Vyacheslav “Isa” Isaev, a Russian mercenary who joined the “rebels” in the Donbas, later became disillusioned with Russia’s war there. In a candid interview to Russian independent Dozhd TV channel, he revealed the inner workings of Russia’s hybrid army, including Russian supplies and training, internal rivalry, and banditism. Here is a summary of the interview.
My name is Vyacheslav Isayev, I’m from Sosnovy Bor, Leningrad region. Like everyone, I followed the call of my heart, to help the Russian people who are dying there.
How did you get there?
I went to a private military company. We met at their office in St. Petersburg. We were equipped. We didn’t get the weapons until we got to Rostov [Russian city near the Ukrainian border].
What kind of people got into your battalion?
People that wanted to start a new life, change their fate. Mostly they were good, kind guys. There were people like tractor drivers who could drive a tank.
The vehicles we captured from the Ukrainians were transferred to Russia. We were given battle-ready tanks in exchange for damaged ones. First, ammo was brought in, then came the vehicles. The ammo, the vehicles, the trucks – we got everything together.
Have you witnessed any weapons trade?
Of course I have. I believe it all went to the Ukrainian side. More than that: I think we never saw more than a half of what was “supplied” to us. Our guys [the Russian-backed militia] did it, those in charge of the warehouses. Traitors, what else to call them? Each unit had its own supervisors helping with weapons and advice.
Their rivalry was overwhelming. There were cossacks that obeyed no one, some special forces units too. Some units never went to combat but grew rich by selling metal for scraps and kidnapping people.
Why the kidnappings?
In order to extort money and property.
So they were basically bandits?
I would say so, yes. Sergey, I can’t recall his last name… he had two sons. Both died fighting in the militia. His younger son was 17. Do you remember that boy, the machine gunner? He was just shot in the back. What’s his father supposed to do? Is this the kind of regime he’d be fighting for?
Was he killed by his own?
Yes, by his own. Was this ammo worth the lives of those people? Most went there for the money.
Did they get paid, or was it like with you?
I believe some did get their money, some didn’t. I got absolutely nothing.
Today, thousands are coming back to Russian from the Donbas. How long will it take for them to adapt to peace? Will they ever?
Most of those who came back either went on fighting, but for Kyiv, or got to prisons. The mind gets disturbed. You can do anything. When you come back here, you realize this kind of attitude is not tolerated. They get into fights with police or other people, trying to prove they are heroes back from the war. But, come to think of it, are we really heroes?
I would like to address Vladimir Putin. Mr. Putin, it’s not worth it. It isn’t worth the lives of Russian citizens. Let [the Ukrainians] settle it out between themselves. It’s all dumb, frankly speaking. What’s it all for? Fighting for Donbas? But it’s the same in our Rostov region.
I don’t know who could want war. I understand if it’s about combat testing the troops. But I don’t think sacrificing our own for those “brothers” is worth it.