Russia used a US military veteran in its propaganda war against Ukraine
John David McIntyre served in the U.S. Army for just over two years, but is a central figure in Russia’s propaganda efforts in support of its war in Ukraine. He claims to have served with Ukrainian forces in Donetsk, but defected to Russia in 2023.
Around the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of that country, McIntyre appeared on Russia Today, an international television news network funded and programmed by Moscow. He claimed his service with the Ukrainian International Legion was in service to Russia, and then repeated the Kremlin’s own justification for its invasion.
Russia’s reasoning for invading Ukraine has oscillated between the ridiculous, like its claim that it was triggered by the expansion of NATO, a purely defensive alliance to the downright false, like its claim that Ukraine’s government is dominated by Nazis. McIntyre’s appearance on Russia’s RT network provided no further information or justification.
McIntyre was a U.S. Army Indirect Fire Infantryman between 2015 and 2017 and never deployed during his service. His reason for leaving and the condition of his discharge are unknown due to American privacy laws, Still, Russian media refers to him as a “mercenary.”
He defected to Russia with all of his equipment, along with Ukrainian papers, intelligence and maps, claiming he meant to defect the entire time and provide information to Russian intelligence services.
“I’m a communist, I’m an anti-fascists, and we have to fight fascism everywhere, you know,” McIntyre told an RT correspondent in an interview. “When I came to Ukraine I knew I had to get as much information as I could about anything that would be helpful and defect across the lines.”
He also told RT that he intended to defect during the Kharkiv offensive, but when he went to cross the river Ukrainian forces had snipers covering the river, snipers he says were there to shoot potential defectors. It’s an unlikely claim, considering the Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kharkhiv was over in three weeks, Ukrainian morale was high, and the Russians were soundly beaten and forced to retreat.
When asked about videos where McIntyre is seen saying “F*ck Russia” while stomping on Russian flags, he claimed he had to do it to maintain his “cover,” saying the Ukrainians are “Nazistic.”
He recounts a story where he was questioned for glorifying the Soviet Union on his Facebook page, covering for himself, by saying he was there to fight Nazis, to fight fascists. He claimed the response from some Czech members of the International Legion was “We are the Nazis,” mirroring the Kremlin’s official propaganda line.
McIntyre goes on to accuse Ukrainian soldiers of a myriad of war crimes, most of which cannot be verified, and some of which he acknowledges he never actually saw. Many of the accusations he levies toward the foreigners in the International Legion, not Ukrainian Armed Forces.
As for his time in the U.S. military, he says drinking, cocaine, marijuana, and prostitutes are standard practices for U.S. troops, even on base. When prompted to remember specific names on camera, he could not remember anything. He alleges that Ukraine is not only run by Nazis but the government in Kyiv is dominated by American foreign policy.
What’s repeated over and over is a narrative clearly designed to foment division among Americans, implying American weapons are sent to Islamic terrorists and American tax money is stolen by Ukrainian leadership, all paid for by U.S. tax dollars, the same arguments repeated by U.S. right wing pundits.
McIntyre fled to Russia through Istanbul, claiming he’d been compromised and was about to be executed. He asked for $300 from his family to help get him to Moscow. RT claimed his information was already being used by Russian forces, which must not have been much, as little good has happened for Russia since his defection.