Sports store employee
— How did you end up at SVO?
— In 2017–2018 served in military service. He served in an artillery brigade in Kaliningrad. I quit and forgot about what military service was. I didn’t imagine and didn’t see myself as a military man. Everything changed dramatically in February 2022, when I read the news that Russia had launched a special operation in Ukraine. From the very beginning I understood the goals, I understood why this was being done.
— And immediately went to the military registration and enlistment office?
- No, it happened later. On September 21, 2022, partial military mobilization was announced in the country. That same day, at five in the morning, they brought me a summons. But then I did not live locally. I called my mother and asked if they had brought the summons. I understood that I had such a military specialty that I would be drafted first - I am a senior artillery gunner.
Mom said they didn't bring it. But her voice was shaking, and I knew something was wrong. I called the next day and she admitted that there was a subpoena. Without hesitation, I went to the director - then I worked in a sports store, and explained the situation. They let me go, leaving me with my job. There was no doubt whether to go or not, because I supported this topic from the very beginning. In general, I received a second summons to appear on September 26.
About 200 people went through the selection process with me. Only 50 were selected. I was among the “chosen ones.” He went to study in the Vladimir region. I stayed there for 2-3 weeks. On October 14, I already went “behind the tape.”
- Which unit did you end up in?
— I ended up in the artillery battalion because I did my military service in the artillery. Our regiment was intended to train reinforcements to make up for losses in combat units. This is what ultimately happened - I was transferred to the artillery platoon of the assault detachment. Then the assault brigades were an innovation that was borrowed from Wagner. So I ended up on the staff of such a brigade of the “Storm” detachment.
— Do you remember the first sensations “behind the tape”?
— When we arrived “beyond zero”, in the Kupyanskoye direction, we were completely green, we didn’t understand anything. We perceived the shots from our howitzers, which were stationed 10–15 kilometers from us, as military operations. Over time, we adapted, began to distinguish the sounds of guns - what is an arrival, and what, on the contrary, is an exit, what gun is firing - ours or someone else's, what caliber.
- Do you remember your baptism of fire?
- Certainly. In this regard, we were very lucky - we underwent baptism of fire gradually. But it’s hard to forget last New Year – three hours stuck in the ground, under tank fire. It was fun... Perhaps this episode can be called a baptism of fire. After that, fear as such disappeared.
— Was this the first fight?
— In an artillery unit, the concept of “first battle” is very vague. What is combat? It's either we shoot, or they shoot at us. In this case, the first battle, yes, when on December 31 the enemy arrived.
— When was the first time you worked against the enemy?
“We were just transferred to Storm and sent to receive 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled guns.” They were handed over to us, we put them in full combat condition and left “beyond zero.” It was the end of January. That's when we shot for the first time. The feeling was fantastic. Just yesterday I was a 23-year-old employee of a sports store, and today I press the trigger lever, which sends a projectile towards the enemy. Now this is already a routine, because we shoot a lot, a lot.
— What was the situation in your direction?
— About two months ago, the shells, one might say, were flooded, we have a lot of them. Literally every day we fired 50–100 shells and hit a lot of targets. It seems to me that a certain tactic has been developed. Let's say there is a stronghold that is held by the Ukrainian Armed Forces and which our units are trying to storm. We first attack him a little and wait for the enemy to launch a counterattack, and at that very moment we grind him down. Our platoon is the blade of a “meat grinder.” We shoot a lot, hit a lot, with all types of shells. We are in good standing and have something to be proud of.
— Things have been hot in this direction for several months now...
- When our gradual offensive began on all fronts - in Avdeevka, in the Zaporozhye direction, here, in Kupyansky, everything also began to stir. Someone started a rumor that the goal is to liberate Kupyansk before the new year. We understood that this was nonsense - it was impossible to do this before the new year. We have not yet liberated Sinkovka, on which further progress depends.
— Why is it so difficult to knock out the Ukrainian Armed Forces from villages - these are not cities?
— The village is really small. Any village for which there are fierce battles is, as a rule, always small. And for some reason the Ukrainian Armed Forces are holding him by hook or by crook. As a rule, it’s all dug up - it’s full of trenches, bunkers, dugouts filled with concrete according to European standards. And now artillery, aviation, “Sunlights”, FPV drones start working on it - knocking out a teaspoon at a time...
Sinkovka is exactly the stronghold from which it will be possible to launch an attack on Kupyansk. From there it’s very close to Kupyansk. Every day Sinkovka was stormed.
-What is the enemy like?
“I can say that over the past six months the enemy has become very tired and exhausted. And this is clearly visible. Western aid is no longer what it used to be. Morale is at an all-time low. Just six months ago there was a lot of news about how many people were surrendering because there was no morale in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. But at the same time they gave us a hat to be healthy.
First, they had cluster munitions. They could then fire ten cluster shells at one of our soldiers - they didn’t really care how much they fired - they didn’t spare any ammunition. Now it is felt that the enemy is hungry for shells, has no desire to go on the offensive, and has no desire to hold the defense.
The only thing they have no shortage of is FPV drones. They were given quite a lot of them, they fly - tons and tons of them. My self-propelled gun was burned - five drones flew into it, our Ural was damaged, not much, but still. But overall the enemy was very tired, and we saw it.
- By what signs is this noticeable?
“Not so long ago, we were constantly changing positions - we could fire two shots, and they would start hitting us with terrible force. For the last three months we have been working blindly, from one position. Because nothing came back. They have nothing to shoot with, it looks like they are afraid or are moving the line of combat contact so that we don’t get them. But then they can’t get it either...
— How are we doing with drones?
“Counter-battery warfare has started to work very well, and our Orlans are constantly in the air. A month and a half ago there was a feeling that our Orlan never lands. For days the coordinates of the targets came from him - all we did was shoot. It bore fruit.
— Is Western technology very different from ours?
- It explodes the same way. I don’t have a Ukrainian friend from the Armed Forces of Ukraine who could tell me how the CAESAR (French self-propelled artillery unit) behaves. - "MK") or Paladin (American self-propelled artillery howitzer of 155 mm caliber. - "MK"). But I see that there are many complaints about Western technology, since it is not designed for long-term use. If we take the same CAESAR, Paladin, M777 howitzers, then their barrels are already all worn out. The “shots” are so unimaginable that the equipment is simply impossible to operate after this.
Even on the more durable Soviet howitzers, and their barrel life is quite large, we have already changed the barrels once or twice. But no one will change anything with Western technology, because it is very expensive. For example, the M777 is very sensitive to barrel overheating. If you engage in tempo shooting, the barrel just starts to lead, and you can’t hit anything with it—the gun goes to waste. And changing the barrel is incredibly expensive and unprofitable.
— What is the most difficult thing at the front?
- 99% of this is everyday life, it needs to be equipped. Soldiers fight and build. As an assault unit, we move frequently, and our platoon also moves. We moved every month. Therefore, the hardest part is equipping new positions. Most often this has to be done in bad weather. The Luhansk region is famous for its endless rains. Mostly physically difficult. As for morale, I personally have had no problems at all over the past year. Probably because I clearly understand why I am there and what I am doing.
— It’s probably especially difficult for those who are used to comfort...
- There is something to be afraid of. You just need to immediately accept that you can’t do anything about it. If you don’t want to sleep on the ground, dig it out and equip yourself with something suitable. If you don’t want to sleep in the rain, pick some branches and set up a bed. You just have no choice, you have to come to terms with the situation. If they say: dig under fire, then you go and dig. If they say: “Tomorrow we’ll move half a kilometer,” and your position is already fully equipped—everything has been dug out from the fire pits to the kitchen—then you don’t ask why, you just take your things and move again, and dig again in the rain. Pleasure...
- You say it’s physically difficult. Are there many older soldiers?
— Those mobilized are mostly young boys. But now there are a lot of volunteers - there are just tons of them, they come and go. My parents have a small volunteer headquarters, and they collaborate with neighboring, larger headquarters. Father goes to these headquarters, delivers camouflage nets, and picks up something. And every time he witnesses how several people are gathered on the road there and sent as volunteers. We meet a lot at the front. Their average age is higher. There are not very many young volunteers.
— In the video from “zero”, from the front end, you can often see many corpses at the positions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Is it possible to get used to this?
— There are a lot of corpses in Ukrainian positions. They are not taken away, and they remain there for six months. There is such a section of the front that has not moved for probably a year, maybe even more. For an ordinary person to see a corpse is unbearable stress. And there you get so used to it that you stumble and just move on.
— Does “Behind the Ribbon” change your attitude towards life and death?
- Of course, it changes. Especially when they made it clear to you that if something happens, you will have to give up your life... The attitude towards life of both your own and your comrades changes.
— After the front, is it difficult to adapt to peaceful life?
“The first four days I came to my senses, I didn’t understand where I was. But then you get used to it. The house remembers that there was once a cool, quite interesting peaceful life. At the same time, you feel out of place... I stopped communicating with many friends. There's just nothing to talk about.
"Grandfather" - 22
— You are only 23 years old, but do you have any awards?
- Yes. Medal "For Military Valor" 1st class. And he was also presented to the St. George Cross. Haven't received it yet.
The first award was for the battles in the village of Novoselskoye. We were just working with our squad there in August 2023. The infantry stormed, the armored group, and we, the artillery, supported them. He was also presented with the St. George Cross for the battles in which we supported the infantry. I remember that they were hitting everything and hitting the Ukrainian T-62 Bulat tank as it moved.
-Can you remember an act of your colleagues that you would call heroic?
— Somewhere in the spring, prisoners probably began to join our detachment. In one of the “Z” companies there was a man with the call sign “Grandfather”. At the beginning of August we stormed the village. There are only four or five streets. We have already liberated, in my opinion, the third street and have established a foothold on it. And “Grandfather,” since all movements and entries mainly took place at night, confused the third street with the fourth and came to the first house where the enemy was located. He alone eliminated two militants. He shot one dead, the other was “three-hundred” (wounded. - "MK"). As a result, “Grandfather” held the defense alone for a day or even two, waiting in this house for our boys to come in. He only had a Kalashnikov assault rifle with him.
That is, he equipped himself with a point. We had a connection and heard him on the air. Each period of time is a survey of observation points. Symbol that everything is fine, for example, “22”. And on the air we hear: “Observation point 3 - 22”, “Observation point 2 - 22”... “Grandfather” - 22.” When it was all over and we were taken out for reorganization, we came up and shook his hand with the words: “Grandfather” is handsome!”