Turns out the Russian soldier who fled to France and sold his war memoir might be full of shit.
Back in August I wrote about Pavel Filatyev, an active-duty Russian soldier who posted online his 141-page account of the lead up to and taking of Kherson by Russian forces. With the help of Vladimir Osechkin, who runs Gulagu.net (an anti-corruption website whose name translates as “No to the Gulag”), Filatyev ended up in France; the memoir was then sold for €300,000, with the understanding that the money would go to foundations helping Ukraine and Ukrainians. Now, according to a post by Osechkin on Vkontakte (a Russian version of Facebook), Filatyev is suing Osechkin to get all the money for himself, to the obvious dismay of all those who helped him. As Osechkin writes (in a rough translation):
Our entire team, everyone who took part in the rescue of this young man, who paid for his tickets, hotels and taxis, transfers and everything necessary from the budgets of their families, who opened the doors of the house for him and brought him homemade pies and soups, who without hesitation brought clothes and money, who provided all his trips as part of the procedures for requesting political asylum and protection, we are all now in shock and stupor. We could not imagine in our worst dreams that a simple Russian guy, a paratrooper, would be capable of something like that. […] From that moment on, I stop believing in runaway warriors, sorry. From now on, we will double-check everything 20 times and record each step on video and with the help of documents.
These latest developments were organized in a Twitter thread by Mariya Dekhtyaruk, who also notes that Filatyev isn’t exactly repentant about his role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at least not in a Vkontakte post dated August 16 (originally Tweeted by Stephen Komarnycky), in which he expresses solidarity with Russian Airborne troops (“don’t give up”).
For those still under illusion that this guy is “against the war” and “remorseful”: he admits to war crimes in his “book” and posts stuff like this on this social media. This post says “VDV (russian airborne troops) russians don’t give up”. https://t.co/k3q6K6hEIU
— Mariya Dekhtyaruk 🇺🇦 (@MDekhtyaruk) December 7, 2022
In her thread about Filatyev, Dekhtyaruk calls out multiple people and institutions—literary agent Ksenia Tserkovskaya, French publisher Albin Michel, Penguin Random House, Guardian writer Andrew Roth, who wrote a profile of Filatyev—for platforming someone she views as a self-interested, disingenuous war criminal. Dekhtyaruk also calls *me* out for wanting to see Filatyev’s memoir published in as many languages as possible. And she was right to do it.
While I believe that good people get caught up in deeply immoral wars (which is how I view Putin’s imperialist invasion of Ukraine), and that it is important to hear from soldiers about the horrors of war, regardless of what side they’re on, I should have paused a beat before writing anything, particularly in this age of widespread digital misinformation. I don’t think Filatyev is a total fraud—insofar as he exposed himself to reprisal from the long arm of Russian security forces—but it now seems he’s more interested in absolving himself of the sins of war, and making a profit while he does so. Filatyev’s editors, translators, and publishers should think long and hard about his relationship with the truth.
In the meantime, please take a moment to read these accounts of Ukrainians caught in a war they didn’t ask for.