Sunday, 3 Jul 2022

Russia’s high-profile defector hoping to defeat Putin- ‘I could not be part of this crime’

Putin: 'People around him beginning to lose heavily' says expert

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Igor Voloybuev spent two decades working in the heart of the Russian business establishment, first for Gazprom and then for its affiliate Gazprombank. However, the former vice-president of the bank is now aiming to beat Putin’s army as he joins the troops to defeat Russia.

Mr Volobuyev was presented with the option to join the “Freedom for Russia” legion, a special military unit that is part of the Ukrainian armed forces and is made up entirely of Russian nationals.

The 50-year-old has Ukrainian roots but holds a Russian passport and lived most of his life in Moscow where he became the vice-president at Gazprombank, Russia’s third-largest bank which is owned by energy company Gazprom.

He was one of a handful of high-profile Russian defectors who condemned the war.

Speaking to The Guardian, he said: “The moment war broke out, I knew right away I wanted to go and defend Ukraine.

“I first wanted to join the territorial defence units in the Sumi region, where I grew up. I reached out to a lot of officials but legally it was not possible for me to fight there as a Russian.”

Soon, however, Mr Volobuyev was presented with the option to join the “Freedom for Russia” legion.

He said he embraced the chance with open arms, and on Saturday in a video address, Mr Volobuyev, holding an automatic gun, announced that he had joined the legion.

He told the publication:“I am very glad I have achieved my first goal.

“But now I have to quickly undergo military training so I can actually go and fight. I can’t stop halfway.”

His public defection had already caused shockwaves given his senior role in a company that is at the heart of the Russian establishment and is chaired by Alexei Miller, the CEO of Gazprom, who is close to Vladimir Putin.

He said: “I made compromises with myself for a long time … But on the 24 February [the day Russia launched its invasion], any talk of compromise became impossible.

“I could not be part of this crime.

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“I was already known to the public so I could speak out.

“But for the other members and their families, it is very dangerous to talk about this, so the group is very secretive.”

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