and at one point, Russian artillery fire appeared to intentionally target him.

"He was walking like a zombie. He was walking on top of his dead comrades lying around him," a Ukrainian officer told The Journal. When Anitin reached the Ukrainian lines, he made a mad dash the rest of the way.

Anitin was captured and is currently being held in a detention center in Kharkiv. He told The Journal that all he wants is "to return home" to his family and "never experience the sorts of things" that he saw in Ukraine.

bottom of page