Anatoly Dremov shares his experiences of the war in Ukraine on the Russian Telegram network – and reveals details that don't always line up with the Kremlin narrative.
“That damn Ukrainian 'dill' shot up our tank,” a young soldier says into his cell phone camera. Dill is Russian slang for “Ukrainian Nazis.” The soldier squats in a car. The camera pans to the street. Destroyed apartment buildings roll by, destroyed tanks and civilian vehicles too.
Then a change of scene: several soldiers, all wearing the Russian Z on their sleeves. “It doesn’t matter at all who we meet on the way to victory: young Ukrainians, old Ukrainians. They’ll all get it.”
What sounds like a cheap Russian action movie is reality. The reality of soldier Anatoly Dremov, sometimes Artyom Dremov, also known by the pseudonym Snami Bog – “God with us.” Dremov is 25 years old and from St. Petersburg. Sometimes he claims to be the owner of a restaurant. Sometimes it’s a tobacco store. Maybe both are true. Maybe both are not true.
In any case, that’s what he says on his Telegram channel, which has 48,000 subscribers. The channel unintentionally shows how bad the condition and morale of the Russian army is.
Raised on propaganda
Photos from before the war show Dremov on the banks of the Neva River in front of the Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg wearing Western brand clothes with chips and glasses. He hangs out with his friends in clubs and restaurants. He smokes hookah. A typical Petersburg boy. A hipster. Not a nationalist. But Dremov claims that he came to Luhansk and Donetsk to fight the “just fight.”
“The war against the Ukras is back after an eight-year hiatus,” Dremov said in a Telegram video soon after the war began. Around him stand two more soldiers. “Greetings to Tula,” one says. Dremov’s war coverage on Telegram began on March 6. Even before that, he reported on Instagram, but since Instagram and Facebook were blocked by the Russian government, he has confined himself entirely to his Telegram channel. Many of his videos end with “God is with us.” At that time, Russian troops were trying to surround the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Mykolaiv. Dremov claims to be there.
Dremov is apparently moving on different fronts somewhere in the east, it is impossible to know exactly. There are rumors on Russia’s social networks that he is near Kharkiv. Others claim he is near Mariupol. Dremov eats, cooks and drinks tea with his comrades in strangers’ apartments. It all seems like a war diary. He talks about the successes of the last days. About Ukrainian Nazis. Of the war crimes Ukraine allegedly committed against the people of the Donbas. Dremov seems to have been influenced by Russian propaganda for years. He is not alone in this. Many of his comrades are doing the same, setting up their own Telegram channels, reporting on the war there. Dremov heavily advertises them.
March 16. Dremov is in an unidentifiable Ukrainian town. Outside an apartment building, Russian soldiers gather what they can loot. Eight different wigs, jewelry, tablets, laptops. Even toilet paper holders. Dremov looks surprised, turns to his colleague, “That every house has a toilet, or even two, that’s crazy.” The comrade, a thick-set soldier with a short haircut, nods. At this point, American estimates suggest that 7,000 of the 150,000 Russian soldiers deployed have been killed and up to 14,000 of them injured. Dremov is certain that the Russian army will take Kyiv.
Dremov makes no secret of why he has come to the land of Ukrainians. In a live broadcast in mid-March, he talked about the conflict with Putin supporters. Angry Ukrainians tuned in. Thousands tune in to his live talks. Dremov, he says, is not about fame or money. He wants his family to live under a “peaceful Russian sky.” He wants his sisters and niece Dasha to feel safe in St. Petersburg.
It’s worth it.
The Ukrainians in the chat scold him, his Russian audience agrees with him. Numerous hearts fly across the screen. Dremov pauses for effect, as if he were a trained speaker: “And for Dasha’s sake, I’m ready to kill a hundred of these Ukra children and their mothers. It’s worth it.” Dremov believes he would fight for the Russian people against Ukrainian Nazis who live such an uncivilized life that they can be wiped out just like that. Later, in another video, he shows a scooter that he captured for his niece.
He takes orders for “trophies.” In order not to discredit the Russian army, he asks that wish lists be sent to his sister Victoria Novikova. At the same time, he asks his followers for donations for medicine and equipment. Time after time he posts receipts. 35 sleeping bags from the Homestreet brand: 35,000 rubles, or just under 500 euros. A radio station from Motorola: 260,000 rubles, about 3,700 euros. His sister’s donation account is publicly viewable – apparently parts of the Russian army depend on donations and looting. Dremov asks for it almost daily. On Telegram, this is not an isolated case.
On March 24, he checks in again. Now he looks scarred by the war. Sweaty. His hair is greasy. He seems to be at the end of his rope. He speaks quickly. He stutters. “In the last few days, it’s been close. We’ve lost comrades,” he says to the camera. “We’re moving on. You will hear less of me, see less of me. I can’t reveal our whereabouts.” His posts become less frequent. Later, Dremov is seen having a medical exam. Then in a Russian city with his niece in the park, back in St. Petersburg, far from the Donbas and Ukraine. Nobody knows what happened in between. He says nothing about it. Was his unit blown up? Did they have to retreat? Was the mission terminated? No answer. Silence. Dead silence.
Anatoly Dremov and comrade on the frontline in Ukraine
The new Russian politeness
From the first of April, there are always shorter posts from Dremov. Dremov again asks for financial support, this time explicitly for his unit. He recommends the TikTok channels of comrades. There is little from himself. Sometimes a photo with a young recruit, or with his niece. In mid-April, he gets back in touch. He says he has suffered a slight injury. He is still limping a bit. But he is ready to go back into battle. Back to Ukraine.
Photos and videos of the war follow again. Dremov on a tank. With guns. With a blond wig on his head as he dances through a strangers’ apartment. He writes: “Before we enter the houses of these Ukrainian Nazis, at least we take off our shoes. Russian politeness!” Expulsion and looting: the new Russian politeness.
As Dremov speaks, the Russians are trying to capture the cities of Popasna, Rubizhne and, still, Mariupol in the east and south. While the Russian army announces successes and everything supposedly continues to go according to plan for them, the first comrades in Dremov’s unit die. The thick-set soldier with the short hair was killed in action. Dremov writes: “With him is God! Rest in peace!”
Dremov is now visibly dissatisfied. He is dissatisfied with the fight. With the resistance. With Ramzan Kadyrov’s soldiers, the Chechens. “I think that Ramzan Kadyrov’s units are useless soldiers. They just get in the way on the battlefield. They are simply unshaven monkeys. You can’t even think of them as people,” he says in a video post. Many people in Russia think of people from the Asian part of Russia in the same way as Dremov. In their eyes they are the "meat of the field."
To defeat Ukrainian Nazism, we must become Nazis ourselves.
No sign of life from Dremow
On April 14, Dremov sends this message in Telegram chat: “If our warship ‘Moskva’ really sank, then we’re screwed... This is very bad news. In every sense of the word. It starts with the symbolism of the name.” The end justifies the means. On April 26, Dremov’s unit squats on a hill. The camera pans across the valley. Bullets slam into the bare earth. Dremov runs to his comrades. One of them raises his arm. It almost looks like a Hitler salute. Another also suggests a salute.
On May 4, five days before the Victory Day parade in Moscow, Dremov uploads another video. He is once again in a stranger's apartment, a carpet in the background. A Russian comrade is eating millet porridge from a pot. “To defeat Ukrainian Nazism, we must become Nazis ourselves,” he says. He speaks more mechanically than usual. “The Dills are superfluous on planet Earth. Their language and culture must disappear from the face of the earth. God is with us.”
On May 9, Dremov talks about being disappointed with Putin’s speech. The President had spoken too little about Russia. Far too little of the war in which Russia finds itself. Dremov does not understand why this war is not called war and why Putin does not order general mobilization. But Putin is also the best president in the world, despite his “small mistakes.” After that, there was no sign of life from Dremov for a long time.
It's not until May 26 that he resurfaces: A link is posted in the group. Dremov is seen in action. Dremov with the troops. Dremov talking about the Ukrainian Nazis before the combat mission. Dremov by a tank. Dremov everywhere. Another Russian soldier yells: “With us is God and billions of Chinese, you fuckers!” The video ends. The town of Lyman was captured by Russian forces that day.
A few days later Dremov writes two short sentences in the chat: “Keep donating. Our situation is really difficult right now. But with us is God.”