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Brazilian has baptism of fire in the Ukrainian international legion

O pernambucano Leanderson Paulino, de 28 anos, largou o emprego no Reino Unido para combater na Ucrânia: “Aqui é a luta do bem contra o mal”

Leanderson Paulino, from Pernambuco, aged 28 UK employment to fight in Ukraine: “Here is the fight of good against evil” | Photo: Personal File

Deep in the forest of Irpin, near the capital Kiev, the Pernambuco Leanderson Paulino, from 28 years ago, heard the approach of an armored Russian troop carrier. But the BTR-80 didn’t pass exactly in the area where your platoon of the international legion had set up an ambush.

“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.

O pernambucano Leanderson Paulino, de 28 anos, largou o emprego no Reino Unido para combater na Ucrânia: “Aqui é a luta do bem contra o mal” 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.

“When we kill the Russians, we see that they have sights with night vision and advanced communication equipment”, compared the anonymous fighter.

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The international legion is more selective. After several episodes of fighters who dropped their weapons and returned to their countries, now only those who have previous combat experience are being accepted.

But the volunteers who fight for ideology are not the only foreigners who are fighting in the Ukrainian ranks. Mercenaries from private US military companies were also on the ground, according to retired colonel Fernando Montenegro, author of the book “Kid Preto” on Brazil’s Special Forces. Montenegro spent weeks in Ukraine doing military research and analysis for CNN Portugal.

According to Montenegro, companies such as Forward Observations Group and Xe Services (formerly Black Water) would have been contracted by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. To this columnist, Ukraine said that it cannot give specific information about its troops in times of war.

Support for Russians

Similar movement is taking place on the Russian side. The most active private military company in the field is the Wagner Group – a group of mercenaries that became famous for operating in African countries, mainly protecting mining facilities that have Russian investments. In its ranks, there are many military personnel who have passed through Russian special forces.

Montenegro said he still suspects the presence in Ukraine of the company Vega, which acted in Syria in support of the forces of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

In addition to operators of private military companies, Russian troops have troops from other regions of Russia, such as the Chechens and the Yacult (famous for their performance as tankists). According to military analysts, these troops are placed on the front lines because they have no cultural or kinship ties to Ukrainians – unlike many professional Russian officers.

Russia even stated that it would still resort to Syrian mercenaries to complete its ranks, but they were not seen in large numbers on the battlefield until now.

It is military units like these that have been held responsible for Ukraine’s alleged war crimes – such as the execution of unarmed civilians. On Thursday (), authorities Ukrainians said that more than 1,000 civilian bodies were found in cities near Kiev (which had been under Russian occupation).

However, international combatants of all types are not capable of shifting the balance of forces. But its presence generates great moral impact, either as an incentive to the regular army – which is excited to see foreigners fighting for its cause – or as an attempt to frighten the adversary, as in the case of the Chechens, who became famous for using a lot of violence in the battlefield.

At the moment, all these forces are being repositioned and are expected to participate in the Battle of Donbass for control of eastern Ukraine. The story of these fighters in the Ukraine war will continue.

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