A US Army veteran left his middle-class girlfriend and yoga instructor to fight for Russia in Ukraine.
Russell Bentley, nicknamed ‘Tex’ on the battlefield, 61, traveled to Donetsk to ‘kill Nazis’, or Ukrainian activists, who burned down a union house where pro-Russian activists had taken refuge in Odessa, Ukraine earlier that year.
Earlier this month, he went viral after sharing footage of himself on “the frontline” with Russian troops marching through Donbass.
Bentley told Newsweek of his trip to this volatile region: “I had a great job, I had a great girlfriend, I had a great life. I was comfortable. I was making a thousand dollars a week by liquid, talking to people as a salesman. My girlfriend was a yoga teacher 20 years younger than me, my brother. No shit.
Bentley, a US Army demolitions specialist and combat engineer before getting an honorable discharge, went ahead because he didn’t want to feel like a ‘punk’ and just ‘write how bad it’ was bad on Facebook”.
“You know what, I’m going to go to Ukraine, and I’m going to kill the Nazis who did this, and I’m going to defend people, innocent civilians,” he said.
Once a “surfer, beach boy type”, he developed an interest in politics when he moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota.
He rode his motorcycle to Dallas and had a final Thanksgiving with his family before selling the motorcycle and flying to Moscow and then from Rostov to Donetsk in Ukraine.
Within a week, he joined the Vostok Battalion, a Russian militant group operating in the Donbass region. He said he served in the Novorussian army in 2014, 2015 and 2017.
“If I said to all the times that I came seconds or inches from death, number one, we’d be here all night, and number two, you wouldn’t even believe me,” Bentley said.
He said he would not fight in the current conflict unless forced to.
“If the Ukrainians come to Donetsk, I will fight. I have a machine gun and a lot of bullets, and I will use them. I am not afraid of being killed, but I know what will happen to me if I was captured. Then it won’t happen,” he said.
Bentley said that “Ukraine needs to be fixed” and that Russia “is going to help some of them” and then “give Ukraine to the Ukrainians”.
He claims that Putin’s “special operation” is taking longer than expected because Russia is careful not to kill innocent civilians, despite evidence to the contrary.
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Russia is under investigation by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Bentley called Ukrainian President Zelensky a “puppet” in a crude rant, adding, “He’s a crackhead, literally, a coke maniac.”
He likes Putin, noting his accomplishments in taekwondo and judo. “He’s not a guy who’s going to be bullied or, you know, buffed. He’s not a guy you can bluff. And he’s not a guy who bluffs,” he said. .
Bentley thinks the United States is “run by a fascist regime”. But he said he loves his country, the stars and stripes of its flag appear behind him on his YouTube videos and he keeps in touch with his family there.
“If I go back to the United States, it will be on a Russian tank to liberate the United States, just like what we are doing here,” he said.
“There is no place I would rather live than here,” he added of his adopted home.