Russians Kill ‘Texas’ Man Who Fought Ukraine

Russell Bonner Bentley
Russell Bonner Bentley | Image by Russell Bentley/Instagram

A man with roots in Highland Park who joined the war in Ukraine on the side of Russian separatists has been killed, apparently by Russian soldiers.

Russell Bonner Bentley grew up affluent in Highland Park, but the self-described “black sheep” chafed against authority, which led him to take a more contrarian path. The 64-year-old native Texan was an army veteran whose colorful life included a third-party run for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota and two stints behind bars for trafficking marijuana.

Bentley expressed a mix of ethnic nationalist and communist political convictions, telling Rolling Stone, “I understood that Fidel [Castro] and Che [Guevara] were right to overthrow the foreign masters that had turned Cuba into a casino and bordello.”

Those foreign masters, Bentley concluded, more often than not included the leaders of the U.S. government. He expressed admiration for Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi, who was killed by a mob after U.S. military action overthrew his government in 2011, calling him “one of the greatest,” per an interview he gave to Rolling Stone in 2022.

Bentley’s distrust of the U.S. government was mirrored by his growing admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, joining two Facebook fan clubs for the Russian president, per a 2018 profile in Texas Monthly. In 2014, he decided to test his convictions and joined separatists in the Ukraine Donbas region as a foreign fighter.

He called himself “Texas,” pronounced “Tejas,” and often wore a straw cowboy hat adorned with a red Soviet star.

Bentley was a well-regarded machine gunner who graduated to the role of “information warrior” for the separatist cause. He created a media platform to promote Putin’s war for consumption in the Donbas and abroad, per Texas Monthly.

That all came to an end on April 8, when Bentley was detained in the breakaway Ukrainian city of Donetsk by Russia’s 5th Tank Brigade, as his Ukrainian wife Lyudmila claimed on social media, per The Wall Street Journal. Eleven days later, he was discovered dead.

Further details about how he was killed and why are vague, but Bentley’s death has sparked something of a row amongst Russian nationalists, who expressed anger at his death and at what they believe is a coverup by officials.

Aleksandr Khodakovsky, commander of the battalion that Bentley served in when he first arrived in the breakaway region of Ukraine, took to Telegram to register his outrage. Demanding “exemplary punishment of those who killed Russell Bentley,” Khdakovsky called out the military to render justice even if it meant going after its own, per WSJ.

A spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, Chad Roedemeier, said it was aware of Bentley’s death in Donetsk, stating, “Whenever we learn of the death of a U.S. citizen in Ukraine, we seek to get in touch with the family and provide all possible consular assistance,” per WSJ.

Though details surrounding the demise of the man known as “Texas” in Ukraine remain a mystery, his last words to Rolling Stone contain more than a hint of prescience.

“May God protect the innocent,” Bentley said. “And may the rest of us get everything that we deserve.”

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