Nikita Chibrin says he still remembers his fellow Russian soldiers who escaped after allegedly raping two Ukrainian women during their deployment northwest of Kyiv in March.
“I saw them running, then I knew they were rapists. They were raped by a mother and daughter,” he said. Their commander, Chibrin said, screamed when he learned about the rape. The alleged rapists were beaten, he said, but were not fully punished for their crimes.
“They never went to jail. Just fired. Like, ‘Go!’ They were simply driven out of the war. That’s it.”
Chibrin is a former soldier from the Russian city of Yakutsk who said he served in the 64th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade, a notorious Russian military unit accused of crimes during its attacks in Bucha, Borodianka and other towns and villages north of Kyiv.
He deserted from the Russian army in September and fled to Europe via Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry branded soldiers from the Chibrin brigade as criminals in April after mass graves of killed civilians and bodies were found in the streets after Russian forces withdrew from the country. in Kyiv region.
Chibrin’s military documents, seen by CNN, show that their commander is Azatbek Omurbekov, the officer in charge of the 64th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade. Omurbekov, known as the “Butcher of Bucha” is under sanctions from the European Union and the United States. The entire brigade was sanctioned by the United States.
The Kremlin has denied involvement in the mass killings, repeating false claims that the photos of the civilian population were fake.
In a move that sparked outrage around the world, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded the group a military title and praised it for its “courage” and “brave action”.
Chibrin said that he did not see any of the supposed bravery, but most of the crimes.
Speaking to CNN in a European country where he has sought asylum, he detailed some of the crimes he said he witnessed and heard about, and said he would be willing to testify against the group. him in the international criminal court. He confirmed that he did not commit any crime.
“I didn’t see a murder, but I saw a rapist running away, being chased by the top people of the group) because he committed rape,” he said.
He also said that the group has a “direct order to kill” that shares information about the location of the group, both military and civilian.
“If someone has a cell phone – we’re allowed to shoot them,” he said. He said there is no doubt that some of the men of the 64th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade could have killed unarmed civilians.
“There are maniacs who like to kill people. Such maniacs appeared there,” he said.
Chibrin also described widespread looting, with Russian soldiers taking computers, jewelry and anything else they wanted.
“They never hid it. A lot from my group, when we left Lipovka and Andreevka at the end of March, they took cars, cars, they took civilian cars and sold them in Belarus, “he said. ” The attitude is, if you steal something, you’re good. If nobody catches you, you’re good! If you find something expensive and you steal it and don’t get caught, you’re good.”
For the commanders of this group, he said that they are well aware of the existence of rapes, murders and robberies, but they are not interested in seeking justice.
“They acted like this: ‘Whatever. It happened. So what?’ In fact, there was no comment,” he said. “Control is working [down the drain]without control.”
CNN reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry for comment on the allegations, but did not receive a response.
Chibrin has no doubt that Russia will eventually lose its war on Ukraine, but not before many lives are lost.
“Because Russia will not stop without bloodshed, until everyone dies. Soldiers are cannon fodder for them. They don’t respect them,” he said.
When he saw the war for the first time, he said that the equipment of the Russian military was no match for the weapons that Ukraine had. He said that while Ukraine receives some of the most advanced weaponry from its Western allies, it relies on Soviet-era equipment used during the war in Afghanistan in the Russian army in 1980.
“Obviously, Russia will lose. Because the whole world supports Ukraine. It is foolish to think that they (Russia) will win,” he said. “They thought they would occupy Kyiv in three days. What a day it is [of the war]? 260th? They thought they would come to Ukraine and be greeted with flowers. But they were told to humiliate and throw Molotov cocktails. ”
The men in his unit were also very unprepared for combat, Chibrin said. He said that the training he received included commanders giving them weapons, targets and 5,000 rounds of ammunition.
Keep shooting and you’re good to go. Nobody did anything. There was no real training. I worked on the computer, in the office, I worked as a lawnmower…” he said.
The lack of training was once again evident in Ukraine. The men who boasted of being “like Rambo” before they were sent away came back damaged, he said. “Those who said that the Ukrainians will shoot easily, when they come back from the front line… couldn’t even talk to me. They saw the war, they saw defeat, they saw their own [fellow] a warrior was killed, a body was found. They came to their senses – but they couldn’t escape.”
He said many of the men lacked training and most did not know where they were going.
“That’s a big lie. It was military training with the Belarusian army. And they lied to us. On February 24, they just said that everyone was going to war,” Chibrin said, adding that he initially refused to go.
“The first thing I said was, ‘Commander! will have a big problem’… and he attacked me and put me in a private car and locked the door. And I couldn’t open it [it] from within. That’s how I went to Ukraine.”
Chibrin continued to spend several months in Ukraine. When the 64th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade withdrew from northwest Kyiv in late March after a failed offensive there, he and his unit returned to Belarus.
He said he injured his back and went to a military hospital in Russia, but was forced to return to Ukraine in May. This time he was sent to Kharkiv region in eastern Ukraine, and then spent time in the forest around Izyum.
That’s when he saw an opportunity to escape, he said. He noticed that the commander of another group was leaving the area for Russia in a truck and jumped.
“I’m jumping [the bed of the truck] and I saw, wow, the other guys, also left Ukraine. And they say we don’t like it [fight the] war, we paid the commander (to drive). And I wait and wait and then we are near the Russian border and the car stops and the guys jump out and I jump out too. And I go to the border of Russia and say that I need medical help,” he said.
Once back in Russia, Chibrin said he spent almost a month in the hospital, most of them with severe back pain. But he said he could not get proper treatment. “They said that if I want to go to a private clinic, I need to sign a document saying that I will go back to war,” he said.
Refusing to sign, Chibrin said he was preparing to send a letter canceling his military contract when the Russian government announced a partial mobilization in September.
“And my friends told me I needed to hide. “You need to find a place and hide, your contract will not be canceled due to mobilization,” he said. Realizing that he needed to travel as far as possible from the far eastern city of Khabarovsk where he was staying, Chibrin first fled across Russia to St. Petersburg and then took a train to Belarus. Once he was able to find a mediator who helped him get to Kazakhstan from where he went to where he is now.
Now he is determined to talk about what he saw in Ukraine, even writing songs against the war. “Hundreds of souls, hundreds of dead bodies. There are hundreds of mothers without children,” the lyrics say.