A US veteran joined Ukraine’s Worldwide Legion, then made a shock defection to Russia. Ex-comrades say he was incompetent and remaining behind a trail of chaos.

An American man is the first known International Legionnaire to defect to Russia

An American man is the 1st identified Global Legionnaire to defect to RussiaPoca Wander / Getty Illustrations or photos Arif Qazi / Insider

A US veteran went to struggle in Ukraine but has defected to Russia.

People who fought with him in Ukraine explained to Insider he was unstable and erratic on the battlefield.

His time in Ukraine phone calls into concern the vetting procedures of the country’s Intercontinental Legion.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February very last 12 months, scores of international fighters flocked to assistance protect the country.

Amid them was John McIntyre, a 25-calendar year-aged American veteran nicknamed Johnny Alabama, or Bama, by his fellow fighters who took up arms and joined the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine.

Video clips exhibit the American among the the uniformed fighters on the ground calling out, “God bless Ukraine,” and, “Fuck you, Russia.”

Then he switched sides.

In February 2022, McIntyre was sitting down in a restaurant in Moscow and conversing to a journalist from the Russian point out-controlled network RT about his choice to defect from Ukraine to Russia.

McIntyre is the 1st regarded overseas fighter to have crossed enemy lines to join Russia. In the RT interview, he claimed that he went to Ukraine with the intention to defect all together.

But two legionnaires who straight labored with McIntyre told Insider he was an erratic and unstable particular person who wreaked havoc in Ukraine and was pushed out of the legion right before he made a decision to defect.

They painted a photo of a troubled guy who at least the moment excessively drank alcoholic beverages although combating and urinated in an military automobile, defaced Ukrainian guard posts, and was eventually barred from handling weapons simply because he was deemed a danger to himself and other folks.

Malcolm Nance, a previous US Navy officer and counterterrorism skilled who joined Ukraine’s Intercontinental Legion in the early times of the war and has due to the fact turn into a recognizable facial area of foreign fighters in Ukraine, explained McIntyre triggered issues from the beginning.

“Bama is a highly unstable character,” Nance advised Insider. “Bama was recognised to be a skilled fuckup and mentally ill.”

He added: “We applied to say crazy with a cash K.”

Tale proceeds

Even though the fighters who spoke with Insider cited McIntyre’s mental condition even though talking about his steps, mental illness by itself does not essentially show fight-readiness, and the legionnaires are not professionally competent to assess a person’s psychological position.

Malcolm Nance, a former United States Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer and intelligence and foreign policy analyst. He is currently in the 3rd Battalion International Legion in Ukraine.

Malcolm Nance, a previous United States Navy Senior Main Petty Officer and intelligence and overseas policy analyst. He is at present in the 3rd Battalion Global Legion in Ukraine.Malcolm Nance

Very little is known about McIntyre’s background, but he is at first from Cellular, Alabama, attended Lincoln County Higher Faculty in Lafayette, Tennessee, and then went into military services instruction at Fort Bliss, Texas.

He served in the US Army as an oblique-hearth infantryman from June 2015 to August 2017 but was in no way deployed and left the company as a private initial class, Madison Bonzo, a US Army spokesperson, told Insider.

The US military services was not able to validate which style of discharge he gained, or any information and facts about healthcare or staff actions associated to him due to the fact of federal privateness legal guidelines. Insider was unable to reach McIntyre.

The retired Maritime Elliot Smith — not his authentic name, as he was granted anonymity so he could communicate freely — was second in command of McIntyre’s platoon and satisfied him in April, soon immediately after they both joined the war.

McIntyre “originally gave a good perception,” Smith claimed, but cracks commenced to present as they received closer to the battlefield and began to face the menace of death.

“A person evening, he confided in me that he saw the ghost of a pet dog that he experienced killed,” Smith reported. “So I thought, ‘OK, probably he is not all there.'”

The warning symptoms continued, as McIntyre informed Smith that he was wished by the FBI for threatening to eliminate personnel at the White Property, Smith. Insider has been unable to confirm the validity of this claim.

“As time went on, he confided to me that he experienced transformed to Islam and that he was organizing to do a jihad,” Smith explained to Insider.

Nance, who labored as the main of intelligence of the battalion, explained that he was introduced numerous reviews of very similar outlandish promises created by McIntyre.

“I feel he was a mentally disturbed guy who was wanting for a place of notoriety to suit in,” Nance reported.

Smith offered a related assessment of McIntyre.

“What I received from Johnny, and this is reflected in his habits in our unit all the way to him leaving for Russia, was that he was just looking for people to fork out attention to him,” he said.

McIntyre and Smith’s device was combating in Molodova, a village in close proximity to Kharkiv, soon after Ukraine recaptured it in May well. With the Russians furious that they experienced lost keep of the village, the fighters normally found by themselves under assault.

A destroyed market seen in Saltivka, near Molodova in Kharkiv, on April 29, 2022.

A destroyed sector viewed in Saltivka, near Molodova in Kharkiv, on April 29, 2022.Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Photos/LightRocket by way of Getty Pictures

That, Smith said, is when the genuine cracks in McIntyre’s abilities began to display.

Smith claimed McIntyre loaded his machine gun upside down and that although he was functioning by means of the forest dodging artillery hearth, he “physically showed that he was not capable of fight.”

When on the retreat, Smith stated he and another fighter had to keep back in the forest simply because McIntyre couldn’t continue with the relaxation of the unit. They put in an hour waiting for him right up until extra help arrived.

As the strain of war ongoing to mount, Smith said he was informed that McIntyre had commenced excessively ingesting in top secret, which introduced him to a “breaking level.”

Smith explained that a single working day, McIntyre was supplied authorization to go to Kharkiv with leadership and arrived back drunk, owning discovered alcoholic beverages in the city.

“His rights had been read, and he experienced to be detained because he had induced a wrestle with officers and management,” Smith reported. “He experienced urinated in the vehicle getting introduced back to our beat position and then designed a scene in the middle of the village, fifty percent naked, and threatened the leadership and all the legionnaires existing in the location.”

The platoon commander chose to be lenient and claimed that McIntyre must just rest it off. As McIntyre slept, the platoon was warned of an incoming artillery attack.

McIntyre took advantage of the chaos. He escaped from the look at he was underneath and ran off, nevertheless intoxicated and fifty percent naked, into the forest.

“We put in about probably an hour or two searching for this guy, in the useless of night till the early morning arrived up,” Smith claimed.

At some point, McIntyre turned himself in and was sent to the most important command, where Smith mentioned every person hoped he’d be sent dwelling.

But McIntyre was specified a 2nd probability — but this time away from the motion, on logistical duty.

At the time back to battalion, McIntyre’s erratic habits ongoing

McIntyre was despatched in June to the battalion headquarters in Kharkiv, where he achieved Nance.

“When you screw up, a enterprise will get rid of you, pulls you off the line, and sends you back to the battalion,” Nance instructed Insider. “And now you might be our issue. What we’re accomplishing is we are filling out the paperwork to kick you out of Ukraine.”

From the commencing, McIntyre would converse about crossing the river in Kharkiv to go to the Russian side “out of sheer boredom,” Nance mentioned, which lifted a crimson flag.

The moment he was back at the battalion, McIntyre’s erratic habits ongoing. On one celebration, Nance stated a nearby Russian strike experienced brought about significant windows at the HQ constructing to shatter, leaving 1-foot-significant piles of broken glass.

With an artillery barrage exterior, he stated he spotted McIntyre sitting down amid the shattered glass.

McIntyre was using tobacco a cigarette in his uniform pants, a white tank prime, and flip-flops and appeared to be “mesmerized” when “viewing the pretty lights” of the artillery barrage, Nance reported.

“So I have to go out on the roof — glass is crunching everywhere — and I mentioned, ‘What the fuck are you performing out listed here?’ and he states, ‘I’m just possessing a smoke.’ This is when I realize he is out of his head,” Nance said.

To keep him out of issues and absent from the front line, Nance mentioned, McIntyre was not permitted to cope with weapons and provided menial tasks, together with going provides and cleansing the kitchen area.

At 1 stage, he was put on guard duty, running a makeshift checkpoint built from white sandbags.

When Nance went away for two times in July, he returned to be advised that McIntyre experienced spray-painted more than 200 sandbags with the text, “Fuck you,” and incomprehensible phrases.

The makeshift checkpoint spray painted by McIntyre

The makeshift checkpoint spray painted by McIntyreMalcolm Nance

“It really is mind-boggling as to the intensity and perseverance that it took,” Nance, who inspected the defaced checkpoint, mentioned. “It was just insane. And then, growth, he was gone out of the legion that working day.”

Fleeing across enemy strains to Russia

McIntyre reported in the RT interview that he went and joined the Carpathian Sich, a unit of Ukrainians and foreign nationals that Nance explained as an “licensed militia.”

Immediately after some time, he tried to rejoin the Worldwide Legion, but the leadership refused, Nance explained. A number of months afterwards, he appeared on Tv in Moscow saying that this was his approach all together.

McIntyre reported in the interview that he went to Moscow via Istanbul and claimed that he did so to move together useful facts he collected whilst acting as a “spy” in Ukraine.

“It can be the motive I came to Ukraine in the first place, you know. I’m a communist. I’m an anti-fascist,” he mentioned in the job interview, although repeating the false Russian propaganda line that Ukraine is entire of Nazis.

Nance stated he categorically rejected the notion that McIntyre had any solid ideological bent or that he could have collected any useful facts to acquire in excess of to Russia.

“He’s an idiot who was mentally ill,” Nance said. “And at the past moment, when he couldn’t get again into the legion, he just decided he would go to Moscow.”

McIntyre created numerous other spectacular claims in his job interview. He claimed that he was less than risk of execution as a whistleblower, that the Ukrainian army had snipers established up to shoot defectors and applied civilians as human shields, and that numerous fighters experienced Nazi tattoos.

Nance claimed all these promises had been fabricated and an example of him “using the Russian political line to further an agenda.”

His habits calls the Intentional Legion’s vetting procedure into dilemma

When McIntyre went to Ukraine in the early months of the war, subsequent Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s public attraction for foreign volunteers, the vetting process did not seem arduous.

Smith, the retired Marine, said that when he joined the legion in March 2022, he realized “all you had to do was shoot a gun and breathe.”

The apparently lax process intended that people today like McIntyre who may be unwell-suited to warfare were ready to slip via the cracks. The course of action has altered, Smith said, and is now far more robust.

The International Legion did not reply to a ask for for remark.

Whilst McIntyre is an instance of someone who may have absent to Ukraine with the improper intentions, Nance stated this was not regular of the volunteer fighters he’d worked with.

“Eighty per cent of the people that arrive into the legion are fantastic,” Nance stated. “They’re ideologically pushed. They don’t like what Russia has accomplished. They come to feel in their hearts that they have to arrive enable.

“But just about every at the time in a though, you can find a class of what I phone ‘the criminals, crazies, and con artists’ — the persons who are there to reinvent them selves.”

Smith affords McIntyre some sympathy. “He legitimately needed institutional assist. He was heading by means of psychological challenges,” he explained.

“There is pity to be experienced for him, but this is a war,” Smith mentioned. “There are people today below who have legitimately died, who have bled out, and this male just took it as a PR stunt.

“Johnny Alabama is virtually self-destructing and just seeking to undermine this personnel team who have supplied all that they bought.”

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