NewsThe defection dilemma: did Ukrainian POWs join Russian forces?

The defection dilemma: did Ukrainian POWs join Russian forces?

Battalion oath.
Battalion oath.
Images source: © X

6:13 PM EST, November 17, 2023

Recordings and photos of Ukrainian Prisoners of War (POWs), allegedly part of the Russian battalion named after Bohdan Khmelnytskyi, are appearing in the media. Reports indicate the unit is about to be deployed to the front line. Belsat takes a close look at the battalion.

Reports about the formation of a battalion comprising Ukrainian prisoners have regularly surfaced since the fall of 2022. It's alleged that the first recruitment of inmates held in Yelenovka took place then. It was also mentioned that the unit would bear the moniker "Cossack Battalion named after Bohdan Khmelnytskyi".

Does the Ukrainian prisoners' battalion exist?

On November 24, 2022, TASS, the Russian news agency, reported that "the battalion has been fully assembled and is ready to be deployed to the front line". Allegedly, the unit incorporates approximately 50 Ukrainian soldiers who willingly switched sides to the Russians.

One of the commanders, according to belsat.eu, is Andriy Tishchenko. He expressed his intent to "settle scores with the Ukrainian authorities who simply abandoned their citizens and left them unprotected". Tishchenko was a soldier in the Ukrainian army. He found himself in a Russian filtration camp after the war erupted and he ended up in Mariupol.

Information about other battalion members is also revealed on the website. Among them are Roman Shevchenko and Mykhailo Prokhnimak. Prokhnimak, from Donetsk, was as recently as April located in Penal Colony No. 27 in the Donbass region. The reason for his imprisonment is unclear, but it's confirmed he didn't partake in the war.

Kyrylo Spasski is another member of the battalion. In a conversation with Russian propagandists, he disclosed he was formerly captive where he met his father; both of them joined the formation. He revealed that the battalion's soldiers range in age from 20 to 47, and 95% of them has combat experience.

A recording emerged on November 7 in the media in which the troops pledge fidelity to Russia. Battalion commander Andriy Tishchenko declared his allegiance to the Russian Federation's military, expressing readiness to counter the "Kiev regime and Nazism".

Andriy Yosov, a representative of Ukrainian military intelligence, believes the reports about the battalion could be true. He highlighted that a significant amount of time has elapsed since the initial rumors appeared, suggesting the Russians had ample time to "break" the prisoners.

Yosov also proposes that the low number of recruits supports these reports. However, he postulates that they are not all POWs from Ukraine but suggests that the battalion may rather be part of a disinformation operation.

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