‘I came to defend my motherland’: how the vice president of a Russian bank dropped everything to try to fight for Ukraine | Ukraine and Russia

A former executive at Russian bank Gazprombank said on Thursday that he left Moscow for Ukraine in an attempt to enlist to face the invasion of Ukrainian territory, and that he believes President Vladimir Putin is taking Russia to the failure.

Igor Volobuev, 50, holds a Russian passport and, until recently, was vice president of Gazprombank.

He moved to Kiev because of his Ukrainian origins and his family.

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This type of departure is unusual: he was an executive at a company important to the Russian establishment. The executive director of Gazprombank is Alexei Miller, a close ally of Putin.

The case illustrates the links that Ukrainian families have with Russia.

Volobuev was born in Okhtyrka, a town in a region that Russian forces invaded in late February.

Igor Volobuev in Kiev on April 28, 2022 — Photo: Gleb Garanich/Reuters

“I came here to defend my motherland because the war started in places like my hometown of Okhtyrka – it was one of the first cities affected by bombing,” he said.

The former executive arrived in Ukraine on March 2. He says that, at the border, he said he would like to join the territorial defense forces.

“They said no, but maybe they could find a way. I hope so. They stated that there are already enough people of their own people who have military experience.”

Volobuev did not describe how he left Russia and reached Kiev.

He described war as a sin, and was categorical in criticizing Putin. “Russia has no future, I think the country will split, Putin has already brought a catastrophe. I’m not afraid,” he said.

If he had been looking for safety, he argued, he would not have gone to Kiev, he would have continued to live in Russia. “I understood that I was going to war,” he said.

Russia describes its actions in Ukraine as a special military operation.

Volobuev says he opposed the annexation of Crimea in 2014, but that in recent years he had prioritized the family’s well-being. However, when Russia invaded Ukraine in February, he had second thoughts. “I never thought that Russia was my motherland, this is Ukraine,” he said.

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