High-level Russian officials are allegedly defecting to the West amid the war in Ukraine, according to a report.
Among the defectors were generals, intelligence agents, Wagner mercenaries and a Wagner commander, Vladimir Osechkin, an investigative journalist and anti-corruption activist, told CNN, who called him “the champion of a growing number of high-level Russian officials defecting to the West.”
Osechkin is also the founder of Gulagu.net, a collaborative human rights organization that aims to expose corruption and systemic torture and rape in Russia.
“It’s every day some people ask [for] our help,” Osechkin told the outlet. “When the person is in the very high level, they understand very well how the machine of Putin’s regime worked and they have a very good understanding that if they open [up about it], it’s very high risk of the act of terrorism with Novichok or killers.”
Many other Russian officials are looking to escape the country, according to former senior FSB lieutenant Emran Navruzbekov, who Osechkin helped escape Moscow.
“Now in the FSB it’s every man for himself, everyone wants to escape from Russia. Every second FSB officer wants to run away,” Navruzbekov told the outlet. “They already understand that Russia will never win this war, they will just go out of their way to find some solution.”
In exchange for helping them escape Russia, the officials are asked to provide Osechkin with information about Moscow’s inner workings. Some of the information are then passed to European intelligence agencies, with whom the Gulagu.net founder has regular contact.
The interview comes as Russia is continuing to suffer massive losses in the war in Ukraine. As of Wednesday, Russia has lost a total of 123,080 military personnel in combat, including 910 over the past day, according to estimates from Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense.
Satellite imagery taken on Jan. 24 by Maxar Technologies, a Colorado-based U.S. defense contractor, also showed that the number of graves at a cemetery used by Russia’s infamous Wagner mercenary group has grown by at least sevenfold over the last two months, from around 17 burial plots to 170 graves.