A Canadian sniper who was rumoured to have died in Ukraine said he was simply in “black-out mode” and believes rumours of his death were part of a propaganda campaign by the Russians.
The sniper, who goes by the name Wali, and who Global News is not naming to protect his family, became famous after a viral, but false, claim that he took the world’s longest sniper shot in Iraq.
Both Wali and special operations sources say he was never a member of JTF2 and was not present when a JTF2 sniper took the 3.45 km shot killing an ISIS operative in Iraq in 2017.
Wali arrived in Ukraine at the beginning of the war to join the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Speaking from the Kyiv region to Global News on Tuesday, he said he is “well-fed, rested and all good.”
Rumours that Wali had died began circulating on social media last week, with no obvious source. Several mainstream media outlets also began asking if Wali was still alive.
While he doesn’t know where the rumours came from, he said they were a surprise to him when he came off the front lines several days ago.
“I was the last person to learn the news that I was dead,” he said.
“I think it’s just trolling. But I think it’s strange because after a while the enemy will lose credibility with this propaganda. I don’t understand why they push such lies. It’s pretty obvious because after a few days I’m popping out and telling everyone I’m alive.”
Wali said he spent the last week that he was rumoured to be dead on the front lines “in the Kyiv region,” and is resting now as he’s sick. He told his story between coughs, saying he will be back out on the front line in the next few days.
He said he is fighting alongside the “awesome” Ukrainian Armed Forces, with his Canadian partner, and in the last few days the group had taken ground and made “advancements against the enemy” in the region they were fighting in. He said others in his group had shot people but he had not yet.
However, he admits he has had a couple of close calls in the last week.
“This war is like playing chess without knowing what the other pawns are. You know a bit but not enough. We got engaged with the Russians in very close distance, like 50 metres, and at that point they knew we were there.
“I was in a house where they shot the room right beside me with shells from a tank, I was about three metres away. We were lucky. Now I know how it feels to be engaged by a tank.”
One of his colleagues was shot on one of the first Ukrainian patrols he was part of and needed to be evacuated, but had survived, he said.
He has spoken to his wife in the last couple of days and she understood he had simply been in black-out mode, he said.
He said he was amazed at how different the Ukrainian war has been, compared to other warzones he had been in.
“It’s like fighting in downtown Toronto.”
There were many domestic animals left roaming around the streets of Kyiv, he said, and Russians were routinely shooting dogs because they barked and gave away their positions.
In one building his team went into, they encountered an elderly Ukrainian woman who had been without food for herself and her cat for days. Wali said she told them that a man killed himself in that building shortly before they arrived.
“It’s sad because the people are proud. This country wants to grow and get richer.”
Attacks by Russian troops have not been sophisticated, he said.
“One night, the Russians were shooting hundreds of shells not far from us. At one point, I was enjoying the view and thought, ‘What a beautiful sunset.’ But then I realized that these are houses burning.”
He said if countries wanted to help Ukraine they should be sending modern weaponry to help troops in their fight. Without them, he said, the Ukrainian casualties would be much higher.
Finally, he asked to set the story straight about his infamy and the false commentary that he was the best sniper in the world.
“I’m just a normal soldier. I’m a good soldier, no doubt about it. But I’m a good soldier among other good soldiers.”
While he can’t talk about specifics due to the nature of the war, Wali said he will remain in Ukraine for some time yet — until he has “done my duty.”
— with files from Mercedes Stephenson