Ukrainian soldier says his parents are convinced by Putin's propaganda and think he's on the wrong side

Business Insider US
A Ukrainian soldier, who is not the soldier in thi
A Ukrainian soldier, who is not the soldier in this article, speaks on his smartphone on February 25, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Pierre Crom/Getty Images
  • A Ukrainian soldier told how he is estranged from his parents, who support Russia. 
  • Andrii Shadrin told Axios his parents believe Kremlin propaganda that Ukraine is run by Nazis.
  • He is among many Ukrainians left estranged from family who have a warped view of the invasion.
  • For more stories go to

A Ukrainian soldier described being estranged from his parents in Crimea, who only have access to Russian propaganda about the war and believe he is fighting for the wrong cause.

"I am a Nazi for them," Andrii Shadrin told Axios in an in-depth report about his fighting experiences in Donbas, the region home the fiercest battles between Russia and Ukraine.

The report describes his hardships in the war, including how he received a shrapnel injury from a Russian tank attack, which he treated himself without anaesthetic.

Russian forces have all but retreated from much of Ukraine but desperate fighting continues in Donbas, where most of Putin's troops are concentrated, as Reuters reported

26-year-old Shadrin's parents are Soviet-born Russians who live in Feodosia, in Crimea, Axios reported. Even before Russia's 2014 annexation of the region, there was strong Russian influence there.

Shadrin joined the Ukrainian army to resist the occupation of Crimea in 2014, but his parents stayed loyal to Russia. They only consume pro-Kremlin media and believe its warped version of the invasion.

In late February, Putin ordered a clampdown on Russia's already-restricted media, outlawing what he described as "false information" and even requiring the deletion of articles describing the war as a war.

As per those rules, Russian media still only refers to the invasion as a "special operation" conducted solely to liberate Ukraine from the grip of Nazism. 

The drought of accurate information was noticed early on by many Ukrainians with friends and family in Russia.

It soon emerged that some were unable to persuade family members in Russia of the horror of the invasion, as Insider reported.

Those relatives generally refused to believe that Russian troops would attack civilians, bomb hospitals or commit other atrocities, despite abundant evidence and the testimony of their own family.

One woman told Insider that her Ukrainian uncle, living in Russia, said he wanted to join up to fight on Russia's side, while another said she had cut ties with her father, who believed Putin's forces were "saving" Ukraine.  

That was in early March. But even now, three months into a faltering invasion, Shadrin told Axios that his parents believe he is the one who is brainwashed, even as he personally experiences the war.

The experiences he described suggest that Putin's grip over the information landscape in Russia and Russian-controlled areas is as strong as ever.

Experts estimate that only around 10% of Russians have access to a VPN, the encrypted networks that allow access to blocked media, as Insider's Erin Snodgrass and Sarah Al-Arshani reported in April. 

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