Who is Wali the Canadian sniper and what happened to him?
The Afghan veteran was thought dead last week but has since been interviewed and was “the last to learn” of his own death.
A Canadian former soldier who went to fight against the Russians in Ukraine has conducted an interview proving the stories about his death were false. Dubbed by Russian media as the “deadliest sniper in the world” for a quick propaganda win, Wali, as he is known, left the armed forces back in 2012 but has returned to the fray.
“There’s two things I know for sure: that there’s a Russian invasion of Ukraine and that people think I’m dead", he told Alex Boyd of Canadian newspaper The Record on Tuesday. Here's what else he said in his comeback.
What else did he say in his interview?
Wali says he had been fighting near Kyiv for the last week and it was too dangerous to reveal his position to friends and family using a phone. A training centre in western Ukraine was hit by Russian jets with rumours that the use of phone signals allowed the Russians to triangulate the large mass of troops. Wali for his part had left his phone in a secure location during his latest round of combat.
"I'm alive, as you can see," Wali said in the video call. "Not a single scratch."
"I'm a good sniper," said Wali. "Nothing less, nothing more ... I didn't kill any Russians yet. I help doing so because the sniper is doing a lot of observation, reporting."
Wali said that he's seen Russian forces indiscriminately shelling, corroborating images and reports of attacks on hospitals and apartment blocks around eastern Ukraine.
"They use a lot of artillery and rifles and shelling," he said. "They just shoot everywhere. I think I received maybe hundreds of shells in the past days."
How have his unit responded?
Wali is reported to have been fighting alongside the Norman Brigade, a British and Candain fighting troop made up of volunteers. In a Facebook post on the group's official Facebook page, the unit was less enthusiastic with his media recognition.
"We warned him multiple times that the chain of command did not endorse his actions with the media", the statement reads.
"Wali is a free spirit and I had to send him to another unit of his choice because he was bypassing clear instructions and OPSEC guidelines. This is not a game. He was becoming a danger for the mission , for his family and for himself."
Who is Wali?
Wali served in Afghanistan as a part of the Royal Canadian Infantry’s 22nd Regiment in Kandahar. His real name is unknown; Wali is a nom de guerre.
The news organization CBC reported that Wali had travelled to Ukraine through Poland to provide his support. In an interview with CBC he described the events of his journey saying that when he and three other fighters arrived they were greeted with "hugs, handshakes, flags and photos."
"They were so happy to have us" said Wali, adding that when he arrived and met the Ukrainian troops they became friends "right away."
But it had been reported, unverified and untrue as is now known, that he had been killed in the Russian siege of Mariupol.
More infor: Wali speaks to El País
The sniper spoke to our sister paper, El País, in April, several weeks after this article was originally published, to confirm he was still fighting for Ukraine and did not know how long he would be in the country for.