Recognition…Eleonore Dermy/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

He wrote a book describing a Russian military that was so ill-prepared when invading Ukraine that he didn’t know until he did that his unit had entered the country Awoke to artillery fire.

Now 34-year-old Pavel Filatiev, who says he is a paratrooper in the Russian military, is seeking political asylum in France after arriving there last weekend. He was hailed as a hero by some in the West, his book embraced by Kremlin opponents as evidence of what he called a “terrible war”.

But Mr. Filatiev remains a scourge and a traitor in his native Russia, at least among pro-war advocates who know of its existence, as opponents of the invasion are aggressively censored. Some critics also say his book ignores the strong support for President Vladimir V. Putin and the war among many Russians and Russian soldiers. And some Ukrainians and Russian opponents of the war say he is an unreliable narrator and an accomplice to the violence.

The book has attracted a great deal of attention, partly because of the rarity of a Russian soldier speaking about his experiences. Mr. Filatiev’s account of his time in Ukraine has not been independently verified by the New York Times. Kamalia Mehtiyeva, his lawyer, said he awaits a decision in the coming days on whether he can remain in France as a refugee.

“He fears persecution by the Russian Federation,” she said by phone from Paris.

According to his book, Mr. Filatiev spent about two months as a paratrooper stationed in the southern Ukrainian cities of Kherson and Mykolaiv and contracted an eye infection in a ditch. He then tried to leave the army after being taken to a military hospital in Sevastopol for health reasons. But he writes that he was threatened with prosecution if he didn’t return.

He fled Russia in August after publishing his book ZOV, which refers to the symbols painted on Russian military vehicles, and fled to France via Tunisia.

“We had no moral right to attack another country, especially the people closest to us,” he writes in the book, which he himself published on VKontakte, a Russian social media network, in August. “We have begun a terrible war,” he writes, “a war in which cities are being destroyed and which is resulting in the deaths of children, women and the elderly.”

“ZOV” describes a chaotic Russian army in which demoralized recruits were outfitted with rusty weapons and ill-fitting uniforms. On February 24, the day the invasion began, Mr. Filatiev writes that he and other soldiers were shocked to learn they were invading Ukraine.

“I woke up around 2am,” he writes. “The column was somewhere in the wilderness, and everyone had turned off their engines and headlights,” he continues. “I couldn’t understand: are we shooting at advancing Ukrainians? Or maybe at NATO? Or do we attack? Who is this infernal shelling aimed at?”

He later characterizes the Russian army as lacking in basic services. During a military operation in occupied Kherson in March, he writes, desperate Russian soldiers searched buildings for food, water, showers and a place to sleep and looted everything they could find of value, including computers and clothing.

Mr Filatiev’s report was widely reported by independent Russian media, most of which were based outside the country. But state media have conspicuously ignored him. And even some Ukrainians on social media have resisted attempts to glorify or praise him for fighting in Ukraine.

Ivan Zhdanov, a Russian opposition figure and ally of jailed dissident Aleksei A. Navalny, said Mr Filatiev had blood on his hands.

“Honestly, I’m skeptical about his decision because he went there and fought there,” he said on his show on YouTube.

In an interview with the Agence France-Presse news agency, Mr Filatiev said he believes he has a moral imperative to say what is happening in Ukraine.

“I want people in Russia and in the world to know how this war came about,” he told the news agency.

Constant Méheut contributed the coverage from Paris.

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