A man who was kicked out of the Massachusetts Air National Guard has appeared in a video that shows him signing a contract with the Russian military, several media reports have reported. The man fled the U.S. in January, according to prosecutors, days before facing a court hearing for possession of illicit photos he had solicited from a teenager.

In a video circulated by Russian bloggers, Wilmer Puello-Mota appears to sign a contract surrounded by Russian speakers amid words of praise.

“People are so supportive,” Puello-Mota says in the video. “This is the least that I can do, is to give back and help. I mean, everybody has just been so kind, so supportive and just ready to help me move forward. And I want to help them now continue the mission.”

Puello-Mota was a technical sergeant and security forces airman with Massachusetts Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Wing, a National Guard official told Task & Purpose on Thursday.

He was separated from the National Guard following his 2020 arrest by the Warwick Police Department in Rhode Island on charges of paying a 17-year-old for illicit pictures of themselves, according to local media. A former city official in Holyoke, Massachusetts, Puello-Mota took a flight to Istanbul just two days before he was scheduled to appear in court, according to the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office.

“We are aware Mr. Puello-Mota left the country in response to civil criminal charges filed against him,” Massachusetts National Guard spokesman Don Veitch told Task & Purpose. “These charges are very serious and led to his separation from service in October 2022. Criminal activity is not compatible with our values as an organization and will not be tolerated in our ranks.”

Subscribe to Task & Purpose today. Get the latest military news and culture in your inbox daily.

Prior to his National Guard service, Puello-Mota was an active-duty airman from 2013 to 2019, according to his service record, which was provided to Task & Purpose. He served as a security forces airman and left active-duty as a staff sergeant. His last duty station was at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts.

Wilmer Puello-Mota
Wilmer Puello-Mota, who was kicked out of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, has appeared in a video in which he signs a contract with the Russian Ministry of Defense. (Video screenshot)

After Puello-Mota left the country, the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office received photos and videos that indicated that he had joined the Russian military, court documents show. At the time, prosecutors could not confirm the authenticity of the videos and images.

On Wednesday, the independent Russian outlet Agentstvo reported that Puello-Mota had appeared in a video widely shared on social media that shows him officially joining the Russian military. Yuri Kotenok, a pro-Kremlin Russian military blogger, shared the video, in which Puello-Mota is identified as “Vil.”

Kotenok also wrote that Puello-Mota had taken part in Russian efforts to capture the Ukrainian city of Avdiivka in February before signing his contract with the Russian Defense Ministry, Agentstvo reported.

“Vil served in the US armed forces, but realizing what was really happening in Ukraine, several months ago he came to the Northern Military District as a volunteer,” Agentstvo quoted Kotenok as saying.

Puello-Mota provides a running narration for the video, in which he talks about taking part in the war as a member of the “international brigade.”

“We did our job,” he says. “We did what we were supposed to do, and I was very lucky and fortunate to serve with those guys. I definitely would do it again. I’d go back if I could with them. Great people. Fantastic people.”

He also praises the social support that he has received since arriving in Russia, adding that some of his “Serbian friends” who have signed a contract with the Russian military recommended that he do likewise.

Task & Purpose was unable to reach Puello-Mota by phone or email on Thursday.

This is the latest case of a U.S. military veteran going to Russia to support the Kremlin. Former Army Pfc. John David McIntyre, who was in the service for just two years, told Russian state-run media last year that he had defected to Moscow after going to Ukraine and collecting information on members of the International Legion.

Navy veteran Patrick Lancaster, who describes himself as a journalist, has also been a mouthpiece for Kremlin propaganda for years. Prior to Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Lancaster publicized an alleged attack by Ukrainian forces on Russian-separatist territory that analysts determined was staged.

The latest on Task & Purpose