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World’s deadliest sniper Wali not dead?

May 7, 2022

“Only fired two bullets into windows “to scare” and was never really within range of the enemy’s fire”

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PHOTO OLIVIER JEAN, LA PRESSE Wali, a former soldier with the Royal 22e Régiment, is back in Quebec after spending two months in Ukraine.

The return of sniper Wali

“War is a terrible disappointment”

By Tristan Péloquin, LA PRESSE, May 6, 2022

Two months after answering President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call, sniper Wali is back in Quebec – unscathed, although he almost left his skin there “several times.” But most of the foreign fighters who went to Ukraine like him came back bitterly disappointed, mired in the fog of war without even being at the front once.

“I’m lucky to still be alive, it came really close,” says the former soldier of the Royal 22e Régiment, in an interview with La Presse in his home in the greater Montreal area.

His last mission in the Donbass region, as part of a Ukrainian unit that supported conscripted soldiers, somehow precipitated his return. In the early morning, when he had just taken up position near a trench exposed to Russian tank fire, two of the conscripts came out of their blanket to smoke a cigarette. “I told them not to expose themselves like that, but they didn’t listen to me,” Wali says. A “very precise” shell fire from a Russian tank then exploded next to them. The scene described by the sniper is to freeze the blood. “It exploded solid. I saw the shrapnel pass like lasers. My body all tense up. I couldn’t hear anything anymore, I immediately had a headache. It was really violent.”

He immediately understood that there was nothing to do for his two Ukrainian brothers-in-arms who were hit hard. “It smelled like death, it’s hard to describe; it is a macabre smell of charred flesh, sulfur and chemical. It’s so inhuman, that smell. »

PHOTO OLIVIER JEAN, LA PRESSE Wali visited Ukraine in early March.

His wife, who wishes to remain anonymous, says he called her in the middle of the night about an hour later. “He was trying to explain to me that there had been two deaths. He said, “I think I’ve done enough, huh? I’ve done enough?” It looks like he wanted me to tell him to come back,” she says. He was funny calm.”

In the end, it was his family life that outweighed his desire to help Ukrainians, Wali says. “My heart has the desire to return to the forehead. I still have the flame. I like the theatre of operations. But I pushed my luck. I have no injuries. I say to myself: how far can I shake the dice? I don’t want to lose what I have here,” says the young father, who missed his son’s first birthday while he was at the front.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY WALI Wali on the ground in the Donbass region

After spending two months in Ukraine, Wali draws a “rather disappointing” assessment of the deployment of Western volunteer fighters, which began in early March, following a call from President Volodymyr Zelensky. The number of volunteers who came forward – more than 20,000, according to various estimates – was so large that the Ukrainian government had to urgently create the International Legion for the Territorial Defense of Ukraine on March 6.

But for most of the volunteers who showed up at the border, joining a military unit was a hassle.

PHOTO OLIVIER JEAN, LA PRESSE Wali

Zelensky appealed to all, but on the ground the officers were completely helpless. They didn’t know what to do with us. – Wali

He and several other former Canadian soldiers initially preferred to enlist in the Norman Brigade, a private volunteer unit based for several months in Ukraine, led by a former Quebec soldier whose nom de guerre is Hrulf.

Dissension quickly settled within the troops and a large number of fighters deserted the Norman Brigade.

Three people who requested anonymity described to La Presse promises of armament and protective equipment made by the head of the Norman Brigade that never materialized. Some of the volunteers found themselves about forty kilometers from the Russian front without any protective equipment. “If there had been a Russian breakthrough, everyone would have been at risk. It was an irresponsible attitude on the part of the Brigade,” said one of its former soldiers, who asked that his name be silenced for security reasons.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY WALI Wali training to use a Javelin anti-tank missile

Shenanigans and impatience

The commander of the Norman Brigade, who also asked us to keep his real name secret for security reasons, confirms that he has been abandoned by about sixty fighters since the beginning of the conflict. Several of them wanted to sign a contract that would have given them status under the Geneva Conventions, as well as guarantees that they would be treated by the Ukrainian state in case of injury. Hrulf argues that some even “smeared” him to strip him of a $500,000 shipment of weapons provided by Americans, in order to create their own combat unit.

“There are guys who were in a hurry to go to the front without even having been the subject of any security investigation. The Ukrainians have tested us, and it is only now that we are starting to have more missions. There is an element of trust that needs to be built, and that’s perfectly normal,” says Hrulf.

A “terrible disappointment”

“Many volunteer fighters expect it to be turnkey, but war is quite the opposite, it’s a terrible disappointment,” Wali said.

Along with another Quebec infantryman nicknamed Shadow, the Quebec sniper eventually joined a Ukrainian unit fighting in the Kyiv area.

PHOTO OLIVIER JEAN, LA PRESSE According to Wali, joining a Ukrainian military unit was a hassle for the majority of Western volunteers.

But then again, finding a gun to fight was a Kafkaesque exercise. “You had to know someone who knew someone who told you that in such an old hair salon, you would be provided with an AK-47. You had to cobble together a soldier’s kit like that by picking up pieces and ammunition left and right, in many cases with weapons in more or less good condition,” he says.

Even for meals, it is often civilians who provide them. It’s the same for gasoline to get around in a vehicle. You have to constantly get organized, know someone who knows someone. – Wali

PHOTO OLIVIER JEAN, LA PRESSE Wali brought back a box of Russian rations, recovered from the rubble of a destroyed vehicle.
PHOTO OLIVIER JEAN, LA PRESSE The ex-sniper also reported this 30mm shell fired by a Russian tank.

After a few weeks in Ukrainian territory, some of the most experienced Western soldiers ended up being recruited by Ukraine’s Directorate of Military Intelligence, and would now participate in special operations behind enemy lines, according to one of them.

Others, less experienced, “jump from one Airbnb to another” while waiting to be recruited by a unit that will bring them to the front, Wali says.

The majority, however, have decided to go home, say several people interviewed for this article. “Many arrive in Ukraine with bulging torsos, but they leave with their tails between their legs,” Wali said.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY WALI Fire caused by the bombing of Ukrainian positions near Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv

In the end, he himself says he only fired two bullets into windows “to scare” and was never really within range of the enemy’s fire. “This is a war of machines,” where “extremely brave” Ukrainian soldiers suffer very heavy losses with shells, but “miss many opportunities” to weaken the enemy because they lack technical military knowledge, he summarizes. “If the Ukrainians had the procedures we had in Afghanistan to communicate with the artillery, we could have done a carnage,” he believes.

But Wali does not hide his desire to return anyway. “You never know when foreign fighters will make a difference on the ground. It’s like a fire extinguisher: it’s useless, until the fire starts.”

PHOTO OLIVIER JEAN, LA PRESSE The former sniper does not rule out the idea of returning to Ukraine anyway.

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