Dennis Desyatnik

The ex-Israeli commando who stepped up to Putin in Ukraine

Dennis Desyatnik served in Israel's security arms for 14 years and later worked as bodyguard for one of the country's most notorious mafiosos, but when he heard about the horrors of the war in Ukraine, he left everything behind and joined the fighting

Itamar Eichner |
Published: 07.20.22, 12:35
One thing is for sure — there isn't a dull moment for Dennis Desyatnik. His life is run at a pace of an action movie, and he is cut from the material film directors love.
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  • Starting off as a young immigrant in Israel, Desyatnik enlisted in a special forces commando unit and later worked as a bodyguard for one of the country's most notorious crime lords. He recently returned wounded from Ukraine after joining the war in its early days and establishing an intelligence commando force to fight the Russians.
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    דניס דסיאטניק
    דניס דסיאטניק
    Dennis Desyatnik
    Desyatnik, 45, made Aliyah from Uzbekistan 26 years ago. He says he had served for 14 years in the Israeli security forces; first in the IDF and later in the Border Police's undercover unit in Jerusalem and the Israel Police special patrol unit Yasam in Tel Aviv.
    He lives in Haifa with his wife, an Israeli of Ukrainian origin, and their five children.
    At some point, the imposingly built officer decided to leave the police force and became the bodyguard of Amir Molner, who is considered one of the most sophisticated and dangerous mafiosos in Israel.
    In between, Desyatnik, who is also a firearm instructor by profession, engaged in professional boxing and provided pre-military training to teenagers preparing for combat service in the IDF.
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    Desyatnik, left, with Amir Molner
    With the breakout of the war in Ukraine in late February, Desyatnik was contacted by his wife's relatives in Ukraine who told him they feared for their lives, having been entrapped by Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces, and asked him for help getting out.
    Desyatnik did not hesitate and embarked to Ukraine, promising his wife he'd be back in a week's time.
    After arriving in Eastern Europe and witnessing the scope of the carnage, he realized he would have to break his promise.
    "The Russians murdered children and raped women. It was very hard for me to see," he says.
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    Desyatnik, left, and his comrades in arms
    Desyatnik says he volunteered for a special intelligence unit in the Ukrainian armed forces which resembles the IDF's elite special forces unit Sayeret Matkal.
    He was given freedom of action and established an independent force with some of the unit's fighters, including several Israelis of Ukrainian descent and one Israeli American who had previously fought in Afghanistan.
    Desyatnik says he and his comrades engaged mainly in guerrilla warfare, infiltrating Russian-controlled territory and hitting Putin's forces.
    "We destroyed several tanks, armored personnel carriers, a helicopter and a military truck and neutralized hundreds of combatants. We looked them dead in the eye, the fighting was harsh and we lost 40 friends," he says.
    During one of the unit's fiercest battles with Russian forces, Desyatnik was hit in the leg by machine gun fire. After receiving treatment, he recovered and continued fighting through the pain.
    After four months of fighting, he returned to Israel and to his job as a firearm instructor.
    "I missed the wife and kids very much and I also had to provide for them," he says. "In Ukraine, I did not get any pay. It all was voluntary."
    Desyatnik says that he and his comrades in arms received accolades from the Ukrainian government. According to him, Ukrainian officers still call him, asking him to return. He says he would consider it if he got paid to support his family.
    Meanwhile, Desyatnik believes that Ukraine would ultimately prevail despite being militarily inferior to Putin's invading forces.
    "Their fighting spirit is much higher than that of the Russians. They're maybe underequipped and lack professional commanders, but unlike the Russians, they're fighting for their home."
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