'Russia's Rambo' -- once a Putin favorite -- says he'd now fight for Ukraine and feels 'nothing but hatred' for his home country

Russian actor Artur Smolyaninov was the star of one of President Vladimir Putin’s favorite films – about a Soviet unit making a last-ditch stand against Afghan insurgents. Now

he is classified as a “foreign agent” and faces criminal investigation. Smolyaninov was the hero of “Devyataya Rota” (The 9th Company), a Russian feature film that came

out in 2005. He played the part of the last soldier standing during a battle in Afghanistan, which Soviet forces occupied for a decade. He was often described as Russia’s Rambo, a

nod to the US action movies starring Sylvester Stallone. Much has changed since then. Smolyaninov is in exile and in a recent interview said he was prepared to fight on

Ukraine’s side and kill Russian soldiers. He told Novaya Gazeta last week: “I feel nothing but hatred to the people on the other (Russian) side of the frontline. And if I were

there on the ground, there’d be no mercy.” He said a former colleague had gone to fight on the Russian side. “Would I shoot him? Without any doubt! Do I keep my options to

go fight for Ukraine open? Absolutely! This is the only way for me. And if I were to go to this war, I would only fight for Ukraine.” A few days later, the Russian Ministry

of Justice classified the actor as a foreign agent. Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Russia’s Investigative Committee, also ordered that a criminal case be opened

against Smolyaninov. Smolyaninov has been highly critical of the campaign in Ukraine. He recently recorded a Soviet-era song – Temnaya Noch (Dark Night) – with reworked

lyrics.