August 17, 2015
Translated for Fort Russ by J. Arnoldski
Roman Chernyshev for ИА ЛIГАБiзнесIнформ
“On the blood of their soldiers”
… Later came another task, again neither by the ATO or the Ministry of Interior, but by party sponsors – “create a sabotage and reconnaissance group [DRG – rus.] in the battalion.” Then, the theme of sabotage and reconnaissance groups was really popular and there was even a rumor that our DRG’s are operating among “separatists” and cutting them up with knifes. That’s bullshit. The deputy-sponsors come and say to me: “Are you creating a DRG?” I say: “Of course not. Do you even know at all what that is? In order to make the people in a DRG work together on a subconscious level and understand each other on the go, they need to be trained for years.” They replied to me:
“You’re not a patriot. We’ll find someone who will make one.”
As a result, one officer from the battalion volunteered for the job. And then it turns out that he confused “sabotage and reconnaissance group” with “investigation and search activities.” So everything died down, but the sponsors reported in the media that “a sabotage and reconnaissance group has been created at the base of the ATO.”
In general, we served in this manner for several months up until the first rotation, and then we gathered ourselves to go for the second rotation to Kurakhovo. The battalion commander says: “You guys go alone, I’m not going. I have an assignment from the General.” An assignment is an assignment, so we went alone. Soon it became clear that there was no such assignment from the General. The battalion commander, ordered to the ATO, was vacationing in Sharm el-Sheikh [Egypt], and coordinated through Facebook.
Q.: What did you do in Kurakhovo district?
Sergey: We guarded the dam. But by astonishing coincidence, nearby was located a thermoelectric plant of one of the odious oligarchs. Coincidence? I think not, given that I never saw the written order. Command put forth a fait accompli – well, you guys have an order to work in the Donetsk region, so there’s no problem whatsoever with that check point near the thermoelectric plant. This is how the war is being conducted, so you understand.
Q.: To fight is what you really prepared for. Did you get the chance?
Sergey: We entered the ATO zone all loaded up. I don’t think anyone went out to defend bushes, drink, and loot. I decided to take 5-10 soldiers and bring them to the frontline position outside the Donetsk Airport so that they would at least feel a bit of what war is like. Otherwise, everyone drank too much.
Ilya: In war, a person is under constant emotional stress. It’s important not to sit idly so that the stress doesn’t turn into depression or, vice-versa, into inappropriate activity. To some extent it’s easier to fight than to be in constant state of readiness and wait to be deployed on an assignment.
Sergey: The practice of commanders at the ATO was such: either they’ll send you directly on wheels to the meet-grinder, or you’ll sit and defend the bushes on the secondary and tertiary lines. We ourselves looked for proper application. The understanding was that we had no single plan or coordination. And this despite the fact that we periodically participated in meetings, including those held at the HQ in the ATO.
Q.: How and why did you resign?
Sergey: I didn’t want to serve in a sluggish brothel with no combat missions for which we were ready and for which we had originally trained fighters. Fighting with alcoholic battalion commanders and putting up with a lack of guarantees from the central command, personnel policies, and the endless PR of the sponsors – this is not in our understanding of what fighting means.
Ilya: A few dozen fighters left. All of them informed the authorities of their decision beforehand. As expected, openly and honestly.
Sergey: Still “off the record,” we were told: so this is how it turns out; the normal officers are leaving, and the pussies are staying in the battalion. That’s how it is.
Q.: The party sponsors stayed with the battalion?
Sergey: It was said that for some time they ceased to sponsor the battalion. But in recent months, aid has been renewed. But that’s not the point: why do we need party, ideological battalions at all? Which state goals can justify them?
It’s impossible to gather villagers, take tractor drivers from their tractors, put guns in their hands, and await instant victories…In Slavyansk in springtime, 2014, my comrade was killed and at his funeral I resolved to return to the army. I went to his “office” and there they told me: “If you want to, then tomorrow. But really, do you need to? Here, people are writing streams of reports about what happened in Slavyansk.” Because there our groups have been simply betrayed and gave in to slaughter. For some reason, instead of throwing all resources into the army, the special forces, and finding smart people in the reserve, they started to carry out a senseless mobilization of people who had never held a weapon in their hands. And those who are on a special list at the SBU and the army – no one pulled up their data.
Q. What exactly is this special list?
Sergey: War veterans and experienced spetsnaz soldiers who have the experience of combat operations in hot spots around the world under their belt. They weren’t even summ No one among my friends from spetsnaz was invited… [Not ideologically reliable? It’s fitting considering a large share of security forces has been ‘lustrated’ – ed.] Instead, we started to create the wild paramilitary ideological battalions.
Ilya: And they gave the secret order: don’t touch these “wild cops.”
Sergey: They assign a five-times convicted person to be company commander or they turn a con artist and professional swindler into a battalion commander. He says that he’s a captain, so they give him epaulets just for his voice, yet we have people with two degrees, after military academy, and deputy colonels of spetsnaz, who are going to the ATO under the rank of police officers.
Ilya: The leaders of the ultra-right movements, repeat offenders, fraudsters, and just outright losers from peacetime have become battalion commanders. Anyone, just not those who have training and adequate experience. Yes, and the sponsors of the formations were often those who, just a few months before, served the prior “criminal authorities.” And here these hastily created divisions are thrown to the East…and then: Saur-Mogila, Ilovaysk…Then the battalion commanders, on their blood of their own soldiers and thanks to the money of sponsors, come into parliament. And they’ve abandoned their battalions. Is this not how it has turned out?
They tell us about Russian aggression. Then a question to our leadership: in half a year, how many [Russians] have been taken captive in this, as we say, war with Russia? 10 paratroopers, 2 spetsnaz and recently some major who took a wrong turn? And if there were someone else, then why would we exchange them so slyly? What kind of war is this?
Q.: Do you have a negative view of all volunteer battalions, or are there exceptions?
Sergey: The Right Sector (The Volunteer Ukrainian Corps, DUK – rus). Of course, this isn’t totally the case with them. A corps is bigger than a division, it can be 20 or 25 thousand people. In the best case there is a well-equipped and manned company of up to 130 people….But in general Right Sector is a very heterogeneous and mythologized organization, including by the Russian channels. And anyone and anybody tries to squeeze and climb in there. And then you have such situations like Mukhachevo.
Ilya: In the summer of last year, there was an official information that up to 30% of the personnel of volunteer formations was not at the location of their units. And that’s with weapons and militia ID’s. I personally held this paper in my hands for official use. A year has passed, and I can already say that, in general, there it also said that newly created police and territorial defense units in the ATO are not in their places of deployment and they are fulfilling tasks not assigned to them by anyone.
Sergey: And what do you want from hastily assembled battalions? In general, volunteer battalions in Ukraine are too exaggerated, politicized, and poorly trained. Overall, I can’t name a single volunteer battalion of which Ukraine can be proud for being an exceptionally trained and effective fighting unit. People just don’t know the truth.
Outside the Donetsk airport, 30,000 rounds of ammunition went flying in a week. A normal division could keep the defense for a month with this amount. But here they’re just shooting the sky from the trench: “Ribbon for ribbon of ammo, come on!” We don’t have an ammunitions factory in Ukraine. One was in Lugansk, but it “walked away.” Yet they’re complaining: “You understand, we’re patriots, but they’re not giving me ammunition to shoot the Moskal.”
The main Nazis turn out to be the main cowards
Q.: Putinist propaganda claims that the fight is with Nazism in Ukraine
Sergey: In the ATO zone there’s enough riffraff. One of my guys took part in a Nazi march at the base for which he almost got one in the face. I said: “My grandfather fought at Stalingrad – if I hear it again, I’ll tear off your head.” But the main “Nazis” turn out to be the main cowards. Costumed bullshit with tattoos who Sieg Heil for their selfies and who aren’t capable to fight for their beliefs, which, naturally, I don’t share.
Q. Was it often necessary to beat your fighters?
Sergey: I beat them.
Ilya: Here we need to distinguish between respect for the subordinate, senseless humiliation and harsh disciplinary process which prevents anarchy in combat operations.
Sergey: That’s the only way you could make a disciplined soldier from yesterday’s collective farmer. I had to beat them because they mocked captives. Although, by law, I had the right to prosecute them.
Q.: Maybe some more details here?
Sergey: I don’t want to make any problems for myself. I’ll say this: volunteer battalions quickly feel impunity when they get weapons. But I drove (“drove” in the sense of handling livestock – trans) my guys and I had at least some discipline, and in other battalions this is at times even encouraged.
Q.: Your words sound like a report on Russian television…
Sergey: Because they don’t talk about this here [in Ukraine]. These are our ‘patriots’, our ‘heroes of the nation’, they are ‘incapable’ of this.
In September, 2014, I went to the base of “Aidar” and my hair stood on end. Part of the battalion is simply an organized crime group. Melnichuk should be ‘hanged’. On Aidar’s list, there are 1200 people somewhere, but really 100 people are fighting while the rest are engaged in crime under the guise of a badge. It’s impossible to give such battalions a status. It was necessary to nip such things in the bud, and not wait when they set tires on fire in front of the Ministry of Defense. Do you know how another “celebrated” battalion carried out sweeps? They throw a grenade in the window and a grenade in the basement without looking. They don’t even leave cats alive.
Q. How do you appraise the level of command at the ATO?
Sergey: The command of the ATO is unprofessional. A security chief at an HQ of one of the sectors couldn’t even read a map. In October, 2014, when the ATO had already been going for half a year, the first joint meeting between the Interior Ministry, the UAF, and the SBU took place.
Ilya: Yes. How do you appraise a commander who says: “typographic map”? That’s more about maps, by the way. for our sweeps, they gave us the maps of the Soviet General Staff, in which a rail line was marked in the district where we worked. But on the ground, all that’s been left of it for already 30 years are decaying sleeping cars. In another instance, the groups were issued a Motorola for communication as an old man would get. For communication between our officers who went in different groups, we had our own radio station. Well, and a third was given: for communication with the commander of the scouts of the National Guard to whom we ran into…How can we talk about commanding when we didn’t have a unified communication system? This is a literal example of explaining “on your toes” what’s really happening there.
Q.: And general Muzhenko?
Sergey: On the conscience of Muzhenko are Donetsk airport, Debaltsevo, and Ilovaysk. Enough has been written and said about this man and his leadership talent without us. He’s the chief of the General Staff to this day…
Ilya: “The brain of the army” with a horizon of thought on the level of a commander of an individual battalion.
Q.: Do political sponsors pay extra for serving in their battalions?”
Sergey: The pay wasn’t bad, but the sponsors and not the state paid. Officers were paid an extra 1,500 to 5,000 dollars a month.
Q.: Can American instructors pull our army together?
Sergey: When was the last time Americans fought an equal? The Second World War. Any armed conflict in the past 30 years involving the USA was waged under an overwhelming superiority of America in the air and in precision weapons. I saw this in the Middle East and I know what I’m talking about. A group of their infantry doesn’t enter a combat zone before even the air has been purged. If there’s no cover, they generally refuse to work. The USA doesn’t fight like we do in Donbass. The Taliban took a base from them in Afghanistan, so they tried to storm it, and it didn’t work out, but the inevitable loss is unacceptable. So they struck it with a high-precision missile from an aircraft – that’s it. There’s no base, and no Taliban.
Ilya: In a TV show, an official from the Ministry of Defense asked the general of the UAF the question: Where did the 70% of the weapons, which only in 2014 were transferred to the army, go? Our tank colonels can’t operate a tank cannon. Right at the front, at Donetsk airport, the commander of one of the regiments of the Intelligence Division of the General Staff was compelled to teach fighters how to shoot a grenade launcher.
Q.: The question begs: were you on the Maidan?
Sergey: Why does the Maidan matter here? How is this connected with my ability and desire to fight for Ukraine? No, of course I remember: “He who doesn’t jump is a Moskal!” You can call me a vatnik (derogatory slang for people from Donbass and Russia- trans.) now. But, in my opinion, we’ve already jumped enough. A hurried jump to war.
Ilya: I was on the Maidan. I didn’t throw cocktails. I helped as I could, like many people from Kiev. And after the Maidan, I was in Donetsk, Lugansk, and in other cities. I passed through 22 road blocks of the DPR/LPR and met with one of the current “leaders” of the DPR. We wanted peace. But in the end, we got this murky war named with three letters.
Q.: Your forecast: what will happen with this war after a year?
Sergey: I can’t predict. I’ll tell you exactly that the situation in general doesn’t depend on us. Such a situation of low-intensity warfare is favorable to many on both sides – in terms of contraband, to those sitting in the trenches, to those writing off munitions and in terms of other delights of the “hybrid war.”
Ilya: Clearly, both sides are trying to underestimate their losses and exaggerate the losses of the enemy. The combat losses of UAF and other security forces is still subject to calculation. It’s most likely that they are understated two to two and a half times. But there are losses which are very difficult to assess. First of all, no kind of accounting has been conducted in the volunteer formations. Not of weapons, not of personnel. There were no logs of combat activities. They’ve tried to retroactively organize them for people already killed.
Q.: Are there any achievements of Ukraine which you can’t deny? What is your attitude towards volunteers?
Sergey: Yes, there are very idealistic people, and they really help the military, sometimes not even realizing that their assistance is not concretely needed by those divisions of marauders and alcoholics. But this is not the fault of volunteers. In the beginning the volunteer movement was welcome. But after a year and a half of war, it’s nonsense. Citizens are paying taxes and going to war, and the state is required to provide all that’s necessary to the military. We have a beautiful country, but a hideous state.
Ilya: I’ll add that not everything volunteers bring goes on the balance of the units. That is, it may be stolen. It’s nothing. You’re going for a rotation or demobilization and you take everything you can and that’s it.
Sergey: I don’t want to go chase after looters and carry out work for alcoholic battalion commanders.