Support The Moscow Times!

Wanted American Man Flees to Russia, Signs Military Contract

A Russian government video that appears to show Wilmer Puello-Mota. Video grab

A former American city council member who faces trial in the United States on child pornography charges appears to have fled to Russia and joined the Russian military, according to footage shared by regional authorities in the northern Khanty-Mansi autonomous district.

Wilmer Puello-Mota, former city councilor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, reportedly left the United States on Jan. 7 in violation of court orders while being tried in Rhode Island for possession of child pornography.

The Massachusetts-based newspaper The Republican reported last month that people who know Puello-Mota had recognized his voice in a short video showing the capture of the Ukrainian town of Avdiivka in February. 

On Wednesday evening, the Khanty-Mansi regional government’s official channel on the Telegram messaging app published a video interview at a military enlistment center with a man identified as former U.S. soldier “Wil.” The man appears to be Puello-Mota.

The Republican said Puello-Mota, 28, was a member of the U.S. National Guard before being separated from the service due to child pornography charges in October 2022. 

“An American signed a military contract at the patriots center in Khanty-Mansi,” reads a message accompanying the video on Telegram. “He liberated Avdiivka fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with Russians.”

“I definitely would do it again, I’d go back if I could,” Puello-Mota says in the video as he recounts his experience fighting in an “international brigade” alongside the Russian army.

The Khanty-Mansi government did not mention Puello-Mota by name or the outstanding criminal charges against him in the United States. The video was widely circulated among influential pro-war bloggers on Telegram.

Russian authorities have not commented on Puello-Mota’s reported recruitment into the military.

… we have a small favor to ask.

As you may have heard, The Moscow Times, an independent news source for over 30 years, has been unjustly branded as a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. This blatant attempt to silence our voice is a direct assault on the integrity of journalism and the values we hold dear.

We, the journalists of The Moscow Times, refuse to be silenced. Our commitment to providing accurate and unbiased reporting on Russia remains unshaken. But we need your help to continue our critical mission.

Your support, no matter how small, makes a world of difference. If you can, please support us monthly starting from just 2. It's quick to set up, and you can be confident that you're making a significant impact every month by supporting open, independent journalism. Thank you.


Read more