Leanderson Paulino, from Pernambuco, aged 28 UK employment to fight in Ukraine: “Here is the fight of good against evil” | Photo: Personal File
“When I looked, he was already on top of us, six or seven meters away. My reaction there was in a millisecond. It was God, of course, if it wasn’t for Him I wouldn’t be here. I took my backpack and took shelter behind a tree”, said Paulino.
“The guy on top of the armored car, the Russian, has already pulled the .04 in my direction. The Russian looked and I already sent the first shots. I deleted the first. The armored stopped. The second Russian went up [na torre de metralhadora] and I already ‘broke’ him too. Then the exchange of fire began”, he said.
) This was Paulino’s first contact with a real combat situation. He is a reserve soldier in the Brazilian Army and a former prison guard. Its “baptism by fire” took place in March, when Ukrainian forces launched counterattacks against Russian troops trying to encircle Kyiv.
According to Paulino’s commander, a Frenchman who identified himself only as Dado, by shooting down the Russians who were operating the armored machine gun, the Brazilian saved him and several other members of the platoon, who were in the line of sight of the Russian machine gun.
All nine BTR crew members-80 were killed in the fighting, according to Paulino. When maneuvering to flee, the armored vehicle would have collided with a barricade and ended up being hit by anti-tank rockets operated by the legionaries.
But Paulino said that, after the first victory, his platoon ended up surrounded by Russian forces in the middle of the Irpin forest. “There came a time when I gave my life to the Most High. Either you lock and do nothing, or you turn on the automatic and go all the way”, he said.
He said that after hours of gunfire, Russian forces retreated from the forest to the city, which was under the control of the Moscow army.
The Brazilian is part of a group of voluntary international combatants that total about thousand men, according to unofficial estimates. They are Polish, Georgian, French, German, British, Irish, among other nationalities.
Most of them traveled to Ukraine at their own expense, motivated by ideals of democracy and freedom. Others say they went because they like war or intend to gain experience to work as mercenaries in the future.Paulino lived in Great Britain and, upon learning of the war in Ukraine, resigned from his job and traveled to the conflict zone. “Many call me crazy, but I see it differently. I could never see such a situation and stand idly by, having the opportunity to come and fight this situation. I usually say that here is the fight of good against evil”, he justified.
According to another fighter, who asked not to be named, the Ukrainian army’s bureaucracy has hampered the fight. “I came with my money, I didn’t ask for anything from Ukraine, I came to defend the country. When I enlisted, they said I would be paid 3,500 euros a month. It wasn’t my goal, but I thought it might help with expenses here. But the money never arrived”, he claimed.
The legionaries received weapons from Ukraine, such as assault rifles and Kalashnikov light machine guns – as well as American-made anti-tank rockets (M72) and Russian (RPG). “We are working miracles with the equipment we have. Many brought it from home. What the army provided us with is not the best”, said Paulino.
Many legionaries are trying to buy equipment like radios and sophisticated sights for their weapons, but it is practically impossible to find these items in stores in Ukraine today.