We left Comrade Krieger last time 37 km from Kiev proper, freezing in a sniper nest on the roof of an abandoned shopping center.
After our night on the roof and our morning spent drinking tea, our unit linked up with a SOBR unit (hard-hitting Spetznaz SWAT equivalents) and some OMON people (also a kind of internal police SWAT unit) and began to prepare for an operation further along the main road to start de-mining operations.
We were told to provide cover for the convoy as it inched forward, and to relay information back to command.
We were really in no condition to watch over them because we were so chilled and tired out and we seriously doubted that we’d be able to offer them any effective support. But, orders are orders. As we watched our units roll down the long and straight street, I got on the line with my commander warning him that there was movement further down the road. It was unclear who was moving around and why, but most of the people were dressed in civilian clothes and there were only a few visible rifles. My warnings caused the convoy to pause. But it was decided to go ahead with the de-mining operation, despite the risk. I’ll never understand why those civilians had, for some reason, decided to go about their daily affairs in the middle of an active war zone. Not only was the town a wreck, but it was littered with unexploded ordinance that we hadn’t had a chance to clean up yet. It was surreal to see fully-armored soldiers making their way casually forward where completely unarmed civilians boldly went about their business.
The next day, we finally got a chance to work on our living conditions. We insulated our makeshift HQ and got our hands on some warm blankets, which helped immensely. And then, the day after, the mobile kitchen arrived, which was a welcome sight indeed. Even our dry bread rations had run out at that point and we had been sipping vodka to stay warm and keep our energy up.
I’ll spare you the details of what happened over the next week. Patrols, shifts, reconnaissance, that sort of thing. We received very little information during this period. But a week into our stay, after our night shift was finished, my sniper partner and I had just gone to bed when the other pair of snipers shook us awake soon after we had just settled down to rest. They shoved a pair of binoculars into my hands and pointed out a blue car had stopped 5 km away from our position. I took a look and found that the silhouette in the distance did indeed appear to be looking back at our positions. He had what looked to be binoculars in his hands and he would move positions, always getting back out of the car to look our way again.
We discussed our options. The distance was too great to take a shot — only an artillery strike could have taken him out. We called it in, but the battalion commander’s orders, relayed to us were just to keep an eye on the car and nothing more. Morning began to turn to day and we spotted a column of 5 suspicious civilian vehicles that closed the distance between us to about 2 km. One of the trucks obviously had a mortar on its back and we saw rockets being transported as well. We called it in again. The answer — keep an eye on them. Not soon after, we heard a powerful blast and the building shook. We scrambled for cover, the shot had fallen short, but it was clear that they were aiming for us.
I resolved to do what I could. I could have been lazy, but instead, I took out my compass and relayed the exact coordinates up the chain of command. It was easy to figure out the launch position from the smoke trail that the mortar had left. I kept demanding that something be done and refused to shut up. For awhile, no answer came, so we sat there, keeping an eye on them. Eventually we got new orders: “observe and report.” I got angry and kept calling and demanding that something be done, but the battalion commander eventually simply said “no.”
At the same time, the SOBR guys offered to fire their mortars on the coordinates that we gave. They were in the process of setting up, but again, the battalion commander intervened and the counter-attack was called off. After moving around and repositioning themselves here and there, the vehicles decided to retreat. They took their shot and that was it. We relaxed, but we also felt cheated and slighted because we wanted revenge on the attackers.
Before going further, I should explain some more details about the structure of our command. We were part of a Rosgvardia internal police unit, which is technically considered Spetznaz and that meant we only had 67 people in our company instead of the full amount that a combat company should have. Our company commander was a solid man and I’ve mentioned him before. He was supremely competent and acted like a surrogate father to the men under his command. We all respected him and he treated us with respect in turn.
The Russian army is structured differently than Western armies. Our platoons are 10 men strong. Three platoons form a “zvod” – 30 men. Three zvods make a rota (company) – 90 men. But rotas have support personnel and, as a result, number closer to 100+. Five rotas then become a battalion — 500 men. Three battalions become a polk (regiment) —1500. And from that point onwards, you have armies.
Our unit was operating as part of a larger 400-strong unit and our battalion commander was an incompetent fool. We had the enemy in our sights and the SOBR guys were ready to go on the counter-attack. But to this day, I don’t understand why he refused to give the order to shoot. If I’m being honest, most of our losses were because of this man’s medal-chasing and his inability to make quick decisions on the spot. I can’t go into the details, because it’s considered secret information pertaining to combat operations, but suffice it to say, we could do a lot better if men like this were kicked out of the military.
I eventually saw photos of the destroyed vehicles that had shot at us posted on Telegram — another unit ended up destroying them.
Nonetheless, despite the cheap shot at our positions, we had reason to be optimistic because rumors of a warm shower had made it up to our nest. Unfortunately, orders came down that we were being moved up along the line to some forest near the contact line. Orders received, we mounted up and headed out. When we arrived, we jumped out of the vehicles, a maneuver which has to be done within 20 seconds — that is, everyone being transported needs to be out of the vehicles and in combat positions very quickly. We dove out and then we plunged into the forest, moving fast. It was a 4 km quick march and we quickly reached the point that we were supposed to occupy, when, surprise surprise, we found enemy military and civilian vehicles about 200 meters from the position we were supposed to defend. We quickly called in an artillery strike on their position, and sat back in silence to wait for the attack.
We waited and waited, staying as quiet as we could until, eventually, we got tired of waiting. With no strike incoming, we decided to risk it and sent out men to take the position. It turned out that the Ukrainian Army had abandoned their weapons, vehicles, and fortifications, even leaving a half-full GRAD battery in the woods. As for the artillery strike, we called them up and they explained that they missed. If they missed, they must have fired the shot into Germany because there were no strikes anywhere near our position coming from our side that day.
The first night in the woods it rained. We set up our camouflaged tents among the trees and dug up some trenches, putting planks across them. At night, we slept with our gear on and on full-alert the whole time. We got about 20 minutes of sleep in between shifts.
The next day, the artillery shower began. Our artillery and their artillery began firing at one another and a few shells came in on our positions. We hunkered down and waited it out.
Night came and I saw a beautiful night sky full of stars. Only, a strange star suddenly appeared and began moving from left to right and then zig-zagging. Then, a second star began a similarly erratic flight. We realized that it was a drone recon squad — enemy quadcopters. Our commander told us to stay still and not fire — we wouldn’t be able to hit them anyway. In total, we counted 6 drones. It was a night spent in silence, with no fires and no movement allowed. My ears became so sensitive that I heard the slightest rustle coming from a tent a few trees away from my position.
The third day in the woods, another unit came by to tell us we were moving out. They blew up the Ukrainian GRAD as we were being evacuated from the area. The explosion that went off was absolutely huge — GRAD missiles are no joke. After a few days sitting and waiting in our camp some ways away from the contact line, we were quickly rounded up and moved back to Belarus. Just like that, we had been rotated out.
We left for Russia soon after.
On the journey home, I took the train with some other members of my unit. We made stops along the way and got a lot of love from the locals, who showered us with praise and gifts, mostly in the form of food. All together, my adventure had lasted 2 months. The Kiev campaign ended soon after as other units were then pulled out.
In a week’s time, I am being redeployed to Donbass. All said and done, I had an interesting experience and I’m fairly eager to be sent back in. I don’t know what to expect, but I take the mentality that I am a professional, that this is my work and it is my duty to do it well. Since then, I’ve gotten my hands on an SKS Hexagon Silencer. Fans of “Escape from Tarkov,” a videogame, will know what I’m talking about.
And our unit all chipped in to raise money for a quadcopter (a remote drone) which was sorely lacking, and a FAB Defense VFR SVD that we are eager to put to use. We like to buy our own toys because the government is very strict about issuing out equipment and the condition in which it has to be returned. Because these are government buys, if it breaks in the field or god forbid if it breaks before you get it to the frontlines during transportation, you’re on the line with a bill that’s 3x the actual worth of the piece of equipment. It’s easier to just chip in with the boys from the unit and get your own gear. Most of my gear I bought myself and I don’t have anything that’s government-issued in my personal kit — even my boots are American, oddly enough. Our military-issued boots are poor quality and when you spend days in situations where you can’t even take your boots off, this becomes pure torture for the feet. I suppose that the only things that I have that is government-issued are the plates in my vest. I don’t even use the vest provided by the government because you can’t shoot with it as it prevents you from being able to tuck the butt of your gun into your shoulder. The shoulder and chest-alignment is all off. But, not using the government-issued vest has its risks, because if I get shot in the chest, I won’t get compensation for it.
But then, life is a serious of educated risks that we all take.
Oh, and I got a new helmet so that I don’t have to wear that extremely heavy army-issued helmet anymore. I actually already had a lighter, better helmet from which it’s actually possible to shoot using a scope, but my superior officer forgot his and requisitioned mine, leaving me with that god-awful helmet I wrote so much about. Wearing it for more than an hour at a time gives you serious headaches. My superior officer’s excuse was that he had night-vision, but that he couldn’t attach it to the regular army standard helmet so I reluctantly swapped with him. I’ve heard that they’re going to start issuing new helmets for snipers from which you can actually shoot using a scope, so we’ll see how that goes.
As for the war itself, I think that this war is going to continue for a long time. I’m not a fan of the idea of full mobilization because we don’t need untrained amateurs on the frontline. Also, I’m biased in this regard because if regular people are drafted, that means there will be less work for professionals like myself. Finally, I hope to have more adventures to share from the Donbass soon. From what I hear, it’s going to be a tough scrap.