Putin-Loving Texas Man Abducted in Eastern Ukraine—Allegedly by Russian Troops

The tragicomic tale of a down-on-his-luck Texan who reinvented himself as a renegade war hero in a fake Russian republic took an unexpected turn this week when he was allegedly abducted by Russian troops—after apparently being accused of being a CIA spy.

Russell Bentley, also known as “Texas,” is perhaps the last person one would expect to have pulled off cunning spycraft for the nearly 10 years he’s been living among Russian fighters in Ukraine’s occupied Donetsk region. A Dallas native with a conviction on drug charges back home, Bentley briefly seized international headlines back in 2014 when he was spotted in a cowboy hat with Russian fighters and spewing Kremlin propaganda about “Nazis” in Ukraine. He obtained Russian citizenship in 2020 after remodeling himself as a combat-vet-turned-“journalist” for Kremlin-controlled media.

News of his disappearance earlier this month largely went under the radar until his wife, Lyudmila Bentley, went public Tuesday with claims he’d been snatched and taken hostage by Russian troops.

“Russell was brutally detained on April 8,” Lyudmila Bentley wrote in a statement on Telegram. “I CALL ON EVERYONE to do EVERYTHING POSSIBLE to save my husband, our ‘Texas,’” she said, describing him as a “friend of Donbass and Russia.”

“Perhaps, there is not much time,” she said.

Russian propagandists have claimed Bentley vanished after approaching the site of recent shelling or mortar strikes, and one independent Russian news site said he’d been taking pictures of the damaged buildings. That detail led to a flurry of conspiracy theories about Bentley potentially being a mole.

On Wednesday, Bentley’s friends sought to quash those rumors, with his self-proclaimed “brother-in-arms,” identified only as Vasily, releasing a video to debunk claims that Bentley had been “filming something on his phone.”

After finding Bentley’s phone smashed, Vasily wrote, he was able to check it later, saying, “I didn’t find ANY PHOTOS or VIDEOS.”

Graham Phillips, another Westerner who linked up with Russian forces in eastern Ukraine and knew Bentley, issued his own statement Wednesday noting that “a small but active part of the Russian community is already writing against Texas, such as that he was an ‘American spy,’ etc.”

Bizarrely, after writing that such claims are “nonsense” and unfair since Bentley isn’t around to defend himself, Phillips himself went on to subtly trash the Texan native for filming military activity, calling it “illegal and suspicious” to do so.

But, he said, “I am hoping for the best, that our Texas is alive and well.”

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