In early November, members of the Bohdan Khmelnytsky Battalion, made up of former Ukrainian servicemen, swore allegiance to Russia, according to Russian state-owned media sources.
This unit is reportedly the first Russian military formation created from captured Ukrainians. The battalion is expected to be deployed to the frontlines in Ukraine soon.
Former Ukrainian Armed Forces soldier, Vladyslav Kovalenko, told RIA Novosti: “We once swore an oath to the Ukrainian people, but we have not betrayed them. The Ukrainian nation is currently a hostage of the criminal Kyiv regime.
“We pledge ourselves to the Russian people, not to betraying the Ukrainian nation. We are forever with them, as we are brothers,” he added.
The unit’s commander, Andriy Tyschenko, noted that during the selection process for the Ukrainian battalion, they ensured that none of the Ukrainians had committed war crimes or had a criminal past. They will be contracted into the Russian army under general terms.
In February, Russian officials announced plans to form such a unit in Russia. At that time, Tyschenko declared that a volunteer battalion had been established in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, consisting of Ukrainian prisoners of war. It was reported that 95 percent of the personnel were former Ukrainian military with combat experience.
Analysts, including those from the ISW, have noted that Russian media reported on 70 Ukrainian soldiers allegedly being “recruited” in Russian colonies for service in the Khmelnytsky battalion. They also stated that the Geneva Convention prohibits creating combat units from prisoners of war.
Meanwhile, there have been reports that some Ukrainian soldiers allegedly decided to desert and switch to the Russian side, using a special communication channel developed for this purpose.
On the Ukrainian side, the “Freedom of Russia” Legion is fighting, consisting of former Russian soldiers recruited from prisoners, deserters, and retired Russian military personnel.
In addition, the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC) is part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. This unit is composed of Russians who decided to stand with Ukraine following the Russian aggression. However, it does not include prisoners or deserters.
In May, soldiers from the RVC and the Legion carried out a raid in the Russian Belgorod region. At that time, the Freedom of Russia Legion called on the residents of the Russian border regions to stay home and “not resist.” An anti-terrorist operation status was declared in the Belgorod region.