Murz: “Lieutenant’s standard nightmare” + “Debaltsevo operation: inside view” + “Errors in reorganizing Novorossiya armies”
From the translator:
This piece combines two articles on four connected subjects, and talks about the problems in transitioning the NAF from multiple militia groups into two army corps. In some ways, it could be seen as a counterpart to the piece about UAF problems. Since it was written, things in the NAF reportedly improved, but, as they say, “war will show”.
Written by Murz (source links below). Translated by Tatzhit. Posted 8/15/15.
Table of Contents:
= About Andrei
Morozov, AKA Murz, AKA kenigtiger
= “Lieutenant’s standard nightmare” (about the bureaucracy NAF were forced to accept)
= “Debaltsevo operation: inside view” (about the consequences of this bureaucracy)
= “Errors in reorganizing the Novorossiya armies” (why these consequences happened)
“Who is Andrei
Morozov AKA Murz AKA kenigtiger”
Morozov AKA Murz is fairly well-known as a communist/leftist activist
with strong independent views.
Some years ago, he successfully attacked pro-Western opposition rallies
(most notably, by bombarding them with gerbils he claimed were infected
with rabies), but fought the government just as vigorously, eventually
receiving a three-year jail term for firing a sawed-off shotgun at
Putin’s “Edinaya Rossiya” party regional HQ (unoccupied due to nighttime).
Basically, while many question his sanity, there’s little doubt about
his sincerity and willingness to fight for what he believes in.
He first went to fight for Novorossiya in May, but his history of being
jailed as an anti-Putin activist led to him being detained as a probable
double agent and, after some rough treatment, being hostage exchanged
to the Kiev nationalists, who in turn kicked him out to Russia. Many
made fun of the whole mess, but having recovered from his ordeal, Murz
came back and successfully joined the NAF in late August.
[Murz in Donetsk, on right]
After the winter campaign, he published a long article detailing the
blunders NAF have made in their reorganization to a regular fighting
force, and huge problems they faced due to it; the story below is an
intro to the subject.
“Lieutenant’s standard nightmare”
Every time when managing a communications platoon [in the newly
reorganized Novorossiya Armed Forces] leads me to fill another form, I
remember the bright sunny day of September 1st, by Zerkal’noe, where
DPR repair crews were collecting abandoned nationalist vehicles.
Then we took, as I recall, a battery of four “Gvozdika” self-propelled howitzers. Not
damaged at all, with shells in combat racks and cans of fuses on the
floor of the crew compartments. Vehicles were standing in a grove, with
sheathed barrels, simply abandoned by their crews. I did not see any
trace of serious fighting around there. The overall impression was that
their base was simply hit by arty or MLRS, which landed on HQ trucks and
an ammo dump in the next grove over – whereupon the soldiers simply
deserted, and locals nicked the vehicle batteries.
The vehicles were being collected by motley crews of militiamen dressed
in random camo and armed with any weapons they could find. Commanders
knew their men by callsigns, not names, all documentation fit in one USB
drive or notebook, and fuel or ammo were distributed based on oral
Captured Ukrainian conscripts were attaching towing cables, and the wind
was tossing papers around the field – perfectly filled out
documentation of the Ukrainian army, thrown out of the HQ trucks by the
ragtag victors. Invoices for fuel, forms, accounting books…
Every time. Every time I pick up another f*cking piece of paper, I see
in front of me that bill for forty liters of machine oil, lying on top
of an enormous pile of paper that marked the place where the advancing
militiamen threw all the useless stuff out of the crew compartments and
rode off on the captured armor.
“Debaltsevo operation: inside view”
“A miracle, Mother! Their ships were even worse than ours!” (C) Alexei
Orlov telling Catherine the Great about the victory at Chesma.
When I see phrases like “NAF command did not even have to commit
reserves” in online articles about Debaltsevo, I remember one night near
there, in a grove by railroad tracks.
Two BMPs standing by,
our own “duo”, the last running IFV left in the battalion at the time,
and a “penny” attached from a neighboring brigade. We were unloaded from
trucks, which more or less implied enemy arty was still active past
There were less than a company of us. Thirty
dismounted tankmen from our battalion and three dozen volunteers – just
arrived from Lugansk recruiting office, and given rifles in front of me,
less than a day before.
What shooting range? What training sessions? People that raised their hands in response
to “Who here has served in the army?” were made squad and section
leaders. That’s it.
The officer that accompanied us showed us
which way to go, told us the callsign of the commander of the group we
were supposed to replace at the frontline, and added: “Signal “We’re
Friendy” – green flare. But I have no flares or flare guns to give you” .
Not one PKM in our entire gang. Not a single underbarrel
grenade launcher. RPG-18s, about my age, which misfire two out of three
times, and a pair of RPG-7s, which the gunners were taught to use
literally on the way.
When the next day, after passing through
“Prizrak” lines, we got to the Ukie positions, we found corpses from a
“reinforcement company” just like ours. Only they were “dismounted”
artillerymen. They weren’t killed by terrible Polish mercenaries and US
Marines. They were killed by UAF soldiers under command of a conscripted
Tell me more about “untouched reserves”…
I was there, in
Sanzharovka and Debaltsevo. I fought on the side of the LPR, in the
“August” battalion. This is not a compilation of texts from the
internet. I saw everything with my own eyes.
Concerned citizens who wish to tell me how I’m harming the common cause
with this story – take a hike. I’m not saying anything that the enemy
doesn’t know already.
Those who want to tell me that I’m an alarmist and a panic-monger are welcome to join me on my next trip to Novorossiya.
I am writing this because I want us to win this war, and do so with
minimal casualties. I realized that I must write this text when I
returned from Novorossiya and found the Internet flooded with a wave of
triumphant reports from the warzone, accompanied by completely misplaced
euphoria about an easy victory.
Two articles by Vlad Shurygin – “Turning Point” and “Victory” – also
played a role, as the degree of euphoria grew very visibly there. From “command
had to resort to unconventional solutions to replenish the battlegroups
by Debaltsevo. Reinforcement companies for advancing groups were formed
from HQ and logistics staff” in the first to “NAF command did not even have to commit reserves” in the second. Classic propaganda, for which soldiers have always paid with their lives.
“Errors in reorganizing the Novorossiya armies”
My daily nightmare never materialized, but it was close.
The main systemic problem of UAF military reorganization was that,
first, everything was done by the worst patterns from the worst
times of the Soviet Army*, and second, everything was done as if the army was not going to go into battle for at least a year or two.
To begin with, someone sent the NAF the organization tables
for infantry brigades, combined into corps, and other attached units.
Everyone was told to quickly fill those slots! Those who do not agree
would be left without Voyentorg**. Mozgovoi*** disagreed and, as it turned out, chose correctly.
And Voentorg cast their mighty spells, and NAF got a lot of
artillery and tanks.. It did not even occur to that “someone” that without
well-functioning infrastructure and a steady supply of fuel and spare
parts, any number of tanks would have very limited military value.
The fact that without good communication, tight unit cooperation, and
professional officers, artillery is simply a danger to one’s own troops
was also forgotten somehow.
[Pictured: undamaged DPR tank that got stuck crushing a bunker and
wasn’t pulled out for days – see section on tow ropes, in the end]
Everything could have been done more intelligently. Choose the
more reasonable “Che Guevaras”, make each responsible for a section of
the front, and give each battlegroup a [Voyentrog] representative to
keep track of the use of delivered supply. In the rear, establish major
repair bases combined with training centers.
Allow company and battalion commanders to recruit people and test them
at the front lines. “Che” has a tank crew? Great, let them be sent to
said rear base – to learn, pass tests, receive a tank. A
_completely_battle_ready_tank_, spare parts for which could be ordered /
received with a simple phone call to a repair base, which also has all
the experts for tank repair and maintenance.
The people who should be responsible for planning five to ten moves
ahead did not even plan for two or three. No one foresaw that it’s
impossible to form working brigade HQs over a couple months. No one
foresaw that the training of tank crews requires a lot of fuel,
ammunition, spare parts.
When filling the official brigade TOEs, the existing “insurgent” units
were simply written in, and the rest was filled with people who came “off the street”. New people were not trained or exposed to combat. The
result – heavy losses in the first days of fighting, and mass desertions
“The losses of the 3rd Brigade by Uglegorsk are quite serious. Mostly
the newbies for whom this battle was their first and their last. I can
not tell you the exact number yet. Approximately – up to 300 KIA on our
side and over 1000 Ukies.
Fierce fighting, worse than the airport.”
These are not my words, this is Evgenii Kryzhin
from DPR. And as I’ve heard, they are better organized than us.
only in Uglegorsk, but by Redkodub and Chernukhino as well, we lost
hundreds of our soldiers. The bloated units recruited in the time of
relative peace quickly shrank to the sizes which the HQs were actually
capable of commanding effectively.
Also, it became clear very quickly that the brigade and battalion HQs
are unable to participate in combat organization in any meaningful way.
Combat groups were formed from whatever was available at the rear, and
after arriving at the frontlines were directly controlled from the corps
headquarters; lower-level HQs focused only on attempts to provide fuel,
ammunition, and at least some reinforcements.
The command also failed to foresee the simplest consequences of
“forming a contract army with salaries” in the context of economic ruin.
Naturally, a lot of the people that joined simply wanted to sit out the
war and do as little and possible. Food, money, lodging – what’s not to
like about army service?
Fighting? Nah, we won’t fight. If they give us an armored vehicle – we will not go. It will break down at the right moment.
Basically, a ton of armor and gear was dead weight simply because it was
issued to people who did not want to fight. [DPR medic linked below has the
exact same complaint, BTW.]
“Field testing” and background checking of new recruits at
republic-wide level was impossible to establish quickly. Individual
“Che Guevaras”, on the other hand, controlled a battalion at most and
constantly sent people to the frontlines, so they knew who’s capable of
what pretty soon.
But NAF’s new management worked by the book and did not give a f*ck. The desired checkboxes in the reports were ticked.
So, in the end, the most motivated recruits were killed off and the less motivated fled, leaving the army with significant gaps in the front
and rear units, and spreading various rumors about “bloody meatgrinder”
and “attitude towards people as cannon fodder”…
So f*cking what? Command can always assemble reinforcement companies out
of supply staff and valuable professionals, who took so long to train
up. And make some real meatgrinders. We were working our as*es off,
teaching people to shoot the cannons for three months – let’s send them
to assault a city as infantry. The result is “a little predictable” ©?
Well, we still have tankers without tanks. Let’s try to throw them there
If you want the same harsh truth from someone else’s mouth – read the report of the DPR medic
. Limited usefulness of masses of vehicles with no spare parts.
permanently in the state of “scary-looking tractors”, i.e. even the HMGs
on the turret are not working. Field repairs? Out of the question.
I’m not saying the terrible words “diligently check and service
equipment before transferring it to the front.” Ok, we got what we got.
Well, give us parts to fix it. People waited for spare parts for weeks,
months. Hunted them down, dug in burnt tanks in attempts to find the
needed pieces. I could easily shoot a gripping action-adventure film
“Indiana Jones and the Fuel Filters” at no additional cost.
Needless to say, the first time I saw a “Technical description and
instruction manual” for any vehicle was at the headquarters, already in
the middle of the offensive.
Prior to that, and before the arrival of volunteer instructors, the only
source of sacred knowledge about repairing combat vehicles were PDF
files, which the author of this text printed by the hundreds of sheets,
as long as any toner and paper remained.
In the end, after large losses, unmanageable brigades and
battalions that theoretically had dozens of tanks and IFVs (which were
really left in the rear staging areas, often due to easily fixable
issues), split up into combat groups of 20-200 people, each with a few
armored vehicles, controlled by the LPR Army HQ directly.
When the 4 remaining working tanks of our battalion entered Debaltsevo,
the LPR commander-in-chief personally assigned each one to assault
Check how many tanks must be in a tank battalion. That’s right. By the
end of the operation, we had 10% of vehicles still running and manned by
crews willing to fight. After taking Debaltsevo, some of these crews
left with comments like “Screw this damned circus!”.
In short, the same results could have been achieved with a more
reasonable approach, which I have described above. We would have lost
far fewer people, but … someone needed TOE tables, rank insignia, unit
formations three times a day, checkboxes in reports and other BS.
Instead of judiciously applying the principle of “No execution of orders
– no ammunition and fuel”, the army was built on a Mount Everest of
paperwork, and a template that seemed to expect a lead time of several
years. And the bastards in charge of this had to have known that they didn’t
have that time.
Oh, yes. Just in case someone does not know. The command planned to
complete the encirclement of Debaltsevo in a couple of days. The same
amount of time was allotted for mopping up the encirclement. The degree
of isolation from reality, apparently, was so huge that they thought
that they had real full-blooded Russian army corps staffed with
experienced professionals under their command.
I would also like to address the subject of “Buryat battalions”, ” Buryat tankmen ” and the concept of “The Russian troops are the ones fighting, and militia simply creates a smokescreen around them”, in general.
Guys, I would be very glad and happy if Russian army really fought
there, and the militia stood aside and applauded. I would be very happy
if the Russian army repeated the August “surgical strike” and cut off
Debaltsevo salient without our participation. But alas. Alas, alas,
alas. All this was done not by the Russian army, but the militia, buried
under a pile of paperwork which allegedly contributed to its transformation
into an efficient army. And because of this, everything was
accomplished with tremendous losses, which could have been avoided if
the NAF army was not reorganized by an obsolete template.
Alas, in all of my time fighting and traveling between combat
positions, I did not happen to see regular Russian army in the winter
campaign. Some specialists? Yes, volunteers. Individual vehicle crews?
Possibly. But tank battalions … Or any battalions fighting as normal
army units – that I did not see. Nope.
Maybe, at the end of the operation the command have finally lost
faith in their abilities and chose to “call a friend”. I do not know. I
would love to see the Russian army in action, but alas, they weren’t
there. At least on the LPR side of the front.
“THEN HOW DID YOU WIN IN THE END?”
Very common question, you know. “If it was as bad as you say, how did you manage to win?”
Strelkov explained militia victories in Slavyansk, when the balance of power was much worse, as follows:
We won almost all the first clashes without losses on our side, and
with losses for them. It is possible to explain this as a coincidence
once or twice, each case separately. But all together, it is hard to
explain by anything other than a miracle. Constant failures gave UAF the
impression that they were fighting against some super-soldiers.”
I, in general, also believe that magic was involved, both in the summer
and now in the winter. This magic spell was called “Idontgiveas*it”.
Who and how to cast this spell onto a huge number of UAF soldiers and
officers over the last spring and summer – I do not know, but it worked
well. Back then, enemy artillery was always hitting off-target, columns were moving
without advance guard, coordination between units and within units –
between tanks and infantry – was absent.
Nationalist soldiers were left to their own devices and simply
hung around, waiting for an a*skicking from the militiamen – who
actually gave a sh*t, and were trying to be on the offensive as often as
was possible. Then the Russian army intervened, made Ilovaisk and all
that, and it was all good.
But (suddenly!) at the beginning of our winter offensive it
turned out that the enemy side now had a significant number of people
who gave a sh*t. Our propaganda insists that on the other side
there are only three kinds of people – conscripts who are driven into
battle by force, Nazzies who force them to go to the frontlines but
really are dumb cowards themselves, and also Polish / Islamic / etc mercenaries, from which we can expect at least some resistance.
The reality turned out to be that, in addition to all the above types,
the enemy frontline included significant numbers of people who gave a
I doubt that the source of that determination was their burning
love for Poroshenko, Obama or some other political leader. Motivation
may be different – from revenge for their fallen comrades to protecting
their families from the onslaught of “Muskovite monsters”. I do not know
if they would actually fight to the death, but they quite confidently
held out in many places, at least until they were staring down the
barrel of something like our “big sniper rifles” – T-64 or a T-72.
It’s these people that stumped our offensive. While our
preliminary bombardment rumbled, usually somewhat off-target, they sat
in bunkers and waited. When the arty was over, they got out and forced
our attacking infantry to stop with small arms fire, then hit it with
mortars, automatic grenade launchers, etc. Textbook.
The ones who gave a sh*t were in the tanks that counterattacked us when we were closing the encirclement.
All things considered, we had the same problems and mess as they
did, and we won due to the fact that we had more people who gave a
sh*t. And these people tried to somehow deal with the mess. Repaired
vehicles, learned to fight, brought medical and technical help. And the
chaos on our side slowly receded. And in the end, it happened like in
the epigraph – their ships became worse than ours.
But this was after the first failures and losses, after the collapse of
beautifully drawn battleplans, and after units disintegrating into
individual combat groups clustered around still-running vehicles. In
most cases, those were well-coordinated groups of volunteers who had
experience from summer and fall fighting, joined by the newbies who
survived and did not desert.
For a while, the headquarters wondered – “What happened? Why are you
dilly-dallying so long?” Then they realized that the war is going quite
differently than what they previously drew on the maps. From the web of
internal military and political intrigue of the “truce” period, from the
mountains of paper, arose the real fighting forces that could be used –
combat groups of 20 to 200 people at most, with a few combat-ready
armored vehicles, that were commanded directly from the LPR Army
headquarters, as passing the orders through mid-level HQs was
questionable – they could not coordinate the actions of all these
groups, all intermingled at different places of the frontline, and thus
only delayed relaying the order. Their main function ended up being
logistics coordination, supply of ammunition, and, if possible,
organizing rest for the soldiers.
It was these fighting groups that, instead of “paper” battalions and
brigades, chipped away at the enemy defenses. When they managed to
organize artillery support it even started working, more or less. The
appearance of tanks in critical sectors also helped. And so, instead of
rapid offensive and a mop-up over one week, we got three weeks of
hardcore insanity. In the end of which we emerge victorious, spitting
blood through our smile. The enemy is down on the mat, we sit beside
him, gently exhaling and counting broken ribs.
A separate key role, as I understand it, was played by the complacency in the Ukrainian headquarters
. “All is well, all is just dandy!” tune was played the top to
subordinates, as well as from the bottom up – and so they completely
missed the point when the Debaltsevo “pocket” situation finally went
The victory in the battle for Debaltsevo was very difficult and
bloody for the NAF. Playing down system-wide errors means losing for
certain next time. Euphoria, self-glorification and
underestimation of the enemy’s command can lead a repeat of 1942 in
WWII, when after a successful winter counteroffensive near Moscow, the
overambitious Soviet attack on Kharkov led to a complete disaster and
over a quarter million casualties. In the case of [small] Novorussia,
this can lead to irreparable losses of trained personnel and be the
beginning of an end.
WHAT DO WE DO?
The best option for NAF is to focus on training units in small local
operations, capturing favorable ground and gathering intelligence. If
the UAF attack first, we’ll have a chance to inflict a decisive defeat
on them. If NAF try to carry out another ambitious operation in the
spring, it may well result in defeat.
As I’ve said, Ukies lost at Debaltsevo in part due to singing
“All is well, all is just dandy” both ways throughout the chain of
command, in a self-supporting cycle. If we start singing the same, we
will lose. And we have already started singing, more or less.
The winners, in the rank of colonel or higher, gave themselves a bunch
of medals and continued as before, living in the world of paper reports
and useless inspections.
What can we do – ordinary people, company-level command, sergeants and
privates? Prepare for the worst, without looking at the misplaced
optimism of superiors and euphoric propaganda online. Find gear and,
most importantly, communication equipment. Teach people. Constantly, all
the time we got until next round. And, of course, try to somehow
reverse the situation with the supply of spare parts and fuel. Otherwise
– we’re done for.
We can maybe spend the spring sitting on the defensive, fighting local
skirmishes – although even that is not certain. But summer will not pass
without a fight, for sure.
Anyone who tells you – “you are not needed there, they need only military professionals and specialists” – spit them in the eye.
We need those who give a sh*t. If you do – you’ll learn
everything you need and then perform your mission no worse than the
Such cases ©.
THIS TRANSLATION IS SEVERELY CUT DOWN. SOME EXCERPTS FROM FULL PIECE
By the way, another thing that really destroys the soldier’s spirit – constant truces with the aim of “Make peace now and go back into Ukraine
“. The commanders try to say that no, it’s all garbage, papers,
formalities … “What are we fighting for? Why is Crimea worthy of being
a part of Russia, but Donbass, who sheds blood for this right, is not?
Does Putin care about the Russian people, or only about cash? “
Artillery.There was lots of artillery, artillery was everywhere. At the
height of the offensive, there were even traffic jams on some streets
that consisted entirely of “Grads”.
However, Shurigin, who’s so proud of the “lunar landscape by Debaltsevo”
reveals the real usefulness of this enormous firepower with one
“The apotheosis of war for me was an entire regiment of “Grad” MLRS supporting an attack of an assault platoon…”
All the war buffs have already noticed the problem. If an “assault
platoon” has to be supported with an “entire regiment of “Grads”” – and
that’s about 15 vehicles – that means that there no corrected howitzer
fire, or barreled artillery work whatsoever. Instead of e.g.
coordinating a platoon of Grads on enemy positions and a platoon of SPHs
hitting hardened targets, often enormous numbers of MLRS were used, and
were still largely useless against prepared fortifications.
Instead of checking vehicles before sending them to us, we got
everything at random, from batteries to walkie-talkies to tanks
“straight from storage”. As a result, I was absolutely not surprised
when, after tanks constantly towing each other, the unit only had one
non-torn tank tow rope left by the outbreak of hostilities. ONE TOW
ROPE. In the whole tank battalion. By the outbreak of hostilities. And
we did not get replacements. There were none available.
Full piece was translated by Kazzura / wintersodom, here:
See source pages for a plethora of links:
SEE A VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH MURZ, TALKING ABOUT THE SAME EVENTS SOME TIME LATER:
* Author probably means pre-WWII Soviet army, which focused very heavily
on the numbers of vehicles and planes, without providing adequate spare
parts for them and training for the crews. As a result, on paper
Soviets had nearly 3x more tanks and 2x more planes than Germans, but
only a small fraction of that number were actually combat effective.
** Euphemism for weapons supply from across Russian border – by now, the
vast majority from state-affiliated power groups. Also a bit from
Abkhazia, nationalist parties, oligarchs, etc.
***In Debaltsevo, Mozgovoi’s under-equipped brigade did not make
spectacular gains, but did not suffer large losses either, and
coordinated the actions of other units due to having a working
communications and command system.