Nikita Chibrin said he still remembered his Russian comrades fleeing after allegedly raping two Ukrainian women during a March deployment northwest of Kyiv.
“I saw them running and then I knew they were rapists. They raped a mother and a daughter,” he said. Chiblin said their commander shrugged his shoulders when he found out about the rape. The alleged rapists were beaten but never adequately punished for their crimes, he said.
“They never went to jail. Just fired. It was like: ‘Go! “They were just fired from the war. That’s it.”
Chibrin, a former soldier from the Russian city of Yakutsk, said he served in the 64th Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade, the notorious Russian military unit accused of attacking Bukha, Borodianka and other towns and villages north of Kyiv.
In September, he deserted from the Russian army and fled to Europe via Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Units of the Chibrin Brigade were listed as war criminals by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense in April after Russian troops withdrew from the Kyiv region and found murdered civilians in mass graves and bodies lying in the streets.
Chibrin’s military documents reviewed by CNN show that his commander was Azatbek Omurbekov, head of the 64th Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade. Omurbekov, known as the “Butcher of Buha,” is under sanctions by the European Union and the United Kingdom. The United States sanctioned the entire brigade.
The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the mass killings, while reiterating baseless claims that images of civilian corpses are fake.
In a move that outraged the world, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded the unit an honorary military title and praised its “heroism” and “bold actions”.
Chiblin said he didn’t see any so-called heroism, but he saw a lot of crime.
In an interview with CNN from one of the European countries where he applied for asylum, he detailed some of the crimes he witnessed and heard and said he was prepared to testify against his troops before the International Criminal Court. He insists he has not committed any crime.
“I didn’t see the murders, but I saw the rapists run away, being chased (by senior members of the department) because they committed the rape,” he said.
He also said the force had “direct orders to murder” anyone, military or civilian, who shared information about the force’s positions.
“If someone has a phone — we can shoot them,” he said. He claimed that there was no doubt that some elements of the 64th Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade were capable of killing unarmed civilians.
“There are lunatics who like to kill people. There are lunatics like that out there,” he said.
Chiblin also described widespread looting, with Russian soldiers taking computers, jewelry and whatever else they liked.
“They didn’t hide it at all. A lot came from my unit, when we left Lipovka and Andreevka at the end of March, they took cars, vehicles, they took civilian cars and sold them in Belarus,” he said. “The mentality is, if you steal something, you’re fine. If no one catches you, fine! If you see something expensive and you steal it without getting caught, then you’re fine.”
As for the commander of the unit, he said they were well aware of the alleged rapes, murders and robberies, but had no interest in seeking justice.
“Their reaction was: ‘Whatever. It happened. So what?’ In reality, nothing happened,” he said. “Discipline goes [down the drain]without discipline.
CNN has asked the Russian Defense Ministry for comment on the allegations but has not yet received a response.
Chiblin is convinced that Russia will eventually lose the war on Ukraine, but not until more lives are lost.
“Because Russia won’t stop until there’s a lot of blood, until everyone dies. Soldiers are cannon fodder to them. They don’t respect them,” he said.
Witnessing the battle firsthand, he said the equipment Russian soldiers have is no match for what Ukraine has. While Ukraine gets some of the most advanced weapons from its Western allies, the Russian military relies on Soviet-era equipment used during the war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, he said.
“Of course Russia will lose. Because the whole world is supporting Ukraine. It would be foolish to think they (Russians) will win,” he said. “They think they’ll take Kyiv in three days. What day is it? [of the war]? The 260th? They thought they would come to Ukraine and meet flowers. But they were told to go away and Molotov cocktails were thrown at them. ”
According to Chiblin, the soldiers in his unit were also woefully ill-prepared for battle. He said the training his troops received included commanders giving them weapons, targets and 5,000 rounds of ammunition.
“Keep shooting and then you’re good to go. Nobody’s doing anything. There’s no actual training. I work in an office with a computer, I’ve been a lawnmower…” he said.
Once in Ukraine, the lack of training becomes apparent. Those who bragged about being “Like Lambo” before deployment came back scarred, he said. “Those who say that when Ukrainians come back from the front they will shoot them so easily…they can’t even talk to me. They’ve seen the war, they’ve seen the defeat, they’ve seen their [fellow] Combatants were murdered, dead bodies were seen. They realized – but they couldn’t escape. ”
Many were well trained, and most didn’t know where they were going, he said.
“It was a big lie. It was military training with the Belarusian army. They sang to us. On February 24, they just said that everyone would go to war,” Chiblin said, adding that he initially refused to go to war.
“The first thing I said was, ‘Commander, fuck you, I don’t want to go to war’ and he said, ‘Hey, you’re going to have big problems, you’re going to go to jail, your family is going to have big problems… …then he attacked me, put me in a special car, and closed the door. I couldn’t open it [it] from the inside. So, this is how I went to Ukraine. ”
Chibrin spent several months in Ukraine on and off. When the 64th Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade withdrew from the area northwest of Kyiv in late March, he and his unit returned to Belarus after a failed offensive.
He said he went to a military hospital in Russia with a back injury but was forced to return to Ukraine in May. This time he was sent to the Kharkov region in eastern Ukraine, and then spent some time in the forests around Izyum.
That’s when he finally found his chance to escape, he said. He noticed that commanders of other units were leaving the area in trucks for Russia, so he jumped in.
“I jumped in [the bed of the truck] I saw, wow, other people left Ukraine too.they say we don’t want [fight the] War, we pay our commanders (to drive). I waited and waited, and then we approached the Russian border, the car stopped, the guys jumped off, and I jumped off. I went to the Russian border and I said I needed medical help,” he said.
After returning to Russia, Chibrin said he spent nearly a month in hospital, much of it bedridden with severe back pain. But he said he was unable to receive proper medical treatment. “They said that if I wanted to go to a special nursing home, I needed to sign a document that said I would return to combat,” he said.
Chibrin declined to sign, saying he was preparing to submit paperwork to cancel his military contract when the Russian government announced partial mobilization in September.
“My friends told me I needed to hide. You need to find a place to hide and your contract won’t be canceled for mobilization,” he said. Knowing that he needed to stay as far away as possible from the Far Eastern city of Khabarov where he was stationed In Sk, Chibrin first escaped across Russia to St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg, then took a train to Belarus. Once there, he found a middleman who helped him get to Kazakhstan, from where he eventually came to his current location.
Now he is determined to speak out about the events he witnessed in Ukraine, even writing an anti-war song. “Hundreds of souls, hundreds of bodies of the lost. Hundreds of childless mothers,” sings the chorus.