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A former member of the Russian legislative assembly is now fighting with Ukrainian troops against Russia.

Speaking to CNN, Ilya Ponomarev, a Putin critic from Siberia who served in Russia’s State Duma from 2007 to 2016 and has lived in Ukraine since then said he felt he "needed to defend" Ukraine's capital city Kyiv.

“What else could I do under those circumstances?” the dissident said. “When Putin’s forces were advancing, we needed to defend the country. We needed to defend the capital.”

Ponomarev was the only lawmaker to vote against Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea in 2014, which caused him to be exiled from the country.

He also spoke out against government corruption and in 2012, led anti-government street protests while in Russia.

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Ponomarev added had been warned about fighting for Ukraine and told he was on a Russian hit list but felt optimistic that Putin would lose the war. “The reality is that he is losing the war," he said.

"And I think that the Ukrainian army and the Ukrainian people would not stop before Ukraine certainly will be free. And I believe it will.”

On Russian troops he said "they want to spread terror" but that "the Ukrainian nation is united like never before" meaning Russia will continue suffering defeats and he renewed calls for a no-fly zone.

The invasion of Ukraine has entered its 50th day. Ukrainian president Zelensky has called for an oil embargo on Russia and the UK has sanctioned another 206 individuals linked to Russia. US president Biden has also announced a further $800m package of military support to Ukraine.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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