ua en ru

'This is my third war with Russia': stories of foreighners who stood up for Ukraine

'This is my third war with Russia': stories of foreighners who stood up for Ukraine Training of volunteers of the Dzhokhar Dudayev battalion (Photo: Vitalii Nosach, RBC-Ukraine)

Foreign legionnaires with experience fighting against Russia now applying it for Ukraine. So, how they view Russians, what they think of Ukrainians, and how they plan to fight occupiers in their homeland.

Invasion of Ukraine - not the first Kremlin's crime. Russia has initiated aggressive wars and occupied other countries both physically and politically, orchestrated separatist movements, created so-called "pseudo-republics" there, or fully annexed states.

Moldova, Georgia, and Chechnya are just a few of the countries where Russian forces have been present. These states are now partially or completely occupied by Russia. Many residents of these countries have faced Russian aggression long before 2014, fought against the Russian army, and are well acquainted with the Ukrainian enemy.

"If I win here, I'll free Chechnya too"

Muslim Madiyev is 62 years old. When the Russians first came with weapons in Chechnya, he was 33. His first battle took place in 1992, two years before Russia launched a "special operation" and openly invaded Ichkeria, the newly established independent state in the Caucasus. Prior to that, the Kremlin actively cultivated and funded pro-Russian opposition in Chechnya.

- My first battle took place in the Achkhoy-Martaniv district, where I organized resistance from that region in Ichkeria. When they (pro-Russian opposition members - Ed.) first came to us, we engaged in our first battle there. The war would ebb and flow. In 1994, it started again.

Madiyev fought alongside one of Ichkeria's most prominent generals, Ruslan Helaiev, who appointed him as his deputy. In 1996, they defended Grozny from Russian occupiers who failed to capture the city. After the Chechen warriors' victory, Madiyev began working in the Security Council of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria alongside another significant figure of that period, Doka Umarov.

'This is my third war with Russia': stories of foreighners who stood up for UkraineMuslim Madiyev (Photo: USSD)

In 1999, Russia sought revenge. The war lasted nearly 10 years, exhausting and forcibly incorporating Chechnya as one of the federation's subjects.

- We still have no news about 25,000 missing people. They simply buried them. Just as they executed them here, they did the same to us. We knew it would be like this. Their methods haven't changed. They don't spare their own people. They didn't show any mercy to us. We experienced cleansing and concentration camps; we witnessed it all.

When Russia occupied part of Ukraine in 2014, Chechens fought alongside Ukrainian forces against the aggressor as part of the Dzhokhar Dudayev battalion. Madiyev joined the battalion in 2016 and later became the deputy commander.

- We are trying to help the Ukrainian people as much as we can because we know the sorrow that Russians bring. And they brought it to our people. This is my third war with Russia. I have seen all their crimes, all the atrocities they commit. And if they could capture Kyiv, I know what they would do here.

The Chechen battalion regularly deploys to the frontlines and engages in combat. When the full-scale invasion began, Madiyev's sons also joined the fight. When asked about his motivation to fight alongside Ukrainians against Russians, the military remains silent for a while and then states that the "personal" aspect does not belong to him but to all of Chechnya.

'This is my third war with Russia': stories of foreighners who stood up for Ukraine

Training of volunteers of the Dzhokhar Dudayev battalion (Photo: Vitalii Nosach, RBC-Ukraine)

- How do Chechens feel about Russians?

- I don't even know how to express it correctly. Somehow Dzhokhar Dudayev said: 'Disgust.' They have a different way of doing things. They are slaves, you understand? Slaves need to be dealt with so that they submit to us. Nations that do not want to be slaves will fight. And we have been fighting with them for 300 years, and you are fighting and will continue to fight until they back down.

Madiyev calls today's leadership of Chechnya, headed by Ramzan Kadyrov, 'not ours.' He considers Ramzan Kadyrov, the son of Akhmat Kadyrov, whom Russian President Vladimir Putin once appointed as the head of Chechnya, a collaborator of the Russian special services.

- He was placed there to have influence over Chechnya. And in the Caucasus, if Chechnya is pacified, other nations will not fight. Chechnya is uncompromising. We are a free nation; we cannot be slaves.

Madiyev speaks reluctantly about Russia; anger can be heard in his voice. According to him, Russia should have been dismantled immediately after the First Chechen War. "They should not have been left; we made a mistake leaving them," adds Muslim Musayevich. He repeats the phrase "Russia should be dismantled" several times. For a man who has been fighting Russian occupiers for half his life, their elimination is the only chance to finally breathe freely. That's why he goes to the places where they appear and contributes to the dismantling of Russia.

'This is my third war with Russia': stories of foreighners who stood up for Ukraine

Training of volunteers of the Dzhokhar Dudayev battalion (Photo: Vitalii Nosach, RBC-Ukraine)

Madiyev refers to Ukrainians as brothers and Ukraine as a free nation. "Just like the Chechens," he adds.

- I'm not only here for your people. If I win here, I will also free Chechnya. Because I stand for my people too. It's mandatory, there's no other way.

"We help Ukraine because Ukrainians have helped us"

We arrange to speak with a Georgian serviceman on the phone. He introduces himself as Mamuka and gives his address. The car stops at the checkpoint, and a Georgian man politely greets us. We explain why we came, the barrier lifts, and we find ourselves on a large territory of a military unit.

Mamuka meets us near the car, where he is talking to his comrades. He smiles all the time, but his gaze remains serious and a bit cautious. Switching to Russian, he introduces himself as Mamuka Mamulashvili.

'This is my third war with Russia': stories of foreighners who stood up for UkraineMamuka Mamulashvili (Photo: Vitalii Nosach/RBC-Ukraine)

Mamuka Mamulashvili is the founder and commander of the Georgian National Legion. He is 45 years old, and he has been fighting Russians for 31 years. At the age of 14, Mamuka went to Abkhazia to his father, who was involved in the battles against Russian occupiers. The invaders captured him and held him captive for three months. The teenager was tortured and subjected to simulated execution. His father Zurab was held captive by the Russians for almost two years.

Mamulashvili has a diplomatic education. Military service is more of a lifestyle, he says. He emphasizes that Georgia faced Russian aggression long before Ukraine, so his people understand Ukrainians well.

I participated in the war in the 90s; we fought with Russia for a year and a half back then. In 2008, it was only a few days. Georgia has experienced several attempts of occupation.

The Georgian Legion has been fighting alongside the Ukrainian Armed Forces since 2014. During this time, the servicemen have been involved in special operations, most of which are aimed at eliminating Russian officers. Mamuka doesn't provide details, but when asked about the success of these operations, he smiles and says, 'We have one of the highest success rates.'

Mamulashvili understood that Russia would launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, so until February 24, the Legion was actively training fighters. In February 2022, he and his compatriots were among the first to 'encounter' the Russians in Hostomel.

'This is my third war with Russia': stories of foreighners who stood up for UkraineMamuka Mamulashvili (Photo: Vitalii Nosach/RBC-Ukraine)

Despite his own difficult experience, Mamuka notes that he does not harbor any personal animosity toward Russians.

- I wouldn't say it's about emotions. What we're doing in Ukraine is about professionalism and composure. We are helping Ukraine because Ukrainians helped us. Ukrainians were practically the only ones who helped us. Azerbaijanis also fought on our side. Armenians formed a battalion and fought against us. It's not surprising. I wouldn't call it a paradox, but the neighboring country, when Georgia was in trouble, went against us.

According to him, the Georgian government is currently completely under the influence of the Kremlin. It is crucial for Russia to have control over Georgia as almost all smuggling routes to Russia pass through it.

- These "miracles" are driven by significant finances, especially Russian cash, which is distributed during elections. Unfortunately, this inheritance from the Soviet Union, bribery and buying voters, is still relevant in Georgia. After 10 years of reforms, we see the same picture.

Meanwhile, the absolute majority of Georgians, according to the interviewee, are opposed to the government and Russians.

- How do Georgians feel about Russians occupying Georgia?

- Absolutely negative. I think if the Russians had even a shred of pride, they wouldn't come to Georgia. But there is no pride there.

Mamulashvili believes that the situation in Georgia is worsening. Whether Georgians are prepared for political and physical decoupling or not, he cannot say because he doesn't want to speak on behalf of everyone. According to him, Georgians must decide for themselves. If there is a desire, the Legion will assist them.

- The Georgian Legion was created to counter the Russian army. It doesn't matter whether it will be in Ukraine or elsewhere, the Georgian Legion will fight regardless of when we liberate the occupied territories in Ukraine.

When asked how he feels in Ukraine, Mamulashvili says that from the very beginning, there has been no internal barrier, and jokingly adds "at home." However, when asked about the Ukrainian Armed Forces, he becomes more serious.

"The Armed Forces of Ukraine have gone through a rigorous evolution and have become one of the best armies in the world. Ukrainians learn very quickly."

According to Mamulashvili, the Russian army cannot boast professionalism or qualifications. Today, the Russian military relies solely on quantity and large stocks of outdated equipment. Such an army is incapable of waging modern wars, Mamulashvili adds.

When asked about what is wrong with Russian society, a look of disgust appears on Mamulashvili's face.

- It's a terrorist nation, a nation of exiles, a nation that should not exist in the form it does. It's a threat to the entire global community. I am convinced that all terrorist acts worldwide are the work of Russia. I would say that the modern world is simply rejecting Russia because they cannot exist in the present. They are absolute barbarians engaged in primitive activities.

We draw parallels between the events in Ukraine in 2014 and similar events in Georgia in 2008. The military warns that Ukrainians need to be cautious and vigilant. Russia, failing to achieve its goals, will attempt to "occupy power." Additionally, the Kremlin will continue to distort Ukrainian history, and the Russians are willing to kill to ensure this deception never unravels.

- What is the future of Russia?

- Russia will definitely disintegrate. I believe this war has provided an impetus for the hostile state to fall apart. But it will cost many Ukrainian lives.

"Why can't Yakutia secede? We can hold a referendum"

Yakutia or the Republic of Sakha - at first glance, quite an atypical example of a country or region occupied by Russia. Until you realize that the entire Russian Federation, with the exception of a few dozen cities, consists of regions that were annexed, often forcibly, at different times, where Russians do not constitute the majority ethnic group. The Republic of Sakha, as the Yakuts call it, is one such example.

The settlement of Yakutia by Russians began as early as the 1600s when prisoners were sent there. During the Soviet era, gold and diamond deposits were discovered in the region, sparking increased interest in Yakutia. Alongside this, national movements regularly flared up in the Republic, one of them even calling themselves "Independent from Russians," and literature and press in the Yakut language were published.

But as tradition dictated, the Soviet Union suppressed the local ethnic group, forbade any authenticity, and diluted the predominantly Yakut population with settlers. The Republic of Sakha became Yakutia, and in 1991 it became the largest subject of the Russian Federation.

Vladyslav Ammosov is Yakut. Today, he is in Kyiv, going to the front lines and assisting the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the war against the Russians. This is surprising because Ammosov is not just a citizen of Russia. Until 2011, he worked as a Russian intelligence officer, specializing mainly in "destroying countries."

- We were engaged in this scientific work, determining which sectors of the economy needed to be influenced to prevent the country from continuing the war. After all, the economy is crucial in war. We didn't analyze Ukraine; we had the United States and the United Kingdom. But, by the way, an attack on power stations is one of those factors.

'This is my third war with Russia': stories of foreighners who stood up for UkraineVladyslav Ammosov (photo: Vitalii Nosach/RBC-Ukraine)

Vladyslav considers himself a child of the USSR and admits that for some time, he was an "imperialist." Like his peers, he grew up on Soviet literature and films, with Russians being the main protagonists.

- I had a typical Soviet-imperial worldview. Everything Soviet was good, and Russians only brought goodness and light. We were all brainwashed by propaganda.

Ammosov decided to join the army out of patriotic reasoning - serving the homeland was not only considered a noble cause but also a kind of social lift, especially for Yakuts, who are "non-Slavic." The first, as he calls it, "sobering up" happened during the Chechen wars, in one of which he participated.

- I saw how we fought, what we fought for, what the Chechens fought for. The First Chechen was a war of the people, and they won that war. But in the Second Chechen War, Russia attacked an independent country and killed 30% of its population. Then I witnessed those punitive operations, the treatment of soldiers. I saw what kind of officers served there. It had a very sobering effect on the young, impressionable mind.

However, after the army, Vladyslav went to work for the Main Intelligence Directorate, where he carried out various tasks "for the good of the homeland." But he finally stopped believing in the good in 2011, so he resigned from the organization and worked for himself for a while. Five years later, after Russia occupied Crimea and part of Donbas, he realized that he could no longer stay in that country because sooner or later, he would lose his job, and perhaps even his freedom. Therefore, Ammosov, along with his family, moved to Poland.

- In 2014, Russia embarked on a path of self-destruction. If you attack another country, disregarding all norms and rules, what prevents the same from being applied to Russia? Why can't Buryatia, Kalmykia, and Yakutia separate? We can hold a referendum.

When a full-scale war broke out between Ukraine and Russia, Vladyslav immediately started looking for opportunities to come and join the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Today, he is creating the first "Siberian Battalion" in Ukraine. While the fighters are being trained, Ammosov occasionally travels to the front, visiting Zaporizhzhia and, as he says, "going" to Belgorod.

- Was it difficult for you to make the moral choice to kill your own people?

- Oh no! What kind of choice can there be? I once served in the army, and I was prepared to shoot at my guys if necessary. This system is designed in a way that you should always be ready to destroy your people, shoot traitors, and deserters, form units, line up people and shoot them, and personally shoot during the battle. In Russia, there is no moral dilemma about shooting your guys. You can't imagine the level of violence in Russia.

'This is my third war with Russia': stories of foreighners who stood up for Ukraine

Vladyslav Ammosov (Photo: Vitalii Nosach/RBC-Ukraine)

As a military man, Vladyslav does not want to talk about what he specifically does in Ukraine, but he extensively discusses the "Russian world" in which he lived for the majority of his life. Most often, he encounters the domestic fascism that Russians, not by blood but by passport, practice.

- In Yakutia, there are two worlds - the Yakut world and the Russian world. And they only touch at the edges, they practically don't mix. It's a peculiar feature of Russia. Russians living in Yakutia don't learn the Yakut language, although all Yakuts know Russian because it's the language of the empire. If you don't know it, you won't get anywhere. And when a Yakut is appointed as the head, there must always be a Russian as their deputy.

Vladyslav refers to his native region as a "colony," although many Yakuts do not understand this. It is due to the active pro-Russian propaganda in Yakutia. In addition, the Kremlin acts in the spirit of the empire, forcing some locals to subjugate others. According to the man, the Russians themselves are not as cruel as those who have been "beaten down."

- Their lives have become so senseless and worthless that they have accepted it themselves. Because if they were living well, they probably wouldn't want to go die. But when you have a gray life, miserable existence, debts, perpetually dissatisfied environment, wife, and children, it's easier for you to go and die in war than to bear all that burden.

No matter how absurd Russian propaganda may be, Russians believe in it because "if they start thinking, they will have to admit that their lives are garbage and they themselves are garbage," says Ammosov.

When asked why Russian officers, many of whom have access to other sources, also believe in the propaganda, Vladyslav laughs.

- Gone are the days when an officer was a true professional. Those times are over. Now, there is no creature more servile and beaten down than a Russian officer. It used to be about traditions, honor. Now it's just a hot mess.

'This is my third war with Russia': stories of foreighners who stood up for UkraineVladyslav Ammosov (Photo: Vitalii Nosach/RBC-Ukraine)

Ammosov calls today's army the "workers'-peasants'" army, which operates under a simple principle: an officer is a slave, and a commander has absolute power over them. The era of "white bone and blue blood" ended in 1917, and now the Russian soldier "pushes their boulder uphill."

- Ukraine is still freer, you can feel it. Even on the front, it's not like in Russia where it's "I'm the boss, you're a fool." People treat each other with more respect.

We raise the question of motivation. Here it's not as obvious as with the situation with the Chechens or Georgians because Yakutia is part of Russia, recognized by international law. Vladyslav remains silent for a while and then practically articulates what people whose countries are occupied by Russia say.

- By fighting on Ukraine's side, I am fighting against Russia. And I want this country to cease to exist. Because it's very easy to sit somewhere across the border, waiting for it to collapse. But it could collapse in another 50-100 years, causing even more suffering and hardships for people. But we can help in this matter. I believe that Ukraine's victory will determine many processes in Russia.


Throughout its existence as both a part of the "Soviet country" and as a federation, Russia has never lost the opportunity to restore its imperial past. By occupying bordering states and eradicating its own ethnic diversity, the Kremlin has always emphasized that global dominance is unfairly distributed and that the role of the "world mistress" should belong to Russia.

World leaders have long reconciled with Moscow's ambitions, which were openly intimidating, and tried not to provoke the "Russian bear." Perhaps this is one of the reasons why in 2022 the Russian army initiated the most extensive war on the European continent since World War II.

Today, thousands of non-Ukrainians have decided to fight against the Russian army wherever it may be. Serving in the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, they fight not only for the peaceful lives of Ukrainians but against the occupiers who have seized their own countries. When it comes to motivation, each of them emphasizes that they believe Ukraine's victory will set in motion the process of Russia's disintegration.