September 11, 2022: Every war Russia has been in has produced epic stories of what those who fought, or were otherwise caught up in the fighting went through. The current war in Ukraine is different in several ways. First, it has been a disaster from the start and the government refuses to give up. To avoid accurate reporting of the disaster, a law was passed making it illegal to report accurately on the war. Only government approved accounts are allowed. This has slowed down but not stopped accurate accounts of what is going on. One such account is a 141-page book called ZOV (A Call) that reported on the experience of sergeant Pavel Filatyev, a Russian paratrooper who had been in continuous action from the start of the invasion until April, when an eye infection put him in a hospital. In May he was released from the hospital and ordered to return to his unit. Filatyev was a contract (volunteer) soldier and sought to resign his contract. His commander would not allow it and ordered him to report for duty. Meanwhile the army had lost his hospital records, which had made it difficult for him to make his case for leaving the army legally. Filatyev was already fed up with the war, the way it was being fought and the fact that Russia appeared to be losing but it was now illegal to report on that. So Filatyev wrote his book and published it, August 1st, on the Russian version of Facebook. That caught the attention of the government and there was talk of sending the author to prison for 15 years. There were already several groups in Russia that helped people like Filatyev get out of the country and obtain asylum. By mid-August Filatyev was in France, applying for asylum.
His book had been a sensation both inside and outside Russia. Now it seemed Filatyev had an opportunity to expand ZOV and get it translated into other languages. The initial version of the book was compelling, as was Filatyev’s military career. He was conscripted in 2007 and decided to sign a contract and was a contract soldier until 2010, when he did not renew his contract and got out of the army. He rejoined the army in August 2021 and was sent to Crimea to serve as a sergeant in the 56th Airborne Assault Brigade. Russia had seized Crimea in 2014 and was now massing troops around Ukraine and making threats. No one expected an invasion but suddenly in late February, Filatyev’s unit was ordered to invade Ukraine and did so after about a week of preparations in Crimea. His brigade was part of the force that was seeking to take the port of Kherson.
Despite the week of preparation, operations were disorganized and haphazard. His officers had no clear idea of what they were expected to do, except take Ukrainian territory. From the beginning Russian troops had problems with communications and getting supplies. There was not as much resistance in the south as there was in the north and his unit managed to occupy Kherson city but only stayed one day before moving on to another river port city called Mykolayiv, where there was a lot of resistance. This is where Filatyev contracted an eye infection in April and was sent back to Crimea for treatment. Shortly after his unit entered Kherson, his commander told him the war would be over in a few days. That did not happen and as the Ukrainian resistance grew, the ability of Russian troops to cope declined. There continued to be problems with communications, supplies and any clear purpose to Russian operations. While hospitalized in Crimea he heard similar stories from other soldiers, who apparently suffered higher casualties than his brigade. Filatyev has been taking notes and expected to resign his contract and spend time on putting together ZOV. In the hospital Filatyev learned that Russian losses had been much higher than expected and the army was having problems getting new contract soldiers or keeping existing ones. That included not allowing soldiers to break their contract. Filatyev broke the contract anyway, wrote ZOV and published it online, then got out of Russia before he could be arrested.