News of the development broke on Friday from BBC News, which reported that Ivan Korolev, a lieutenant in the Russian army, had illegally crossed the border into Lithuania, which has been a member nation of NATO since 2004. The crossing took place on Thursday, with the lieutenant making his way to the capital city of Vilnius before being detained by border guards and taken into custody at a checkpoint.
Speaking directly with BBC News, Korolev said he made the decision to defect a week prior on August 3, no longer wishing to take part in the “bloody war” with Ukraine. He also said he had never taken part in the direct conflict in Ukraine itself, rather serving in different capacities.
“On August 3, I decided to leave the Russian Federation due to the fact that I did not want to take part in the bloody war that my state unleashed,” he said. “At the moment I am in the Republic of Lithuania, where I asked for political asylum.”
Russian lieutenant Ivan Korolev fled from Russia to Lithuania, where he seeks political asylum, – Russian Air Force Service
In his video message, he states that he does not want to take part “in the bloody war that the state unleashed.”
He crossed the border with Lithuania… pic.twitter.com/ttqgi8TmFN
— Lew Anno Suport #Ukraine 24/2-22 (@anno1540) August 11, 2023
He continued: “I participated in the [special military operation], but remained on the territory of the Russian Federation this whole time. I have not been on Ukrainian territory. We supplied Russian troops with ammunition. We took ammunition from all over Russia, from all parts, from all arsenals, and distributed it to brigades, units directly in Ukraine.”
Korolev is has been transferred to a migration center in Pabradė while his political aslyum application is processed and considered.
Newsweek reached out to Lithuanian officials via email for comment.
Korolev is the latest in a string of Russian army members who have defected over the course of the lengthy conflict with Ukraine. In May, a group of defecting soldiers released a video statement via the Freedom of Russia Legion, decrying the invasion and Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s government.
“We are Russians like you,” one soldier said in the video. “We want our children to grow up in peace and be free people so that they can travel, study and just be happy in a free country.”
This desire, he continued, was impossible in Russia due to the Kremlin, which he called “rotten from corruption, lies, censorship, restrictions on freedoms, and repression.”
“The time has come to put an end to the dictatorship of the Kremlin,” the soldier added.