We pick up where we left off with Comrade Krieger and his unit making their way south during the Kiev campaign. If you want to follow the hero of our story, you can follow him on his freshly-minted Gab account.
The next day, after the counter-attack that never came, we left the field because it was too exposed. In daylight, the enemy could, in theory, see us, but we wouldn’t be able to see the enemy. We moved into another abandoned village nearby and took up residence in an abandoned home. Most villages are generally in a state of dismal disrepair and half-abandoned even in the best of times. It looked like the damage here was done before the war had even reached the village. We fixed up the chimney and then we repaired the old boiler so that we wouldn’t be cold at night. Next, we broke a hole through to the roof and put a ladder through it to set up a sniper nest and observation post. The immediate necessities out of the way, we began to focus on more pressing matters.
The next order of business was to set up an improvised banya. We stuck some long sticks into the ground and wrapped them in a thick black canvas cloth. Then, we made a make-shift oven with bricks in the center of our teepee banya and lit it up. Soon, we were sweating and relaxing and having a good time. After being exposed to the cold out in the open, our little banya felt a godsend.
By the time I got out, the only available sleeping place was in the commander’s quarters. I set up a hammock as if I was relaxing on a Caribbean island between two palms and began to relax. Because of all the time in the cold, I had developed a cough, and I did my best to stifle it as I began to drift off to sleep. Our сommander was very tired and I felt bad that I would be keeping him up if I kept coughing. Neither he nor I got to relax for long though.
I drifted off, but came to as new orders were issued to me to rouse the unit. The enemy had been spotted nearby. I stumbled off to rouse the sleeping soldiers in the make-shift barracks. This was proving to be an impossible task and I was struggling to get them up from their slumber. But then a whistle sounded and the explosion from a mortar rocked the village, causing the windows shaking.
That got them up quick. Even the two that I had tried to wake up with my feet suddenly jumped up, no longer as keen on sleeping. More explosions sounded and I ran up to the roof to get my sniper rifle, which I had left there. Once again, I took off my helmet to peer through the scope. I scanned the fields and woods, but couldn’t find anything. It was darker than dark in the fields and woods that surrounded the village. I could barely see my own hand out in front of me.
I ducked down after I heard a return salvo from our mortars right next to my position.
Dawn was close, but the glow that began to rise up was from nearby fires and not the sun. My commanding officer came up to check on me in my nest, and he had something quite interesting to tell me.
“There’s a 1000-strong company that is moving in to attack our positions!” He said.
I found that I was excited. “Sounds like fun,” I called back to him.
Soon after, mortar shells began to fall around us, and our return fire continued.
Despite the darkness, I saw and felt shrapnel hissing through the air above me like bats, kicked up by the explosion. Then some more news came down the line to me. I was well and truly expecting a colossal pitched battle to start any moment now.
But it turns out that we had misunderstood the intelligence passed onto us. There wasn’t a 1000-strong unit attacking our position. It was a unit with a name that sounded like one thousand…
[NOTE: The word for 1000 is “tisiach” and the name of the unit that they were engaged with was the “tisatski”. It was a miscommunication.]
I realized that I was relieved and I shared a laugh with the others when we heard the news. Morning came eventually, and by 8 am we heard no more shooting in our direction. We finally got some much-needed sleep. The way we figured it, we had held our positions and just won our first small victory.
The patrol we sent out into the nearby town gave us the all-clear soon after.
I should mention that we had a german shepherd with us this whole time. Why did we have this dog, you ask? To this day, I can’t tell you. Apparently, we’re just supposed to have a dog with us according to unit regulations. Anyways, I was assigned to dog-walking duty the next day. So, leash in hand, we went out for a stroll around the town as part of a patrol. This dog, for some reason, simply didn’t listen to me. I immediately regretted letting it off the leash and tried in vain to chase after it and call it to come back.
All of a sudden a huge boom, louder than any I had heard so far, sounded out. In panic, I called out to the dog and this time it listened and came running straight back to me for once. The boom came from nearby, and we rushed back to camp to learn that an airplane had dropped a bomb not too far from our positions. I am unsure whose plane it was.
Other than that, it was quiet for a bit and our soldiers got restless eventually and would go out on patrols around the town from time to time just because they were bored. I never took my helmet when it was my turn for a stroll because it hurt my head. Whenever we passed by a shop, we found that it was always already thoroughly looted. First, by the locals, then by the Ukrainian Army, and then by the Chechens as we understood it.
After one patrol, we were headed back to our camp when a UAZ Patriot civilian car pulled up in front of us. In the driver’s seat was an extremely irate driver. We gripped our weapons and began to spread out, unsure of what to do. But then an officer from the forward headquarters of our sector stepped out of the passenger side. He was apparently driving around and speaking to all the individual commanders in the area. He came up to us demanding to know what unit we belonged to. When we took him to our commander, the superior officer chewed out our commander for allowing us to go out patrolling without our helmets. We stood there in silence for a bit, and we were well and truly ashamed of ourselves. When our commander came out to speak to us again, he told us that we had gotten him in trouble and, truth be told, we all didn’t know what to say so we just mumbled our apologies. He was a good commander, and we didn’t want him getting into trouble for our sake.
“If you’re going to walk around without your helmets, don’t get caught,” he told us.
Soon after, it was time to move south into a larger town on the outskirts of Kiev about 37km from the city proper.
I was shocked by the state of destruction that I saw as we rolled in. The Khrushevki and smaller residential houses and the larger 10-story buildings were in ruins.
We camped out in the local shopping mall near the center. We made a sweep of the facility and found that several of the shops were burnt out. All of them were trashed. Looters, probably.
Our rations were long-gone at this point so we went out on a patrol to look for a grocery store. Next to the shopping center, we found one. The scene that I saw in front of it stuck with me for some reason. There was a truck with an open door and supplies in it with three soldiers from my unit standing guard around it. Next to them was a Ukrainian soldier’s corpse and a cat that had begun to nibble at his face. We found some tasty treats in the truck along with some crates of Promidol — a synthetic pain-killer similar to Tramadol. Luckily, I never had to use any of that awful stuff.
Nearby, we found the storage shed for the grocery store that the truck was bound for. Inside, we found some Turkish Delights, which we immediately began to feast on, along with some other tasty treats. There were also entire crates full of alcohol in the shed, but our commanding officer quickly found out about it and forbade us from touching it.
We were then given orders to set up a sniper nest on top of the abandoned shopping center that we had made our temporary home.
Some PMCs (Private Military Companies) that were in the area joined us and we went up the stairs of the shopping center looking for the roof exit. We found a locked gate and one of the PMC guys asked to use my sniper rifle to blow the lock off the door leading to the roof. The ricochet was potentially lethal, so we took cover while he did his work.
We quickly realized that we weren’t the first ones to have been on the roof. There were fortifications and other signs of a hastily-organized defense. The defenders had even locked the roof as they retreated. We set about blowing the signal cables that were on the roof and the wiring that connected them to the other buildings. We didn’t want our signals to be monitored by the enemy.
Back during the Georgia campaign of 2008, electronic surveillance equipment was used by the Georgians, who were given American equipment that allowed them to perform pin-point strikes against our soldiers. Only after our soldiers got rid of their phones did the missiles stop falling on their positions. In Donbass, without secure communications, many militia men had to rely on regular phones to stay in touch with other units. The same thing happened to them as well until they ditched their phones.
We began fortifying our position on the roof, and I felt that I was finally being put to use as a proper sniper. Once the PMCs helped us set up and pointed out where trouble could be expected to come from, they left and we didn’t see them again. I never found out what unit they were from.
At that point, it was becoming quite clear that the weather was turning for the worse. Already thoroughly chilled, I decided to go down to see if I could find some more warm clothes. I was sure the night would only be worse. I ended up passing by the shed of the grocery store and I decided that I had to get two bottles of vodka, just in case. It was a good thing that I did. We began to freeze on the roof as we continued with our two hour on-and-off shifts. Of course, it takes 10 minutes to actually wake someone up and then another 10 before they’re ready to take up their positions, but that’s just how these things go.
It was becoming harder and harder to maintain the watch from the roof. My arms were shaking from the cold and fatigue at that point. To make matters worse, as the night dragged on, it began to snow. Visibility dropped, but even if it hadn’t, I’m not sure that I could have noticed much in the state that I was in. By about 4 am, even with the vodka and the warmer clothes, we simply had to abandon our watch positions for a few hours. To make matters worse, we were all quite thirsty, but our water had frozen solid. We couldn’t light any fires at night, so we simply had to wait it out.
Morning finally came and we took our knives out to pry the ice out of the bottles that it had frozen in. Our little gas fires popped to life and began to melt it down. Soon, we successfully brewed some tea and gulped it down gratefully while gazing over the ruins of the town, happy for the liquid warmth.
It was a small victory.