Who is John McIntyre? American Fighting in Ukraine Defects to Russia

A former U.S. Army soldier has defected to Russia after intentionally joining Ukrainian forces to collect intelligence that Moscow is now using against Kyiv, according to Russian media.

John McIntyre, who served two years in the U.S. military, joined the ranks of Ukraine's International Legion, fighting with Kyiv's forces before defecting to Moscow in February 2023, according to an interview with the Kremlin-backed RT, formerly known as Russia Today.

Few other details about McIntyre's past are currently known.

He brought with him to Russia "papers, files, intelligence and maps," according to RT journalist Murad Gazdiev, who spoke with McIntyre. He "became part" of Ukraine's war effort, Gazdiev said in a voiceover.

"It's the reason I came to Ukraine in the first place," McIntyre told Gazdiev. "I'm a communist, I'm an anti-fascist, and we have to fight fascism everywhere."

"When I came to Ukraine, I knew that I would try to get as much information as I could, anything that would be helpful, and defect across lines," he said.

Ukrainian soldiers
Ukrainian soldiers ride on an armoured vehicle in Novostepanivka, Kharkiv region, on September 19, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. John McIntyre told RT that he had spent a year in the International Legion in Ukraine, collecting military intelligence before defecting to Moscow. YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images

In a clip of McIntyre shown by RT, he can be seen saying "God bless Ukraine, God bless America," while holding a piece of fabric emblazoned with a "Z." The symbol is widely associated with Russian forces in Ukraine.

He then can be heard saying, "f*** you, Russia," several times, before footage of what appears to be McIntyre stepping on a small emblem of the Russian flag.

When asked by Gazdiev to explain the videos, McIntyre said the footage was all "part of it," to "maintain my cover."

"If I'm going to be with them, I've got to become them," McIntyre continued, "and doing a Hitler salute, stepping on Russian flags, everything," was part of it.

"When I first came, I kind of expected they wouldn't be that big of a problem," he said. He then claimed: "When I came I was really surprised: everyone had tattoos, and Nazi symbolism."

He called Kyiv a "Nazi government," and said the ongoing U.S. support for Ukraine's leadership "infuriates me."

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russian forces needed to "de-nazify" Ukraine, using the terminology to justify the Russian invasion as troops poured over the border.

According to McIntyre, he had planned to infiltrate Ukraine's Azov Battalion before leaving the country. The Azov Battalion started life as a far-right militia, and sported neo-Nazi insignia around the time period of 2014-2015, according to CNN teams.

The battalion was then integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard.

McIntyre said he felt compelled to do what he did "because the Ukrainian government and the Nazis that control the government and control the population, you know, the things they're doing in Ukraine to the Russian people, they need to be talked about."

"They need to be stopped, we've got to fight Nazis," he said.

When probed about the foreign fighters he spent months with, McIntyre responded that many had left the country, "some because they realised the reality of this war, some were injured, some were killed."

"They chose to come and fight for fascists; they chose to come and fight for Nazis."

Newsweek has contacted the Ukrainian government for comment.

McIntyre told the Russian outlet, which is banned in many Western countries, that he left the Ukrainian legion after being "compromised as a whistle-blower" which he said meant a "bullet to the back of the head."

He "fled" to the Black Sea port city of Odesa, eventually travelling to Moscow via Istanbul.

He said he brought military intelligence to Moscow, including names, command structure and information on weaponry, adding he "was successful in that."

"The wealth of information he has provided is already being used by the Russian military and law enforcement," Gadziev said.

"Spies exist, and I'm a spy," McIntyre said, when asked if he had any words for the fighters he spent a year battling alongside. "Mission accomplished."