High Profile Russian Executive Defects To Join Ukrainian Forces


Igor Volobuev, who served as a vice president at the Russian bank Gazprombank, has apparently left Russia to join the forces defending Ukraine — which is where he was born — against Vladimir Putin’s attacks. As summarized by The Moscow Times, Volobuev revealed that he apparently left Russia in early March, after which point he was fired following more than 30 years of service at companies connected to the Russian government-owned energy business known as Gazprom. Volobuev remarked: “I couldn’t watch from the sidelines what Russia was doing to my homeland… The Russians were killing my father, my acquaintances and close friends. My father lived in a cold basement for a month. People I had known since childhood told me they were ashamed of me.” Outlets including The Kyiv Independent also reported on Volobuev’s departure from Russia.

Volobuev was born in Okhtyrka. It’s not immediately clear where exactly his father was living at the time of Russian forces’ arrival, but Volobuev’s place of birth has been among the many Ukrainian locales targeted by Russian soldiers. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recently named the town as among those devastated by Russian attacks. “The occupiers will be responsible for everything they did in Ukraine. For everything they did to Ukrainians,” Zelenskyy said. “They will be responsible for Bucha, Kramatorsk, Volnovakha, Okhtyrka. For Hostomel and Borodyanka. For Izyum, for Mariupol and all other cities and communities of Ukraine, which the Russian army has pulled back in time for 80 years.” That reference to a particular timeframe hearkens back to aggression around the time of World War II, to which the actions of Russian forces have consistently been compared. At another point, Zelenskyy said in reference to the devastation inflicted in Mariupol that Russian forces “did the same or tried to do the same with Chernihiv, Sumy, Okhtyrka, Kharkiv, Izium, Volnovakha and many other Ukrainian cities,” as Ukrinform summarized.

In Ukraine, Russian forces have set up what’s been described as a concentration camp on premises previously used by a factory in the Kharkiv region. (Factory operations have apparently been moved to Russia.) Sources for these revelations include Kharkiv-area Governor Oleh Synehubov and Ukrainian human rights Ombudsman Lyudmyla Denisova. According to remarks from Synehubov, “In the plant’s premises they have created a prison; a real concentration camp where people are submitted to torture, forced to cooperate, to join the Russian Armed Forces.” Izyum, another Ukrainian town currently occupied by Russian forces, has reportedly seen similar tactics deployed by Russian personnel.

Russians are focusing some of their efforts on taking complete control of Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions, according to Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzianyk. These areas include the devastated Ukrainian city of Mariupol, where tens of thousands are believed to have already died. The Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol ended up among the apparently final local battlefronts between Ukrainian and Russian troops, and despite Putin making a show of ordering that Russian forces blockade the premises instead of continuing to try and seize it, Russian strikes have continued. There are some 1,000 Ukrainian civilians and defense personnel at the Azovstal plant as Russia’s attacks persist.