Man claiming in video to be U.S. Marine vet joins Russian military

A video posted by a Russian Telegram channel purportedly shows an American now fighting with Russian forces who claims to be a U.S. Marine veteran..

“An American Marine fights on the side of the Russian army in a special military operation zone,” the caption for the video says (‘special military operation’ is the term Russian authorities use for the invasion of Ukraine)

The man in the video says his name is Seth William Baker, and he says he was separated from the Marine Corps as a lance corporal because he refused to be inoculated for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) despite the Defense Department’s mandatory vaccination program at the time.

Marine Corps officials told Task & Purpose the service has a record of a man named Seth William Baker who is a former lance corporal; however, officials cannot confirm that he is the man who appeared in the video.

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Baker, according to Marine Corps records, served in the Marines from August 2019 until May 2022 as a bulk fuel specialist. His last duty assignment was with Bulk Fuel Company A, 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, and he received the National Defense Service Medal.

Information about the types of discharge that troops receive is not publicly releasable unless it is as of a result of a court-martial.

Kicked out for refusing vaccine

Russian media outlets have reported that Baker joined the Russian Armed Forces after traveling to the Russian-occupied Donets Basin in eastern Ukraine, often referred to as the Donbas. Task & Purpose was unable to independently verify the Russia media’s reporting.

In the video, which was shared on Reddit, Baker is interviewed by an unnamed man with a British accent. Both speak in English.

After saying he served in the Marines, Baker holds up a picture of himself in a Marine Corps dress blue uniform.

“There’s many reasons why I came here, but one of the big tipping points was when I was a lance corporal, I was due for promotion the next month, and they came out with the COVID vaccine mandate in the military,” Baker says. “I’m a young, healthy man, and I’ve already had COVID before, so I don’t need that. And so, there’s a few of us – not very many unfortunately – that said, ‘We’re not going to take it.’”

“And so, they kicked us out,” Baker continues. “So, I lost my promotion to corporal. I was in the process of becoming a police officer in the state of Arizona, and I lost my place at the police academy as well. Very rough things. There’s all this talk about freedom in America, but not for some of us, I suppose.”

Although there are no indications where exactly the video was taken, the man with a British accent noted that it can get very hot in the Russian occupied Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

The brief video ends with both men shaking hands. The man with the British accent tells Baker: “Well done. Good lad.”

Task & Purpose was unable to reach Baker on Monday. 

A Facebook page for a man with Baker’s name and appearance includes a picture of the man in a Marine Corps dress uniform. Several of the man’s Facebook friends are connected to Russia, including one with the name and picture of Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister. Another is named “Russia Friends,” which has a picture of a blonde woman.

Propaganda coup

Diplomatic relations between the United States and Russia took a nosedive after the Russians launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Since then, the United States provided Ukraine with more than $51.2 billion in military assistance including M1 Abrams tanks, Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, and more than 3 million 155mm artillery shells, according to the Defense Department.

The Kremlin will likely use Baker’s story to humiliate the United States in a throwback to their tactics under the Soviet Union, said Olga Lautman, a Russia and Ukraine expert with the Center for European Policy Analysis think tank.

“They like to circulate westerners who have betrayed the West in order to amplify: Americans don’t agree with this war and think that Russia is right; and look, they’re willing to come fight for us,” said Lautman, who is also creator and co-host of the Kremlin File podcast. 

At least two other U.S. military veterans have appeared in videos indicating that they had defected to Russia since February 2022: Former Army Pfc. John David McIntyre; who claimed he went to Russia after spying on Ukraine’s International Legion; and former Air Force Tech. Sgt. Wilmer Puello-Mota; who also served as a city official in Holyoke, Massachusetts; who fled the United States shortly before he was due to appear in court for possession of illicit photos he had solicited from a teenager.

Navy veteran Patrick Lancaster, who describes himself as a journalist, has also made pro-Kremlin videos.

Russia has also detained several American citizens including Army Staff Sgt. Gordon Black, who was arrested last month in Vladivostok. His mother said he was visiting his girlfriend at the time. Russian authorities have accused Black of theft. He is currently on trial.

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