Ukrainian Sergeant: “We did not surrender!”


War in the Donbas

Ihor, a sergeant major from the 72-nd brigade of the Ukrainian army and his comrades-in-arms say they left the encirclement and went into Russia because they saw no way to keep fighting. All of them want to go to go back to Ukraine, but don’t want to keep on fighting.

Yuri Vendik, BBC Russia reporter, visited the tent camp near the Gukovo border checkpoint and talked to Ihor, a Ukrainian army sergeant.


BBC: How long have you been in the region?

Ihor: I’ve been in Eastern Ukraine for three months.

BBC: What about here, in this very region?

Igor: Here, near Chervonopartiyzansk – for about a month. Maybe a bit more. We stayed near Krasnodon, and then, after a Grad rocket shelling, fell back to Chervonopartyzansk because we took heavy losses.

BBC: Were you trying to enter Krasnodon?

Igor: We did not try to enter anything, we were just staying there for a month, watching the territory, the checkpoint [Izvaryne – BBC]. It was under rebel control. Our border guards had to be there, but when we came there, the guys were bombed withinin a week. We stayed a bit further from the place, didn’t do anything – just watched. That was before they started shelling us regularly.

BBC: What was your objective when entering this corridor near the border?

Ihor: We had a plan, where we should encamp, entrench and prevent armed people from entering Ukraine. That is, we sort of backed up the border checkpoints. Because the so-called militia entered our territory on Russian vehicles and started shooting. Either from Russian or Ukrainian side.

Shelling from the Russian Side

BBC: Were you also attacked from here, from Russia?

Ihor: Yes, regularly. Every night, sometimes even in daylight. These were either SP [self-propelled] howitzers or regular cannons… The shelling came from 6-7 kilometers – we got the visuals: a shot flare in Russia and then an explosion on our territory, at our positions.

Mostly it were Grad rockets shelling us – I understand it’s the weapon mostly used.

BBC: Did the shelling come from Ukrainian territory as well? From both?

Ihor: Right. Vehicles came from Russia… They even came in from Russia, shot and went back.

BBC: Did you see the vehicles that came in?

Ihor: Yes, whole convoys. We saw what we saw with the optics we had. There were armored KamAZ trucks – Russian-made, we don’t have anything like this.

Tanks entered as well and “disappeared” within  towns and villages. And we were forbidden to fire on residential areas.

During the ceasefire we didn’t fire at all, while we were shelled regularly. All the while vehicles were coming in from Russia. They just kept coming, shamelessly, through official border checkpoints.

BBC: But, as we know, there are many roads through the border without any checkpoints.

Ihor: Yes, there are roads in border settlements, and the vehicles used these roads. There was a whole base near Provallya, close to Chervonopartyzansk – around 60 vehicles. I think common militias wouldn’t be able to get ten tanks and six Infantry Fighting Vehicles.

We didn’t even had the ammo for the Grads that we had, while around six Grads from their side fired all night long. They switched positions and kept firing.

BBC: Did you have air support when you were surrounded?

Ihor: No, we didn’t. Maybe an aircraft or two appeared, people heard them, but I didn’t see any.

BBC: Why was there no support?

Ihor: Well, from what I heard, the planes got shot down.

We couldn’t fight Grads and mortar fire with ancient assault rifles and vehicles.

Heavy Casualties?

BBC: How many people did you lose during these months?

Ukrainian soldiers tried to leave positions together.

Ihor: I can’t tell – we were scattered. I believe we lost about 30 percent killed or seriously wounded. We called our guys in hospitals – they were overflowing. All the surrounding hospitals that could offer any help were overloaded.

BBC: Where were those hospitals?

Ihor: Dnipropetrovsk, other cities. We tried to send people further away…

BBC: How did you do it when you were surrounded?

Ihor: Recently it was through Russian territory mostly. There were no other possibilities because they shot the convoys – even those with the wounded. They shot everything that moved,

BBC: How do you hope to go back to Ukraine?

Ihor: Some of the guys have already left. We are waiting now. They promised to send us to Ukraine tomorrow.

BBC: What to you think will the Ukrainian government’s attitude to this be?

Ihor: To what? That we did not surrender! We just got a corridor to withdraw.

BBC: But you also left your weapons.

Ihor: We did not leave our weapons, we destroyed them. We acted according to the situation at hand. I believe human life is worth more than a piece of metal, isn’t it?

Should we have left the guys to be destroyed by artillery? We also did know there were about 10 tanks and four or six IFVs around Chervonopartyzansk. Leaving infantry with assault rifles there would be stupid, hopeless, and, should I say, careless.

BBC: Didn’t you have vehicles of your own?

Ihor: We used to, in the beginning.

BBC: Did you lose all of it?

Ihor: Yes.

BBC: What kind of vehicles?

Igor: IFVs made back in the 80’s. Vehicles tend to break. They also burned them down. They had stuff like anti-tank guided missiles – I wonder where they got them…

“I Doubt Someone Else Will Go”

BBC: The Ukrainian side has said tha part of your men escaped the encirclement through Ukrainian territory. What do you know about that?

Ihor: Rumors, mostly, no reliable information, but I’ve heard some men could make it through in the night. I don’t know how many. If we had vehicles in fighting condition, we would all break through, no one wouldn’t leave destroying the weapons. But we just didn’t have anything to load the men on. The vehicles were either damaged or just had no fuel. And carrying people up there on the armor plates means more casualties.

I know some of the vehicles that tried to break through got shot. I don’t know about the casualties.

BBC: Is anyone still left encircled on that side of the border?

Ihor: I don’t know. We tried to take everyone whose location we knew. We tried to leave together.

BBC: What do you think will they do to you when you’re back? Will you be court-martialed? Or drafted again?

Ihor: Maybe. But I doubt anyone will go back to the war voluntarily. Because we’ve seen what supply looked like: people didn’t wash for two or three weeks, drank water from a lake, tried to wash with rainwater, and I won’t even mention food… I doubt anyone will go there with such an attitude.

Most of the people drafted at first stage didn’t pass the medical assessment – no one was interested whether a person was ready for service or not… Most people – including me – were drafted for 10-day exercises.

BBC: Where did you work before the war?

Ihor: In an American company. We were doing maintenance. Nominally I’m still working there.

BBC: Who do you think will win?

Ihor: I wish common sense would win. This is a useless war no one needs.

BBC: This are broad words. How will the conflict end?

Igor: I don’t know. I only wish that people like me will stop being killed.


Source: BBC Russia

Translated by Kirill Mikhailov, edited by Myron Spolsky

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  1. Avatar Mike Kostelny says:

    Very insightful snapshot in time as to what is happening with the Ukrainian military in the Donbass area of Eastern Ukraine. I realize that the Ukrainian ‘volunteers’ have not had adequate military training as to what to expect in a Russian terrorist campaign. Many Ukrainian volunteers perhaps thought only to defend Ukraine from invaders. They did not foresee the level of incompetence or corruption in their own officer corps.

    Of course, if Ukraine had not trusted Russia in 1994 and had not signed the Budapest Memorandum Agreement (also with the USA and the UK), then they would still have nuclear weapons to ward off this Russian bear. But the facts remain that Russia has treated (and still does treat) Ukraine as an ‘abused spouse’.

    All the elements of abusive behavior still remain: to cause FEAR in Ukraine (through Russian terrorism), to remove all FINANCES from Ukraine (thanks to the Judas Iscariot, Viktor Yanukovych and his two sons and corrupt political party), to FORCE Ukraine to become depleted of moral courage in their attempts to resist their abuser, and so on. CONTROL is what Putin wants. And through the lustration and corruption of pro-Putin supporters within the Ukrainian political, economic, and military systems, Putin thinks he can win. In fact, he has gambled his career, his reputation, and possibly even his own life on this one assumption: That given past habitual behavior among the Ukrainian Oligarchs, including Ukrainian military ‘Generals’, he can eat his cake and have his cake.

    But there is one key factor that V.V.Putin did not count on and that was made very clear to all the world thanks in part to the horrific sacrifice of the 298 lives that were lost to the Malaysian Airliner that was shot down by Putin’s own henchmen on 17 July 2014 over Eastern Ukraine. Canada’s top-selling magazine, MACLEANS, has released a picture of V.V. Putin on its front cover for the 11 August 2014 edition entitled: “Getting away with murder!”. In this choice article, it is revealed to all the civilized world to see and read how Russia imagines to itself, not only to murder 298 innocent civilians (who are neither Ukrainian, nor Russian!), but to brag to everyone that they can do this and MORE! and that there is nothing anyone can do about it!

    What V.V. Putin does not seem to grasp is that the old adage, “Whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first made mad!”, is as true as the saying that: “Pride comes before the Fall!”. Is there a single nation in all the world today that is more arrogant, more prideful, more vainglorious than that of Putin’s Russian Federation?! But just as Putin’s own daughter (who is living in Holland with her husband, as I understand) no doubt is truly ashamed of her father, and his vile actions against the Dutch people, the Australian people, the British people, the Malaysian people, the German people, and the Canadian people–let alone the Ukrainians themselves–so, all the rest of the Western World is abhorred and ashamed to be in any way connected to Russia or the Russian People, but most especially to V.V. Putin and his entourage of Russian Oligarchs.

    Putin’s days are numbered. We can see the devastation he creates to any land he conquers as is evidenced most recently by that of the Crimea. If Ukraine were not a civilized and highly educated society (arguably, much more so than any part of Russia, including Moscow?!), they would cut off all the water supply and electricity as well as trade with Crimea–to create a virtual nightmare relationship with Crimea that will force Russia to drop Crimea from its grasp, as if it were a porcupine!

    But Ukraine is a humanitarian nation. Ukraine is a nation that cares! Ukraine is a peace-loving and gentle-mannered nation! Ukraine does not wish a single child or woman or senior citizen or adult person in the Crimea to suffer unnecessarily. Crimea is still part and parcel of Ukraine, and as such, Ukraine wishes to help Crimea in any way it can, even though the Russians in Crimea have no regard whatsoever for the Ukrainian language, customs, laws, or way of life.

    Now everything that I have said thus far is no secret to any well-educated person who has been following the ‘Ukraine crisis’ since last November 2013. What is surprising, or may be startling for some of my readers to learn, is that I believe that Ukraine will win this battle against Russia–even if Russia should take it over militarily before September this year! I say this because History is on my side! The Nazis took over not only Ukraine but most of Europe together with Italian Fascists and 5th Columnists (Quisling from Norway, etc.). But where are the Nazis today? They had their heyday. They had their moment in time, but the will of the populace, the will of the common people won over time. And the same is true in Ukraine. This historical fact is something the semi-illiterate and poorly educated Putin cannot seem to foresee: greater forces are moving against Russia guided by an invisible hand that naturally Putin in his rush for power is too blind to see.

    Even now rumblings and murmurings against Putin’s rogue Russian Federation are already being heard in Siberia, and in Kaliningrad. The German state Konigsberg (that was German-speaking for 12 centuries) was illegally taken over by Russia in 1946 and converted into a Russian-speaking territory (just as Putin wishes to do with the Ukrainian Crimea). But time will show that not only will Crimea, but Kaliningrad, and Siberia may become independent nations, separate from Putin’s control. And who knows over time, Siberia may will become part of Red China as they have more business and cultural and social relationships with China than with Moscow or Putin’s Rostov-on-Don?! Time will tell.

    So, to the Ukrainians who wish to resist Russia: do not be alarmed if Putin pushes his troops into open combat with Ukraine. Even if no one comes to help Ukraine in their hour of need, at the very least we will clearly see the faces of all those traitors inside Ukraine who will rush to kiss Putin’s hand. And then when everyone in Ukraine can openly see who is on Putin’s side, who is the Judas who is even now supplying information, arms, and aid to Russia, then we will know who to eliminate when Ukraine takes back it’s own country. And this time Ukraine will not need to kow-tow to any rule of law or cease-fire (as they are compelled to do so now–greatly to their own disadvantage).

    As no one will come to the aid of Ukraine against the Russian bully, so Ukraine must stand on it’s own two feet and speak the same language to Russia that Russia speaks to Ukraine. For it is at that moment that the Ukrainian David will win his battle against this Russian Goliath! For the believing Ukrainians will prove to the unbelieving Russians not only that there is a GOD but on who’s side GOD will vindicate. Goliath, as we may recall, had all the defenses of warfare in his day: a huge armored shield, plates of impenetrable metal as an armored coat made for a Giant, a razor-sharp spear that weighed more than David himself, and a heavy armored helmet, armored boots and so on.

    But what did David have? NO ARMOR AT ALL! Only his boy-like faith that GOD will protect him with only 5 smooth stones and a slingshot?! But that was all he really needed, now wasn’t it?!