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Hero of Russian Federation resigns with damning note denouncing Putin’s ‘slaughter of Slavic brothers’

The Independent logo The Independent 11/03/2022 Andrew Buncombe and Katya Bandouil

A highly decorated former Russian test pilot has delivered a dramatic criticism of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and his war on “brotherly Slavic people”.

Over the course of three decades, Alexander Garnaev flew for the airforce of the Soviet Union and then as a test pilot for experimental prototypes of the MiG-29M fighter jet.

In 1998, he was made a Hero of the Russian Federation, one of the country’s highest honours.

This week he dramatically criticised the Russian leader, posting on social media a letter of resignation from his position a chairman of the board of  the Club of Heroes, an organisation for “creators and testers of aviation and space equipment” located in Zhukovsky, a city 30 miles south-east of Moscow.

“Due to newly arisen force majeure (or unforeseen) circumstances of the on-going slaughter of the brotherly Slavic people, I do not have a vision of how to proceed forward with operations in these conditions,” he says in the handwritten note.

“Due to the above reasons, effective March 1 2022 I am resigning from the position of the chairman of the Club of Heroes. The newly elected chairman may conduct the club’s treasury management without additional procedures.”

Alexander Garnaev flew for the Soviet Union and Russia over the course of three decades (Facebook/Alexander Garnaev) © Provided by The Independent Alexander Garnaev flew for the Soviet Union and Russia over the course of three decades (Facebook/Alexander Garnaev)

Mr Garnaev, 61, told The Independent he did not wish to speak beyond the statements he was making on social media.

“Everything that I consider it necessary to say – I state it in the public domain – and I do not give any other private interviews,” he said.

Video: Why some US officials are concerned about Putin's state of mind (USA TODAY)


He included link to a Wikipedia page about his achievements and said he had been awarded the highest title, Hero of Russia, not at all by “Vladimir Putin and not at all for bombing his brothers”.

Mr Garnaev’s work as a test pilot was part of the Soviet Union’s effort to counter the US’s so-called Strategic Defence Initiative, better known as Star Wars and which was initiated by Ronald Reagan in 1983 and intended to create a sophisticated air missile defence system that would render nuclear weapons obsolete.

The programme was officially ended in 1993.

Mr Garnaev, who served on a local legislative body for four years from 2002-2006, was a member of the Russian team that helped the South African project to put the “first African in space”.

Among the project’s participants was Mark Shuttleworth, an entrepreneur with British and South African citizenship. In 2002, Mr Shuttleworth did enter space as a “space tourist” in doing so becoming the first South African to do so.

Mr Shuttleworth, who lives on the Isle of Man in the British Isles, did not immediately respond to questions.

Since Mr Putin launched his attack on Ukraine there have been questions raised about how popular the decision was among his military leaders. Poor morale has been cited as possible cause for the initial delays to the advance of Russian troops on Kyiv.

Mr Garnaev later posted a video on YouTube in which he repeated his comments and spoke in front of his two children.

“A few questions have arisen. Is it true that I would abandon all of my positions in all of the Russian companies, organisations, legal entities, because I can’t continue my role in the current expanding conditions of the slaughter of Slavic brothers,” he says.

“I’m answering: it’s true. Here is my letter that I wrote, sent by electronic mail.”

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