The article below is a translation from Russian of the following article, published in “Argumenty i Fakty” on the 1st of October 2014.
“They know that that have no common road with the Ukrainians. Truce or no truce, but they will not live together,” – said a journalist from Chelyabinsk Gennady Grigoryev.
Journalist from Chelyabinsk Gennady Grigoryev served in the militia of Donetsk People’s Republic for more months. And came back and told about his impressions.
“You want to serve in the reconnaissance?”
It’s pretty simple to join the militia. I bought the tickets and gear – camouflage suit, arrived in Donetsk, Rostov region. There I called the appointed number, told my passphrase – people came, and brought me across the border. We got to the base, where recruits were picked by the commanders. They told me: “Do you want to serve in the reconnaissance?” I replied: “What kind of spy can become of me?” And they said, “Let’s come and see.”
We had no training centres or special training or basic training. Yesterday’s workers, teachers, miners, chauffeurs go strait to battle. Among 80 people we had only one professional soldier, and even that was a ensign. I was given a shotgun and so I became a scout.
It was funny when we came to receive a certificate of being a member of militias. We enter, and there naturally a scene from a movie “Chapaev”: one Ataman sits in Cossack uniform, besides another bearded one and in a strange garb. Hovering over the map, mulling operation. Just potatoes, like in “Chapaev”, are not laid out… Later, by the way, I learned that one of these fellows was executed as a traitor. On captured Ukrainians they found the lists of the Ukrainian militis members under the responsibility of this particular person. And in Ukraine there is a new law, when a man goes to the militia, Kiev has the right to confiscate an apartment or any property from his family (from translator: this confiscated property gets transferred as war trophies to the “banderas”, the members of the punitive death squads who conduct ethnic cleansing in Donbass).
“Sitting on the button”
Service in the scouts looks like this. For example, say, in a certain direction there can be some enemy equipment, it would be necessary to check out. At night, people go up and go into the forest, study the trails. The road can be mined, and ours have been blown to bits many times. There can be an possible behind trees. Terrible suspence! There were cases when the two scout militias were in the same place and shooting at each other, taking the other group for the enemy. Their actions were just not coordinated…
But in general, this war – like, probably any other – for at least 95% consists of the rough work and routine. You walk from task to task – not having time eat nor sleep. Once such task: “sit on the button”, for example. Let’s say the road is mined and we know that a Ukrainian tank or any heavy machinery will follow it. Your task is to sit, wait, and at the right time to connect wiring so the car explodes. Many do not come back from this tasks. You should see and to make sure that this is the enemy, and that he is over a mine. It’s fine if it’s a tank. And if it’s a multiple rocket launchers “Grad”… The explosion shatters it half a kilometre in radius and covers anyone who is sitting nearby. I can say I was lucky that I did not make contact while “sitting on the button” for 15 hours in a row.
Of the 80 people there were only four Russians: a former sports functionary, cabinetmaker, teacher and me. There was another guy from Novosibirsk, but he was expelled for drunkenness. For such case one can be shot. The militia enacts dry law, and rightly so, everyone agrees. Even without vodka there are enough problems. Many can not even handle weapons. We had one minethrower who was a driver or seller. He took the mortar for the first time, stuffed two mines in the trunk, the gun burst, and the whole squad was killed… There’re a lot of such losses.
By the way, about the weapons: my first shotgun was a 1954 release. I’ve seen people who are fighting with antitank gun, which is stamped with 1943. After the rifle I was given a sniper rifle without optical sight. Terribly uncomfortable when you need to traverse the greenery. Then they gave me an automatic, with which it was more convenient. Recently everything was OK with the weapon supplies. It arrived new, with lubrication.
Militias take products from the warehouse and warehouses were replenished by humanitarian aid. Local people are also trying to help – bring potatoes, pickles. Clothing allowance is as follows: the majority of clothes is that you initially put on, and that’s all. Wash ing is easy: jump into the pond in the clothing in a pond, climb out, lather and dive in again. You wash yourself, and do the laundry in one go. Good that it was warm in August.
Ukrainian army, admittedly, is fighting quite competently. It feels that officers supervise it. Their outfit is also better. Once we got the trophy – a car with anti-aircraft guns. Inside we found everything: good uniform, mats, sharpened sapper shovels, well, all sorts of stuff – even some American marching washstand for 20 gallons of water. This is a suspended plastic bag with a tap – all is cultural and written in English.
“We did not call them”
What is militia fighting for? They believe in building a state Novorossia from Kharkov to Odessa. They know that that have no common road with the Ukrainians. Truce or no truce, but they will not live together. Besides long-term controversy now everyone already has a personal grudge against Ukraine: someone has relative that had to leave, killed, maimed, something destroyed. How will they live together – I can not imagine… Yes, these people are hardly amenable to discipline, they are used to doing everything by themselves, thinking: our little detachment’ll get to Kiev if only allowed. They were beaten badly in May, they retreated, losing comrades, crossed rivers in just pants and with a gun… But faith keeps them going, they do not doubt in their victory.
Civilians are certainly tired of war. But the attitude is: “We did not call them (Ukrainian army) here. We will live on our own, don’t want to feed Ukraine any longer”. They hope that the war will end and Russia will help to restore everything.
In the cities, when I was there, anarchy reigned. No police, no prosecution, courts, cops… However, public transport went like clock – in the empty city empty trolleybusses! As if you got into some looking glass kingdom. When I returned to Russia, at first everything was surprising: beautiful cars go about, the houses are intact, kids eating ice cream, people go and do not bend down from the shots. And it went just a hundred meters from the border…