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Russian soldier seen surrendering to Ukrainian drone speaks out for first time

A Russian soldier whose surrender to Ukrainian forces was captured on drone camera, spoke for the first time about his experience. 

Ruslan Anitin, a draftee who was cornered alone by the Ukrainian military near the city of Bakhmut, surrendered by communicating via an aerial drone’s camera.

“It felt like it was never going to involve us at all,” Anitin said of the conflict during an interview with the Wall Street Journal about his experience.

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Russian soldier surrenders to drone

A Russian soldier was seen surrendering to a Ukrainian drone May 9 in edited video released by Ukraine’s 92nd Mechanized Brigade. (Ukraine’s 92nd Mechanized Brigade)

Anitin, 30, already served a mandatory year of service in the military in his early 20s and had no intention of re-enlisting when the invasion of Ukraine began last year. He reportedly lived a middle-class life with his wife and daughter, running his own liquor store in a small town near the Latvian border.

However, after Moscow announced the implementation of a civilian draft in September, Anitin was called to his local draft office and told he must return packed to mobilize or face arrest for evasion.

“We understood that they wanted to throw us into that meat grinder,” Anitin told the publication.

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Anitin and two of his comrades were eventually deployed to the trenches and were quickly brought under fire by Ukrainian artillery that wounded all three. They radioed command for help, but got no response. Without an established evacuation point, the three were injured, stuck, and under constant observation by Ukrainian aerial drones used to sharpen accuracy on artillery fire.

Both of his fellow Russian soldiers, severely wounded, ended up committing suicide in the trenches.

“I thought I would end up staying in that trench forever,” he told the WSJ.

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Russian soldier surrenders to drone

A Russian soldier communicated with the remote drone operators via gesture, nodding and handwritten notes held up to the camera. (Ukraine’s 92nd Mechanized Brigade)

Eventually, Anitin made a last ditch effort to reason with the Ukrainian artillery men via the camera on a drone observing him. He communicated with the remote drone operators via gesture, nodding, and handwritten notes held up to the camera.

The Ukrainian forces, taking mercy on Anitin, used the drone to lead him toward their fortified position. He trekked miles through trenches and eventually no man’s land, dodging both Ukrainian and Russian fire as he maneuvered the active battlefield and eventually threw himself on his knees, his hands in the air.

He was imprisoned by the Ukrainian military and has willingly refrained from contacting his family since escaping the battlefield.

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If Anitin returns to Russia via a prisoner exchange, he will almost certainly be imprisoned and receive severe punishment, but he says he doesn’t care anymore.

“Let them lock me up,” he said. “I’d like to return home to my family, and never experience the sorts of things that I have seen here.”

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