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Russia's war in Ukraine draws a wealthy businessman from the boardroom to the battlefield

Ukrainian millionaire fights against Russia
Ukrainian businessman moves from the boardfroom to the battlefield to fight Russia 02:32

Near Kharkiv, Ukraine — Seva Kozhmyako has become adept at navigating the perilous roads through Ruska Luzova, in northeast Ukraine. He and the other men of the Charter battalion are hunkered down across the devastated village — freed from occupation, but still in Russia's firing line. 

Just a few months ago, Kozhmyako was a wealthy businessman. Now he's using his millions to fund the Charter battalion, a volunteer defense unit. 

He's convinced Ukraine has a clear advantage in its war with its giant neighbor to the east.

"Ukrainian people are different from Russians in one very important thing," he told CBS News correspondent Debora Patta: "Ukrainians love freedom."

Ukrainian businessman Seva Kozhmyako, who's using his money to fund a volunteer defense unit - and fighting with it - amid Russia's invasion of his country, speaks with CBS News in the village of Ruska Luzova, near Kharkiv, Ukraine. CBS News

"It's more or less safe, but you better watch your step anyway," he warns the CBS News team before they all sprint across an open road, hoping to avoid detection by Russian drones prowling over the village. 

Cloud cover was helping them that day. But everyone was still a little on edge.   

"Of course, we are all worried," he told Patta in the relative safety of a bomb shelter. "I am also worried. Everybody is worried here… everybody is afraid." 

If an army runs on its stomach, the Charter battalion is doing very well. CBS News saw food and weapons being prepared alongside each other. It was fish night.

As they ran back out into the open and down another road, Patta asked the businessman-turned-soldier if he was accustomed to the physical exertion.

He said he has run three marathons, including New York City's.

Russia flexes military muscle, tries to justify Ukraine invasion 04:54

Kozhmyako was dismissive of Russia's military. He bluntly labelled its reputation from before the invasion of his country — as one of the more formidable fighting forces in the world — "bulls***."

He showed Patta a huge crater in the ground and spat bitterly as he described it as evidence of the Russian military's tactics: Bombing from afar, tearing communities apart.

Kozhmyako knows the risks he's facing, and he doesn't pretend to be immune to them. But like so many other Ukrainians, he was more than willing to trade his former life for camouflage and a rifle. And he's willing to die for his country. 

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