Ukrainians were ‘ready to eliminate’ Russian soldier before dramatic surrender, commander says

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Drone footage from a unit of Ukraine’s 92nd mechanized brigade, published by the Wall Street Journal, shows the surrender taking place in a trench in the eastern city of Bakhmut in May.

“When he realized that he was going to die, he threw his machine gun aside, raised his hands and said that he would not continue to fight,” Fedorenko said.

“At that time, we had a ‘copter with explosives ready to eliminate him. But since the enemy threw away his weapon and gestured that he was going to surrender, it was decided to give him an order to surrender.”

The video appears to show a Russian soldier running from Ukrainian assault drones in the trenches of the Bakhmut battlefield. The soldier then stops and attempts to communicate with the drone through hand gestures.

Following the surrender, reporters at the Wall Street Journal interviewed the Russian soldier at a detention facility in the Kharkiv region on May 19, under the supervision of a guard.

The reporters also spoke with the Ukrainian drone pilot, according to the paper, who said he decided to spare his life after watching his pleas.

“Despite that he is an enemy […] I still felt sorry for him,” he reportedly said.

The pilot dropped a note to the soldier telling him to follow the drone if he wanted to surrender, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Footage appears to show the soldier following the drone, dodging a mortar along the way.

Upon arriving at a Ukrainian position, the soldier reportedly dropped to his knees and removed his helmet and flak jacket.

Ukrainian forces took him into their custody, loaded him into a Humvee truck, and he was later brought to a detention facility in the Kharkiv region, the paper reported.

“This is probably an unprecedented case when, through the coordinated work of the brigade and the aerial reconnaissance component, we managed to capture the occupier,” Ukrainian commander Fedorenko said.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Russian soldier and former prison marshal was working as a liquor-store manager before he was drafted in September last year.

Before being sent to Bakhmut, he said he had performed guard duties and built fortified positions in Luhansk.

The eastern city of Bakhmut, toward the northeast of the Donetsk region, has seen some of the fiercest fighting of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and is a key part of Kyiv’s counteroffensive.

The months-long battle has been compared to the kind of fighting seen in World War I, with soldiers fighting in muddy trenches dodging artillery fire, and has been described by the head of the Russian Wagner mercenary group as a “meat grinder.”

Cheap commercial drones have become a crucial tool in the Ukraine war, both as surveillance platforms and offensive weapons.

Ukrainian soldiers have become deft at jerry-rigging off the shelf drones to drop explosives on enemy troops and vehicles.

Drones have also saved lives.

Footage of that attack, which critically wounded the woman’s husband, was also captured on the same drone’s camera and, along with intercepted phone calls, has been used by Ukrainian prosecutors to build an in absentia war crimes probe against a Russian commander.

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