A notorious Canadian sniper has confirmed he is alive and well in an interview with FRANCE 24. Wali (not his real name) was operating in Ukraine in a lone wolf capacity. Also, were members of a Russian Army choir really arrested for singing anti-war songs? We take a closer look in this edition of Truth or Fake.
Misinformation about the former Canadian Armed Forces member — who is known by the name ‘Wali’ to protect the identity of his family — has been circulating online for weeks.
The rumours include claims that Wali was the deadliest sniper in the world and held the record for the longest-distance kill shot.
And the most recent rumour, posted on Russia social media site VKontakte, claimed Wali had been killed by Russia forces shortly after arriving in Mariupol, which has been under heavy bombardment by Russian invaders for weeks.
“Well, I’m alive,” he laughs during an interview with CBC News.
“I was pretty much the last person to learn about my death.”
Wali told CBC News he retreated to a safe location in Ukraine on Monday after spending a week on the frontline in Kyiv, battling Russian forces.
“I was on the frontline without my cell phone for security reasons, because the frequency and such can be located,” he said.
“The truth can sometimes be brutal, or boring, and this time it was just boring.
“The truth was my cell phone was just not with me. It was turned off on the remote base. I was on the frontline.
“Yes, it was dangerous, but I was alive, not a single scratch.”
Wali said his family, and even strangers, tried to get in contact with him following the rumour he had been killed in Ukraine.
He told CBC News his former commander in Kurdistan, who fought with Wali against ISIS, sent a note saying the community sacrificed a sheep in his honour.
Wali is targeted by Russian misinformation campaign
Wali told CBC News he has been doing various interviews with media outlets and believes that activity may have caught the attention of Russian intelligence.
“I might be more interesting than a normal soldier, but to find me is not that easy. It’s not that easy to find someone [who is] hidden away,” he says.
Experts say much of the incorrect information being shared about the conflict in Ukraine amounted to “rampant disinformation” emanating from Russia.
In addition to deploying disinformation as grounds for an invasion, Russia has continued to push incorrect and misleading narratives as the war rages, including a failure to recognise the deaths of Russian troops, while deliberately misleading their own soldiers.
Canadian veterans fighting in Ukraine
Ukraine has established an “international” legion and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has publicly urged foreigners to “fight side-by-side with Ukrainians against the Russian war criminals” as they show support for his country.
Some foreign fighters arriving in Ukraine say they are attracted to the cause so they can help halt what they view as an unprovoked attack in a once-in-a-generation showdown between the forces of democracy and dictatorship.
For others, many of them veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Ukraine war also offers a chance to use fighting skills they felt their own governments no longer appreciated.
Wali told CBC News in early March that, when he crossed the border into Ukraine from Poland with three other former Canadian soldiers, they were greeted with hugs, handshakes and flags from Ukrainians.
“I want to help them. It’s as simple as that.”
“They were so happy to have us, it’s like we were friends right away,” Wali says.
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