Pavel Filatyev, who served in the 56th air assault regiment, recently published a 141-page damning account of his experiences on the frontline.
“We did not have the moral right to attack another country, especially the people closest to us,” he said.
After being evacuated from Ukraine with an eye infection, Mr Filatyev recuperated in Russia, which he then fled several weeks ago fearing for his safety.
Speaking to CNN from an undisclosed location, the former soldier gave a scathing critique of Vladimir Putin’s war.
“We were dragged into this serious conflict where we’re just destroying towns and not actually liberating anyone. All of that’s a lie. We’re simply destroying peaceful lives,” he told the US broadcaster.
Mr Filatyev, who became the first serving Russian soldier to publicly denounce the invasion, said he felt “guilty” about “being used as an instrument” by Moscow in a war he that does “not even bring Russia any benefit”.
He also spoke of how ill-equipped Russian troops were, saying his unit lacked adequate food, water and sleeping bags.
During his time in southern Ukraine, he said he witnessed his colleagues robbing laptops and other high-price goods from Ukrainian shops. Although he expressed his disapproval of their actions, he explained they were driven to steal by their “poor” quality of life back in Russia, a country he said had been destroyed by “corruption”.
Talking about his own future, he said he feared being put in prison or being killed by Russian security forces.
“I do not see any other way out. If it happens, it happens,” he said.