Ukrainians hunt down suspected Russian collaborators in liberated city

No one embodies the extraordinary story of Kherson quite like Alexei

When the Russians invaded his hometown, he worked under the cover of darkness, risking his life tracking the soldiers and officials setting up their hated government.

Three months later, he staged a dramatic escape across the front line to join the Ukrainian army, returning last week as a liberator in a lightning counter-attack.

Back for good, he is now hunting down and weeding out hidden Russian soldiers and the local collaborators who helped rule Kherson with an iron fist.

“There are constant tears in my eyes,” he told The Telegraph as he moved through Kherson on his mission to rid the city of Vladimir Putin’s forces once and for all.

“I’ve never had feelings like this, but it needs to be felt,” Alexei added, reflecting on the atrocities committed under occupation.

“Hearing the horrors they [Kherson residents] faced is crazy motivation to work to the end and round everyone who is guilty up. The cleansing of the city will continue for weeks.”

Despite the relief and jubilation that followed the city’s liberation, Alexei believed that “hundreds” of people who worked to help Russia are now hiding in plain sight.

The work of Alexei, and other hunters like him, has already borne fruit.

Images have emerged from the city of suspected collaborators captured by Ukrainian forces, their hands bound and their heads covered with makeshift blindfolds with the words “looter” and “traitor” scrawled across them.

Officials feared that Russian soldiers could be hiding dressed in civilian clothing and many collaborators are fleeing without reprisals amid the mayhem.

Alexei said he has detained more than 20 collaborators after just one week in the city, their crimes ranging from looting to sexually assaulting girls and providing intel that led to the capture and torture of Ukrainian partisans.

He began tracking collaborators as soon as Kherson fell into Russian hands eight months ago, working with a network of other locals to record the activities of Russians and those helping them.

Spotting the signs

Alexei would tail suspects to and from Russian bases, risking his own life and those of his loved ones, noting down identifying marks and addresses.

“We recorded all of this information to keep for the day freedom would come,” Alexei said. “I was ready to do everything to bring useful information and destroy enemies.”

Alexei then fled by the skin of his teeth to join the Ukrainian army and fight to take back his city.

On his return, his local knowledge and the information he gathered in the early days of the occupation was vital.

“I have lived in Kherson all my life, so I am able to spot outsiders and spot gaps in the stories of collaborators,” he said. “Some of those from outside could not even name the streets of our city, but they said they were local.”

Alexei described key markers that a person co-operated with Russians, including signs that they had been looting.

“During the occupation, the soldiers of the Russian Federation and collaborators took away everything that had value. We keep an eye out for those with too much. For example, some may have all the electrical appliances, or some may have cars.”

Residents of Kherson, a once quiet industrial town, told The Telegraph that locals were subjected to a campaign of terror at the hands of the collaborators, with some jailed, tortured or forcibly relocated to Russia for speaking out against their occupiers.

“The collaborators kept watch and made lists of all the men and what they were doing while still living in Kherson after the occupation,” said Svetlana. “The Russians would arrive, knock on the door, and take them… for interviews, for torture, we just didn’t know.”

She told The Telegraph that the collaborators’ main task was to root out and expose patriotic Ukrainians in exchange for money and other luxuries, such as medicine, food and water.

When the Russian tanks rolled in, Svetlana, like many others, hid in her home, opting to keep to herself to avoid coming into contact with Russian troops or their collaborators.

The 49-year-old, who was born and raised in the regional capital, limited herself to one hour of freedom a day – a dog walk at 4am every morning – in hope the occupiers were still asleep.

Instead, her son Oleksandr would take the risks. As a man of fighting age, collaborators quickly alerted Russian forces to Oleksandr’s movements whenever he left home to secure supplies for his wife, infant baby and mother.

After his name appeared on a list compiled by local pro-Russians, the 33-year-old could not leave his apartment without being stopped, searched and questioned on the street.

One day, Russian troops arrived at his home, accused him of hiding weapons for Ukrainian partisans and demanded access to his garage.

Because they could not find even a hint of incriminating evidence, one of the soldiers brazenly removed the magazine from his rifle, placed it on the floor in the corner and pointed at it to justify the accusations.

And then in April, Oleksandr was pulled over by a Lada full of Russian soldiers while he was driving to join the queue at the local market.

“He was thrown to his knees, a gun put to his head because they didn’t like the look of him,” Svetlana said.

With the muzzle of an AK-47 pressed hard into his neck, Oleksandr’s life flashed before his eyes as he heard the click of the trigger being pulled.

He fell to the pavement paralysed with shock, only to see his would-be executioners walking away laughing.

At that moment, he decided to flee Kherson with his wife and child, leaving his mother behind.

Looking over their shoulders

Now on her own and fearful of the collaborators, Svetlana learned to look over her shoulder, keep her mouth shut and steer clear of Russian offers of help.

“From time to time, they didn’t always seem threatening,” she said. “Sometimes, they would invite us to take humanitarian aid delivered from Russia, but we knew they would either capture us and take us to Russia or try and recruit us.”

Made up of down-and-out locals and turncoat politicians, collaborators were offered jobs when Kherson’s economy had ground to a halt and freedoms not afforded to other locals.

They would mock those who stayed loyal to Ukraine, Svetlana added, describing a new class of people who seemed drunk on their newly acquired power.

She said: “They were proud, like kings with new powers. They called us losers and told us that Ukraine had abandoned us and Kherson was Russian forever.

“We couldn’t react and kept quiet because we knew they could do anything they wanted to us.”

While resented by locals, not all collaborators are considered evil by their neighbours.

Some parents took payments of 40,000 roubles (NZ$1070) from Russian officials to enrol their children into the new Kremlin-controlled education system.

With the local economy in ruins, one young mother took a job at the Russian-installed authorities’ pension office to feed her baby, according to Dina, another Kherson resident.

The single parent now faces being rounded up and arrested with the remaining collaborators.

Alexei, the collaborator hunter, said that those found guilty of working with the Russian puppet government will be tried in court, while soldiers may be used in prisoner exchanges.

Despite feeling “boiling anger” towards those who assisted the invaders, Alexei said he kept a “level head” to make sure justice is thorough and fair.

“What makes us different from the soldiers of the Russian Federation and collaborators is our humanity,” he said.


  1. “Alexei said he has detained more than 20 collaborators after just one week in the city, their crimes ranging from looting to sexually assaulting girls and providing intel that led to the capture and torture of Ukrainian partisans.”

    Only punishment fit for these bastards is a bullet between the eyes. Collaborators are the lowest form of pond life and need to be treated as such.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I’m afraid that Ukraine may need hundreds of heroes like Alexei to root out collaborator vermin. It’s an essential job.
    No one in other countries should sneer at Ukraine for the seemingly high amount of collaborators; nazi Germany would not have had it so easy in the early days, were it not for collaborators: shitloads of them. Motivation would be general criminality, greed, inadequacy, sex perverts looking for opportunities and ideological nazis.
    France in WW2 (and now probably) was crawling with nazis, commies and assorted vermin. Commies only stopped collaborating once their beloved Stalin joined the war against the axis powers. There were so many of the fucks that they had their own govt: Vichy France.
    Propagandists too were taken seriously. We hunted down William Joyce; AKA Lord Haw-Haw and strung him up.
    The worst of the putinazi collaborators in the west should get the Lord Haw-Haw treatment. The list is very long indeed, but Gospodin Karlsonov has got to be high on it.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Considering the claims that the east of Ukraine is/was mostly pro-ruskie, the amount of collaborators is actually quite low. And, the region of Kherson had been a very active partisan region. And, you’re right about those nations in WWII having plenty of collaborators. Many even formed their own units within the German military, usually in the Waffen-SS and some were even not occupied by Germany. Here is a list:
      The Netherlands
      United Kingdom

      Liked by 4 people

  3. As bad as cockroach troops are, collaborators are worse. But, there must be a distinction between those that were filth – denouncing others, looting, raping, murdering their fellow citizens – and those who had to survive – like the single mother with a baby. I can imagine that it’s not easy to maintain justice when scouring for and finding quislings.

    Liked by 6 people

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