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UVB76 30 May 11 05:50

V.N Mironov “I Witnessed This War. Checnya 1995” - English translation
 
Greetings, new here.

I'm working on an English translation of a book “I Witnessed This War. Checnya 1995” by the Russian writer Vyacheslav Nikolaevich Mironov, who is a veteran of several late- and post-Soviet conflicts, including events in Georgia and Transnistria, as well as the first Chechen war.

I found his account stirring and the English translation lacking somewhat, so I embarked on this, admittedly lengthy project as part of killing boredom on long work trips interstate.

So far I have completed 2 chapters and am wondering if there is any interest here in its content or if anybody is interested in assisting me with some of the military terminology which I find the most challenging.

I'm not posting the link yet as not to piss off the mods who may take exception to it as "link spamming".

Please let me know if you have any thoughts.

-my regards

joea 30 May 11 08:47

Please do! We have several Russian posters with excellent English and several English-speaking members with Russian. Both can also help with military terminology.

UVB76 30 May 11 20:10

Ah good to hear.

OK, here's the link to what I have so far:

pobdz.youhaveaids.com/doku . php ? id=unpublished : chechnya1995

Please let me know (mods?) if you want the full text here instead.

PS please don't mind the domain name - friend's site, bad in-joke etc.

Galland 31 May 11 01:52

this sounds like a book i would very much like to read once the translation has finished....please let me know how you are doing with it and more importantly when it is availible for sale here in Aus..

Welcome to the boards too mate..!

Erkki 31 May 11 04:43

Quote:

Originally Posted by UVB76 (Post 1948429)
Ah good to hear.

OK, here's the link to what I have so far:

pobdz.youhaveaids.com/doku . php ? id=unpublished : chechnya1995

Please let me know (mods?) if you want the full text here instead.

PS please don't mind the domain name - friend's site, bad in-joke etc.

You may give us a link but not post the entire text unless it is your work or you got the authors permission. Don´t worry about spamming, we in generally only delete those who try to sell something or links to material that isn´t allowed by our rules.

Galland 01 Jun 11 22:18

buggar, only got to read half off it...ha ha ha ...

UVB76 07 Jun 11 02:44

Sorting out the copyright issue as we speak. I'd venture a guess, the full text should be allowed back up soon.

Snowygerry 07 Jun 11 03:06

Please do - it was a very interesting read -

I don't believe there are many first-hand accounts available in translation.

Admiral 07 Jun 11 03:07

Mates, I'm acknowledging that the Copyrights holder has provided UVB76 with the proper permissions such that he may Post his translations here at ACG Forums.
Quote:

Originally Posted by 2011/6/7 Lazarev V. N.
<*******************>
*****! I officially give you permission for posting a translation.

V. N. Mironov
V. N. Lazarev

UVB76, I think you should acknowledge the Author & make note that you have such permissions with each posting of it such that others are not confused.

Thank You Greatly For Your Efforts, Mate.

:toast:

UVB76 07 Jun 11 03:26

No problems, glad we can sort this out. Posting Ch 1 & 2 below. Translation notes are available on my site, quoted in the OP.

UVB76 07 Jun 11 03:28

"I Witnessed this War. Chechnya 1995" by V.N. Mironov
English translation by R.N. Belousov, published with permission.

Chapter 1

I am running. My lungs are bursting. The wheeze is killing me. I have to run in zig-zags, or as we call it in our brigade “do the corkscrew”.

Help me god…help me. Help me endure this mad race. This is it - if I make it, I’m quitting smoking. Clang, snap. Please not a sniper. I fall and crawl, crawl out of harm’s way.

I’m laying low. It seems I’m OK after all - it wasn’t a sniper, simply a stray.
I catch my breath a little and reorientate myself, then launch forward - in search of the commanding post of the first battalion of my brigade. Just a few hours ago they reported that they have captured a sniper. From that report is was clear that he is Russian and from his own words even from Novosibirsk. A ****ing Siberian! I and some reconnaissance troops departed to fetch the “tongue” on a pair of BMP’s. My partner remained at the brigade headquarters.

On approaching the railway terminal we started encountering burned-out, mutilated vehicles and a lot of corpses. Our corpses, brothers-Slavs. That was all that remained of the Maikop Brigade, the same one that was shot up and burned by the Chechens on New Year’s night 1994-95. God help us break out…

It was said that when the first battalion expelled those ****ers from the terminal building and there was lull in the fighting, one of the soldiers, took a careful look over his surroundings and howled like a wolf. From then on the others avoided him - like he was rabid. He would blunder forward a man possessed and nothing scared him. And there are plenty of these rabid ones in our formation and in that of the enemy. What are you doing to you sons, mother Russia?! They wanted to have him hospitalised, but no, they said “we can’t even get the wounded out and this one is still fighting, even though he’s cracked it. Back ‘on the continent’ he’ll lose it completely”.

After only a few blocks we encountered heavy fire. The hurricane of ammunition came from above, maybe twenty barrels, but it lacked precision. We had to leave the personnel carriers behind and continue towards friendly positions on foot with a pair of soldiers. Luckily, the guys had some experience under fire and were used to it. At first though, you’d howl, like that soldier. A green soldier—you’d have to extract out of the trenches and armoured vehicles with the aid of mat and the boot. Behind me is Baku and Kutaisi ‘90, Tskhinvali ‘91, Transnistria ‘92 and now Chechnya ‘95. We’ll sort it out, if only we can escape this hell. If only in one piece. I keep an RGD-5 grenade in my pocket in case I am crippled. It will be enough. I don’t care how the crippled heroes of previous wars live in the world. Those heroes that executed their Motherland’s orders, the orders of their party or government and **** knows who else during the “period of restoration of constitutional order” in the former Soviet territories. Just like we are now pounding our own Russian land according to yet another secret decree.

All this passed by in my head in just a few seconds. I looked around. My guys have taken cover near-by and are looking around also. Their mugs black with soot, only the eyes and teeth are glistening. I probably look no better. I indicate to one with my hand and the other with my head - forward, forward, zig-zag, corkscrew and roll. These acrobatics are awkward in field uniform. The sweat pours into your eyes, steam rises from the fabric, a taste of blood in the mouth and pounding in the temples. Our bloodstreams full of adrenaline. Short dashes over minced brick, concrete and glass. Carefully avoiding open spaces. Still alive, thank God.

Swish, swish! Your mother, is it really a sniper after all? We dive into the nearest basement, grenades at the ready, hell knows who’s waiting for us there. A pair of bodies. Judging by the uniform they are ours. With a nod I indicate to one fighter to keep watch through the window, whilst taking position near the door. The second fighter leans over one of the fallen and undoes his uniform. He retrieves his papers and tears off the string with the dog-tag. He does the same with the other. The lads won’t care any more, but their families should surely be notified. Otherwise the smart guys from government won’t pay them pensions and motivate it say by the fact that the soldiers are missing in action, possibly even deserted or have crossed over to the enemy.

-So, did you get the documents? - I asked.
-Got them, - answered private Semyonov aka “Semyon”. - What’s our next move?
-We’ll go through the basement to the neighbouring street and the first battalion is right there. Are you able to radio them? - I enquired from the radio man, private Kharlamov, aka “Glue”. His huge, long hands with disproportionately developed wrists, stick-like stuck out of his sleeves - no uniform fit him. When you first see him, you imagine that these hands off were torn of a gorilla and sawn onto a man. Meanwhile, nobody now remembered why he was nick-named “Glue”.

These are our soldiers, compatriots, Siberians. And collectively, we are “makhra”, from the word “makhorka”. Only in books and in movies about the Great Patriotic War do they praise infantry with the epithet “Queen of the Fields”. In real life, we are “makhra”, whilst singularly an infantryman is a “makhor”. And that’s how it is.
-And radio the “boxes”, - that would be our BMP, that remained behind, on the approaches to the train terminal, - find out how they are faring.

Glue left his post at the window and started mumbling into the radio, summoning the Commanding Post of the first battalion, then our BMP.

-All good, comrade Captain, - reported the radioman. - “Sopka” is expecting us, the “boxes” were shot at, so they rolled back down one block.
-Allright, let’s go before we cark it, - I rasped, coughing. Finally I caught my breath and spat out yellow-green phlegm - the consequences of a years-long smoking habit. - Mamma always told me: “Learn English”.
-My mamma always told me, “Don’t go climbing in wells, sonny”, continued Semyon.

Having glanced through the window on the opposite side of the house and detected no traces of the enemy’s presence, we ran, bent over almost quadruple, towards the rail terminal. The aviation is hovering over the city, dropping bombs and strafing someone’s positions from an untouchable altitude. There is no single frontline here, the fighting is patchy and the result is a layered cake of our forces and that of the Chechens, our forces again and so forth. In other words - an idiot-house. No coordination of almost any kind. It is especially hard to work with the internal forces. Mainly this is their operation and we are “makhra” - doing all their work for them. Oftentimes we would storm the same target without realising. Sometimes we’d call in artillery or air support against their positions, whilst they do the same to ours. We take each-other prisoner and exchange fire in the dark.

Just now, we're headed for the rail terminal, where almost the entire Maikop brigade parted with their lives. They disappeared into the night, with no proper reconnaissance of the approaches or the positions and numbers of the enemy. Without artillery preparation. When the Maikopians relaxed after the assault and began to dose off - it’s no joke to run on only vodka and adrenaline for more than a week, the Chechens approached and shot them up at point-blank. Just like with Chapaev, who didn’t put up patrols. Here the patrols either fell asleep or were knifed out quietly. Everything that could burn and could not burn—burned. The ground, the asphalt, the walls of buildings burned from the spilled fuel. The people dashed about in this fiery hell: some shot back, some helped the wounded, some shot themselves, just to avoid falling into Chechen hands, others ran and those cannot be blamed for it. How would you, the reader, carry yourself in this inferno? You wouldn’t know. There you have it and don’t you dare judge them.

Nobody will know how they died. The commander, with shot-up legs, commanded to the end, whilest he could have left for the rear. He remained. God, keep their souls and our lives…

When our brigade, after heavy fighting broke through to the Maikopians, the tanks had to roll over the piled-up bodies of our brother-Slavs…And when you remember how the tracks of the tanks and the personnel carriers break and crush the flesh, the guts of those just like you winding up on their rollers, how the head bursts open under the caterpillar and with a crackling sound everything around it is spattered with a red-grey mass of brains—the brains of perhaps a future genius, a poet, a scientist or maybe just a good guy, son, friend, who didn’t cowardly run, who instead went to this shitty Chechnya and who did not perhaps fully understand what happened; when your boots slide through a bloody mess—it is then that is most important is to think of nothing but the one thing: forward and survive, forward and survive, protect your people, because the fighters you loose will be in your dreams. And you will have to write obituaries and acts of identification of corpses.

I would not wish this work upon my worst enemy. It would be better to bulge your eyes and spray right and left out of your trusty AKS, than to sit in a dugout and write out these terrible papers. What are these wars for? Although, honestly, still, none of us understood completely what is and was happening here. There is only one goal - to survive and to fulfil the objective, retaining a maximum of your people. If you do not fulfil it, they’ll send others, who perhaps and due to your unprofessionalism, cowardice, the desire to return home will lie under assault-machine gun fire, be torn apart by grenades, mines, would endure capture. Would you feel uneasy bearing such responsibility? So do I.

Glue spotted a stirring in the window of a five-floor block, that stood adjacent to the square next to the terminal. He managed a yell of “Chechens!” and rolled back. I and Simyon also hid behind a pile of concrete. Glue started to feverishly soak the window out of his gun, whilst we prepared the grenade launchers.

Oh what a wonderful thing it is this grenade-launcher, that is lovingly called the “underbarreler” with all the diminutiveness the Russian language can offer, although it weighs in a bit at about 500 grams. It is attached to the underside of the assault rifle’s barrel. It can fire directly or via a ballistic trajectory. Imagine yourself a small length of pipe with a trigger and a safety bracket. The sight is included, but we got so good-dogged at it in the first days of war that we are now doing without it. Using the under-barrel launcher GP-25, one can lob a grenade into any window and if need be throw it over any building. In a straight line, it shoots to about four hundred meters. The radius of fragment dispersion—fourteen meters. A sheer fairytale. This thing saved countless lives in Grozny. How does one smoke out snipers from the upper floors in a rapid combat environment? One does not. As you wait for the artillery, the aviation, whilst you roll back and summon your “boxes”, that can easily get torched by RPG troops…Meanwhile every fighter has his own underbarreller, so he smokes the bastards out himself. Also the grenade ammunition has one major advantage: it explodes on impact. When fighting at close quarters, say in a stairwell of an apartment building, where the enemy is located on the upper floors—imagine, you throw a hand grenade and it has a 3-4 second delay after the pin is removed. So count—you tear off the pin, lob it upstairs, but the **** bounces off something and is flying back down to you. Only later, approximately January 15-17, they supplied us with “highland” or as we called them “Afghan” grenades, that exploded only when they hit something hard. In the meantime, someone from the local Kulibinskites thought of a method, where you knock the grenade against the heel of your boot, which arms it and then you throw the dear thing as far away from you as you can, where it explodes upon first contact with an obstacle and mows down everything living in the confined space.

So, me and Simyon started lobbing out of our underbarrelers into the window, where Glue spotted some sort of movement. Semyon got it first go, I—the second. My first hit the wall, exploded sending down a substantial slice of veneer and raising a cloud of dust.

We exploited this diversion and traversed the open space before us, sometimes running sometimes crawling and after two more buildings finally reached friendly positions.

Those idiots nearly shot us, thinking we were Chechens.

They escorted us to the commanding post, where we located the battalion’s commander.

The combat was a character. Not too tall, but he made up for it as a commander and as a person. As it was our brigade had good fortune as far as the quality of its commanders was concerned. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of their flaws and virtues, suffice to say they were real men. Those who served and fought will understand what that means.

First battalion’s command post was quartered in the basement of a railway terminal. When we entered, the combat was vigorously employing the mat at somebody on the other end of the field telephone.
-You ****ing scarecrow, where are you going! They are trying to lure, you simpleton ass out and you and your kindergarten are playing right into it! Execute a mop-up and defend everything around you! Not a single Chechen in your zone of responsibility! - bellowed the combat into the handset. - Drag the boxes back, let the makhra do the work! You sit in that observation post and keep your head in!

Throwing down the receiver, he saw me.
-Good health, - he smiled.
-God’s help, - said I, extending my hand.
-What’s new at the headquarters? Lets have dinner, - he offered, looking me over, pleased. To see a familiar face in war is a happy occasion. It means that fortune is not only on your side, but also that of your comrades.

Having not yet recovered from all the running and gunfire, I knew: that if I was to not drink something now and calm down, I would start shaking rapidly and nervously. Or maybe instead I’d enter a semi-hysterical state where I want to babble on an on. So I gladly accepted this invitation to table.

We seated ourselves upon empty shell crates and the combat quietly called out: “Ivan, we have guests, come have dinner”. Captain Iliin, chief of staff of the first battalion emerged from the adjacent basement room. Thin, if not to say wiry, the first in the brigade on the subject of a volleyball contests, but pedantic and neat in his work. In peace, always well-ironed, buttoned up and sparkling, but now he little stood out from the rest. Same as all, he was covered in soot, unshaven and sleepless.

-Hello, Slava, - he said and his eyes glittered slightly. We were almost the same age, but I - an officer of the brigade staff, whilst he, chief of the battalion staff. And we were both in the rank of captain. We have been friends for a long time now, our wives and children - also.

I did not conceal emotion and we embraced. Quietly, the nerves were kicking in, hysterics were lapping at my composure after that short excursion through death.

I wasn’t worried about my fighters—they were amongst their own kind and will be warm and fed.

-Did you come for the sniper, Slava?, asked the combat.

-Yes, who else would I be after?, - I answered. - How did you take that bitch?
-Yeah, for three days that bastard didn’t let us have any peace, - complained Ivan. - holed up next to the terminal, across the square and sprayed us from there. He laid down three fighters and he wounded the first company commander in the leg. Meanwhile we can’t evacuate. We summoned the medics here and they operated on the spot.
-Oh yeah, how is he? - I asked. - I heard the story from the medics, great work, those guys, but how’s the company commander - will he live and walk?
-He will, he will, - the combat confirmed happily, - only I had to relieve him, and as you know company commanders are in deficit, so the two-shitters are in charge now (this pejorative term was applied to tertiary graduates conscripted for two years with an officer’s rank) But, this lad seems to be allright. Hot in the head, like Chapaev on his horse, wants to liberate all Chechnya on his own.

-What did the sniper have on him? - I asked. - Since it could well be that it’s some crazy local, there’s a lot of them wandering about the city now.

Combat and COS looked offended. Ivan leapt up, ran to his quarters and brought back our own Russian-made SKS rifle. Only the optical sight was imported, mounted on a non-standard bracket. I spotted it straight away having seen it before—most likely Japanese. Nice toy.

While we examine the carabin, Pal Palych, - the combat - tells us that in the sniper’s pockets they found two packets of bullets whilst in his “lair”, meaning in spot where he set up the ambush - a carton of beer and two cartons of cigarettes. Whilst he was telling us this, Palych was setting the table: he cut the bread, opened the condensed milk, spam, mysterious salads, pickled tomatoes and cucumbers. Finally upon this improvised table, he placed a bottle of vodka.

Meanwhile I counted the notches on the stock. 32 interrupted lives. We all knew how snipers worked from direct experience. When we entered the city using old, almost pre-war maps, they were there to greet us. Whilst we were racing down the highway splitting heads and cracking teeth inside the BMPs, cursing all and everything, the snipers managed to shoot off our radio antennas that were swaying to and fro—and this was in the dark and obscured by clouds of dust. When that resulted in communications disruptions and the commanders would send the fighters to investigate what the hell is going on, the snipers shot them. Also the Chechen shooters have this ploy: they hit the legs, so the fighter can’t crawl away, then they wait. The wounded cry out and those coming to them to help are shot up like chickens. In this manner, the brigade lost about thirty. As a result we have a special grudge with these people. It’s surprising that the fighters took this bastard alive.

The other day the second battalion came upon a lair with all signs of a woman occupant. The common elements are: a couch or an armchair, non-alcoholic drinks, in contrast to the men-snipers and some sort of a soft toy. The rifle is hidden nearby. A whole day the fighters laid in wait, not going to the toilet, not even smoking. Then she came. What happened there - no-one knows, but the Checheness flew out like a bird from the roof of the nine-storey house and a grenade blast tore her to shreds on the way down. The fighters insisted that when she caught a whiff of their unwashed bodies, the sniper sprinted up to the top and jumped out with a live grenade. Naturally everyone nodded with mock regret that they had no chance to assist her in her flight. No-one really believed that this last journey with a live grenade was voluntary. As far as I remember the Chechens did not commit suicide. This is our native trait - a fear of capture, dishonour, torture. After this incident the combat said something, that became our division’s motto: “Siberians do not surrender, nor do they take prisoners”.

Meanwhile, the com-batt poured the vodka, and I and Ivan sat down. If somebody tells you that we were drunk when fighting this war - spit in their face. In war, men drink as a means of disinfection. They can’t always boil water or wash their hands properly. “Red eyes don’t go yellow” was the motto of our field medics. Water for cooking, drinking and washing had to be drawn from Sunzha - a small river that runs through all of Chechnya, including Grozny. There were so many corpses of men and animals floating in it that hygiene was not to be thought of. No, nobody would get pissed in war—it’s certain death. Besides, your comrades would not let you - who knows what’s on the mind of a drunk and armed man?

We raised our plastic cups of which we obtained a large number at the airport “Severny” and brought them together. The resulting sound was not a clink, but a rustling, “so that the political officer doesn’t hear”, jested the officers.

-To good fortune, men, - pronounced the combat and having breathed the air out of his lungs sunk the half-glass of vodka.
-To her, the cursed, - I picked up and also drank. Immediately I felt the heat in my throat and a warm wave rolled inwards and stopped in my stomach.
Languor spread through the body. Everyone started shovelling in the food - who knows when we can eat in peace again. The bread, the spam, pickles, all flew down into my stomach. Now it was Ivan, who poured the vodka and we drank silently, having rustled the cups together. I retrieved my cigarettes “Tu-134”, that I brought from home, but noticed that the combat and Ivan have Marlboros, I put them back.
-Sniper’s?
-Yeah, answered the combat.
-How’s the second battalion? - asked Ivan, dragging deeply.
-They are taking the hotel “Kavkaz”, and to their aid we’re sending the third battalion with the tanks. The Chechens are dug in hard and holding on. Ulianovites and the marines are storming the Minutka Square and Dudaev’s palace, but for now are just loosing lives with little result.
-That means that we’ll be sent to their aid soon, interdicted the combat. - This, unlike smashing bottles over heads requires thinking - how to save lives and how to achieve the objective. I never understood the paratroopers, imagine to leap out of the plane in a sober state of mind—hm? - joked Palych, merrily.
-As for me, I never understood the border guards, picked up Ivan, - four years in the academy, where they are taught to look into the binoculars and walk next to a dog. I feel it in my heart, we’ll be gnawing the asphalt on this ****ing square.

In the back of my mind, I have already decided, that I won’t deliver this sniper to the brigade staff. The bitch will die from a stray bullet or during an “attempted escape”. Same ****, he has already told us everything he could have said.

Only in movies do they convince the “tongue” on ideological grounds to cough up the military secrets known to him. In real life, everything is simpler. It all depends on imagination, anger and time. If time and desire are present, one can take the enamel off the prisoner’s teeth using a chisel and convince them with the aid of the “field telephone”. This is a certain brown box with a crank on the side. You connect a pair of wires to the interlocutor and spin the crank, having first asked a number of questions. But this is done in comfortable conditions and if the subject is to be handed over to the attorney's aides. No traces remain. It is recommended to douse the subject in water and so that the screams are muffled to run big engines nearbly. But that is purely aesthetics.

In the field, everything is much simpler. The toes are shot off, one by one. There is no man that can endure this. You would tell all you know and all you remember. Does this make the reader ill? You were celebrating new year, visited friends, went down ice-hills with your kiddies, half drunk, instead of protesting in public squares demanding to save our fighters. You did not collect warm clothes or gave money to those Russians that fled Chechnya and did not donate any part of the money that you pissed up the wall towards cigarettes for the soldiers. So don’t turn away and listen to the truth of what war is like.

Allright, lets go for the third and come see your shooter, I said, pouring the remnants of vodka into the glasses.

We stood up, took the glasses, kept a few seconds’ silence and drank without clinking. The third toast is the most important for us soldiers. Whilst this toast for civilians is usually for “love”, for the students is for something else, for soldiers it is “for the fallen”. It is drunk upright, silently and without touching the glasses, with all partaking letting the images of those they have lost pass before their inner sight. Its a terrible toast, but from another perspective, you know that if you were to perish, in five and in twenty-five years some snotty lieutenant in some far-east garrison forgotten by God, or some portly colonel in the staff of a prestigious base would raise the third toast and drink to you.

We drank and I threw down a chunk of spam and a piece of “officer’s lemon” - an onion. There are no vitamins on the front, the body needs them, and so the onion was nicknamed the officer’s lemon. It is eaten in war everywhere and always, the smell is indeed terrible, but you get used to it, especially as it, at least a little, covers up the omnipresent, vomit inducing and inside-out-turning smell of decaying human flesh. Having consumed the chaser and washed it down with condensed milk, straight from the can, I took a cigarette from the com-batt's pack that was on the table and headed straight for the exit.

Com-batt and Ivan Iliin followed. About thirty meters from the entrance to the basement, a tight circle of fighters surrounded a tank. They were debating something loudly. I noticed the barrel of the tank’s gun somehow unnaturally pointed upwards. When we came closer, we noticed the rope hanging down from the gun-barrel.

Having seen us, the fighters parted. The picture before us was colourful, but at the same time frightening: at the end of this rope hung a man. His face was swollen from beatings, his eyes semi-closed, the tongue stuck out of his mouth, his hands were tied behind him. I have seen plenty of corpses in the past, but I do not like them, I do not like them.

The com-batt started shouting at the fighters:
-Who did this?! Which bitches, guts uncut? (I won’t quote the other epithets used, just ask any army man who served ten years or more to swear a bit, you’ll enrich your lexicon with new and exciting turns of speech).

The combat continued to rage and demand explanations, however looking at the sly expression on his mug, I knew that he was not mad at all. Of course he regretted not having the opportunity to string the sniper up himself, but appearances have to be kept up in front of an officer of the staff. And everyone present understood this completely. Also it was understood that nobody will report this incident to the military tribunal. All of this crossed my mind as I was smoking the com-batt’s Marlboro. To think of it; that just a few short hours ago, these cigarettes belonged to this man, whose feet are dangling in the air in front of my face, then they passed onto the com-batt, who is now busy shouting and finally I am smoking them as I watch this spectacle.

This circus started to bore me, so I asked the soldiers surrounding me, amongst whom I also spotted Semyon and Glue:
- What did he say before kicking the bucket?
The soldiers burst out, interrupting one another that “that bitch” (which is the kindest epithet they used) shouted that he regretted felling only thirty of “your men”.

The fighters emphasised the word “your” and I could see that they were telling the truth. Had he not said this, he might have lived a while longer.

At this point, one of the soldiers said something that amused everyone:
-Comrade Captain, he hung himself.
-He tied the noose on a raised barrel with bound hands and then leapt from the armour? - I asked, holding back laughter.

I then turned to the com-batt:
-Oh well, take your corpse down and we’ll report that he suicided, having not being able to live with a guilty conscience, - I spat out the butt and crushed it with my heel, - And I’ll take his rifle with me.

-Nikolaich, - he addressed me for the first time in the patronymic, - Leave the rifle with me, my guts churn when I see it.

Having looked into his eyes, his expression begging, I knew that I could not take the gun with me.
-You will owe me, and you, - I directed to Ivan, - will be the witness.
-Thank you, Nikolaich, - Palych vigorously shook my hand.
-Because of this idiot, I had to leg it here, under fire and now go back the same way.
-So take him with you, and say that he died during an exchange of fire, Ivan joked.
-Go to hell, - I replied, un-maliciously. You can grab and cart this stiff yourself. And if in the future, you’ll allow yourself the misjudgement of taking someone prisoner, either you bring him to the brigade staff yourself or finish him quietly and on the spot. Make sure to somehow commend the fighters that took him. That’s all, we’re leaving. Issue the order to have us escorted for a few blocks.

We shook hands and the com-batt, snorting, reached into his inner pocket and produced a sealed Marlboro pack. I thanked him and called out to my fighters:
-Semyon, Glue, we’re leaving.
They approached, adjusting their guns.
-Ready? Did you at least get fed?
-They fed us and poured us a hundred grams, - answered Semyon. - They also replenished our ammo and provisions.
-OK men, let’s go, we have to reach our positions while it’s still light, - I muttered, buttoning up as I walked and attaching a new magazine.

I had a superb magazine, taken from the RPK. Their capacity is fifteen rounds greater than the standard assault rifle magazines, - each one holds 45 rounds. I laid them together like “The Jack” and taped them up with isolation tape. So I always have 90 rounds at my disposal. Unfortunately the calibre is only 5.45 instead of the old 7.62. The 5.45 has a large ricochet and the bullet “wonders”, whilst 7.62 once you lay it down, you lay it down. There is a story around, that during the Vietnam war, the Americans complained to their gun-makers that the M-16 wounds more than it kills (same as with the AK-47 and the AKM by the way). So the gun-makers went to visit their troops in the field. They looked about a bit and began experimenting on the spot—they drilled a hole in the top of the bullet and welded in a needle. This operation resulted in a shift in the centre of gravity, the bullet began to ricochet more and upon contact wound up almost all of the man’s guts onto itself. The enemy experienced a decrease in woundings and an increase in lethal outcomes.

Our guys thought of nothing more original than to follow the American example and in Afghanistan replaced the 7.62-caliber Kalashnikovs with the forty fives. Maybe some like it, but not me.

Having buttoned up and taken up our guns, we hopped up and down a bit and looked each-other over.
-Lord’s help, - I pronounced and having turned around saw the five fighters that were preparing in the same manner, to escort us.

One more time I glanced over at the hanged sniper. The tank’s gun returned to its normal angle and the rope with the dead man was gone.
-That’s it, let’s go, - I commanded and with a nod indicated that the first battalion fighters go first.
Being more familiar with their surroundings, they, unlike we, who got here over the topside, dove into a basement and lead us through pile-ups and fissures. In one spot we descended into the sewer, somewhere else we emerged again on top. I completely lost my sense of direction and could only determine the route using the hand compass. It indicated that we were going the right way. After about thirty minutes, the sergeant that led us, stopped and started searching for his cigarettes. We all lit up. Then he said: -That’s it - there are about five to seven blocks remaining to your boxes, no more than that. But you’ll have to continue on your own over the top-side.

Having finished my smoke, I extended my arm to the sergeant and farewelled each of the escorting soldiers. And I said:
-Good luck! We all need good luck.
-Why don’t you go ahead and we’ll remain here and listen for ten minutes or so.
-This way, - I directed to Semyon and Glue indicating the direction with my hand. I leapt out first, fell down and tolled and looked around, pointing with my gun. Having noticed nothing suspicious, I waved tot he others. Semyon emerged first, then Glue with the radio.

In this manner we continued for another forty minutes until we came up our “boxes”. As soon as we set off, we came under a hurricane of fire from the top levels.

The leading vehicle, which I was riding, veered to the left, then hit a corner. Its speed dropped and then it stopped completely. We were sitting on the armour and swore as we opened fire.
-Mechanic! You’re ****ed over the head, what are you doing, your mother, quickly get out of here! I hummed into the hatch. Then addressing the fighters sitting next to me:
-Deploy a smoke screen!
-The caterpillar is torn off! - shouted the mechanic, getting out of the BMP.
-Your mother, everyone off the armour. Four of you stretch the caterpillar back on, the rest of you take up defence. Ready two underbarrelers - the rest use the assault rifles, the second vehicle - use the gun. That’s it lads, lets roll!

The heat of battle seized me once again. Fear— is the first thing one feels, but you know that when fear is defeated, you’ll taste a hint of blood in your mouth, you feel calm and powerful, your senses are sharpened. You notice all, your brain like a good computer instantaneously delivers the correct solutions and a heap of combinations. Immediately having rolled off the armour, rolled on the ground and I’m behind a fragment of concrete wall. I feverishly search for the target, but cannot yet see whence from they are shooting us up. Hold. A breath in and out, in and slowly out, that’s it I’m ready, let’s roll Slavs, well stretch their eyes over their black ass. Adrenaline is once again raging in my veins and a feel a merry draw of the battle boiling up inside of me.

The fighters did not have to be ordered twice. They quickly and precisely pulled out the rings from the smoke generator boxes and our vehicle disappeared in multi-coloured plumes of smoke. The Russian soldier is thrifty and consequently takes everything that isn’t nailed down, just in case. So, when we took the airport “Severny” the lads picked up a bunch of smoke sticks. The second vehicle having seen us, released their own smokescreen. This was fortunate timing as the Chechens realised they won’t be able to pick the infantry off the armour and started firing out of an RPG.

What is an RPG? An ordinary grenade launcher, he also has a little sister, called “the fly”. It looks like a pipe, the first modifications folded out telescopically. Both are designed for destruction of armoured vehicles and infantry. As the grenade encounters an obstacle, (this would often be an armoured plate), it releases a stream of fire the thickness of a needle that burns through the metal and inside the target creates a high level of pressure and a happy temperature of say three thousand degrees, or so. The shells and ammo begin to explode. This terrible explosion can tear off a many-ton turret and propel it thirty meters, shred the crew and the riders on top. How many infantry perished, when the lads were sitting thusly inside metal death-traps? However, there were instances when the mechanic or the gunner had their hatches open, in which case the explosion simply propelled them outward, slightly broken and concussed, but alive and not crippled.

So these sons of bitches started to peck us with an RPG and on top of that from “bumblebees”, and neither could the enemy see us, nor could we see them. It should be noted that we looked quite funny. Enveloped in heavy standard-issue black smoke from which coloured aviation smokes - blue, red, yellow, issued like geysers, weaving together and then separating, distracting the adversary.

The second BMP’s gun started reporting, shooting randomly into the general direction of the grenade launchers. And then there was an explosion over there. Either we hit something, or the RPG trooper slipped up in the heat of battle. Both “fly” and “bumblebee” are after all a pipe. For the complete idiot only, there is a label “direction of fire”. Who knows what happened there, but the Lord was on our side today it seems. Hearing that the shooting from the Chechen side died down, our fighters started shouting merrily, mainly in mat and monosyllables that are understood no doubt by all warriors of the globe.
-No stuffing around! - I barked. - Continue stretching on the caterpillar, second vehicle, take up defence.

I stood up and began stretching my stiff legs and back, not relaxing for even a second, peering though the clearing smoke at the building from which the shooting came from.

Judging by the angle of fire, it was probably the third floor. In the confusion and because of the smoke, I didn’t properly determine where we were being shot at from. And only now did I see a gaping hole on the third level, torn open by the blast, belching smoke.

Semyon, who during the whole fight was beside me, pointed at the hole in the wall:
-The bitches cooked! Vyacheslav Nikolayevich, let’s go check maybe?

In his eyes was such a begging expression, one would think that his bride was waiting for him there.
-In a moment, wait, - I said and addressing the mechanics working near the vehicle: - How long are you going to screw around with that track?
-Almost done, Comrade Captain, another five minutes, rasped one of the fighters, as he assisted in affixing the caterpillar onto the leading sprocket.
-Semyon, Glue, Mauser, American, Picasso - you’re with me. The rest continue the repairs and cover us. If we do not return in half an hour, roll back two blocks and then wait for another half an hour. If we don’t return then, go back to headquarters. That’s all.
And to the fighters that were to come with me:
-Let’s go, you devil spawn. Picasso—lead, rearguard—Glue, Semyon—on the right side, Mauser—left side. Prepare the grenades.
-What about me? - piped up the weedy, but outwardly charming fighter, who possessed a first grade in rock climbing and nicknamed “American” because he turned up to be conscripted wearing shorts with the American flag design.
-And you will walk next to us and won’t snap with your soup-hole, - I answered un-maliciously. Let’s go mop up the Chechens.
-Everyone understood what it meant to “mop up”, namely, no prisoners. “A good Indian is a dead Indian” - the conquistadors’ motto was very fitting in our situation. What can a live Chechen offer us, especially some infantryman? Well - nothing, no maps, no stores, no communications systems - not-a-thing. And if the bitch is wounded, you have to stuff around with him - set out a guard. Meanwhile he could pull some trick - sabotage for example. Neither can we exchange him. We’ll finish him and that the end of story. It’s even better for him - at least we won’t torture him.

UVB76 07 Jun 11 03:33

"I Witnessed this War. Chechnya 1995" by V.N. Mironov
English translation by R.N. Belousov, published with permission.

Chapter 2

Carefully, we ascended to the third floor. There were fire points set up in two adjacent apartments. In one laid the RPG trooper, in the other, two gunners equipped with Kalashnikov machine guns. The most amazing thing was that they were kids 13-15 years of age. One of the gunners was still alive, unconscious, and was moaning softly. Judging by the profusely bleeding stump, in place of a leg, he was not going to survive. The shell hit the RPG gunner’s room and by the looks of it destroyed his stores. I glanced around once more and the good mood evaporated. Of course these were Chechens and they shot at us, thirsting for our death, but… But they were kids. ****. I spat off to the side and ordered the fighters standing beside me: “Finish him off and then comb the entire stairwell, in case somebody else crawled off”. Though, somehow I doubted it.

The three assault rifle reported - this was Semyon, Glue and Picasso releasing a short burst each into the mangled body. The kid bulked, the bullets tore up his chest, somebody hit the head, which cracked open marring the floor…I calmly watched this murder. I then turned away from the corpse, I hate corpses, maybe this is a normal response from a healthy individual? Who knows. I took out the sniper’s Marlboro and treated the fighters.

-I thought I said it in plain Russian - comb the stairwell. Is that understood? I said dragging on the cigarette. - The fighters mumbled something and went off to carry out the order. Meanwhile, I went through the pockets of the deceased, holding back bouts of vomit and covering myself in puffs of cigarette smoke.

Oo! This wouldn’t be the military ID card? Here, let’s see: Semyonov Aleksei Pavlovich, born 1975. Semyonov, Semyonov, Semyonov. Something stirred in my memory. Wasn’t there a Semyonov in the sapper engineers, that went missing in action during the storming of the “Severny” airport? He was sent to bring the fuse chord for de-mining and the kid disappeared. I hope he wasn’t shooting at us. I carefully examined the Chechen’s faces, comparing it to the bad photo on the ID card. I looked through a hole in the wall at the guy with the grenade launcher. Thank God, it wasn’t any of them. I leafed through the ID a bit more. ****! Our detachment, our Semyonov. You ****ers are lucky, otherwise your death would have been terrible. I would have questioned you personally, I know how to loosen tongues virtue of being through many wars in the former Soviet territories, and I know how to keep them alive long and sane.

The feeling of regret over the dead kids passed immediately and only hatred remained, hatred so strong that my teeth clenched spasmodically. If I have to, I will crush with my own hands not sparing my own life. If only I can bring the moron back, alive and unharmed.

At this point, my fighters called out from stairwell.
-Comrade Captain, Comrade Captain, we found somebody, up there, on the roof! Gasping shouted the American.

I sprinted up the stairs like an arrow, and didn’t wheeze. Our fighter was on the roof, nailed down, like Jesus, on a cross. His severed penis was inserted into his mouth. And despite the layer of mud encrusting his face, I recognised him from the photograph: it was him—Semyonov. And even though I have seen him only about ten times and didn’t interact with him, I felt a lump in my throat, tears welling up in my eyes and a tickling in my nose. I regretted having not spoken to him earlier. I think he was commandeered to our brigade out of Abakan immediately before departure for Chechnya.
-They nailed him to the cross and placed him on the roof. It looks like he was toppled over by the blast, which is why we didn’t notice him, Picasso began. He seemed to be ashamed that we didn’t spot the lad earlier.

This is our soldier, - I laboured through the lump in my throat and holding back shouting and expletives, Semyonov, a sapper, disappeared at “Severny” during de-mining. I found his ID on one of the shooters.

The fighters were as if struck by electricity, they started bustling around Semyonov, carefully removing from the cross, trying all the while not to damage him as though he was still alive. They whispered as if not to wake him, tears dripping and dripping from their eyes, making it harder to work. I turned away and retrieved the cigarette pack, light up, drawing greedily, trying to chase down the lump in my throat. I glanced sideways to check on the progress. When Semyonov was taken off the cross, a makeshift stretcher was constructed from the planks and rags lying nearbly and the martyr was placed upon it, I said:
-Glue, talk to the boxes, tell them to drive up closer and that we are carrying “Cargo 200”. Our “Cargo 200”.

I went first, checking the route, while the fighters carefully as if handling a wounded man, carried Semyonov on the stretcher. Glue concluded our procession weighed down with the radio and whatever remaining weaponry we found on the Chechens.

Having emerged from the stairwell, we loaded the body into the crew compartment and set off. I thought to myself, woe to any Chechen that tried to show his nose in our way. For confirmation, I looked around and saw the fighters with the same frightening, empty eyes as mine. Only the fire of vengeance blazes inside and not a thing more, just emptiness. Blood, blood, blood, to pour out my rage, that a scull crack under my gun-stock and ribs crunch under my boot. To punch through with my knuckles and tear arteries and to look in their eyes and ask them: “Why did you, carrion, shoot at Russians?”

Hold on bitches, there will be no mercy, not to the elderly or the children, nor to the women - nobody. Stalin and Yermolov were right - these people cannot be re-educated, only destroyed.

The BMPs raced forward as if sensing our mood, its engines ran evenly, without interruptions, immersing us in greasy clouds of unburned diesel, lending our grimy composure a certain glistening dandyness. But our eyes continued to burn with a mad fire, demanding vengeance and there was no place in our souls for cowardice, no desire to run. It is perhaps this sort of state that compels a man to lay over an embrasure, so as to forfeit their life to save the lives others. The desire for revenge becomes a desire to protect those close to you, a willingness to sacrifice oneself for others.

Glancing at my surroundings, with my very skin, I felt the stirrings in the ruins. Having rested the gun in the bend of my arm, I pulled out the remaining ID cards that were taken off the dead Chechen and started reading them. Petrov Andrej Aleksandrovich, - Maikop Brigade. Yelizar’yev Evgenii Anatol’yevich - MVD forces (MVD and border guards have four-digit unit numbers, regular army’s are five-digit). All up - eight Ids. All up - eight lives. Where are you boys? It seems nobody will ever find this out and for the rest of her life the mother will weep, no grave, nowhere to go. It’s scary stuff.

I finished with the Ids, making sure there were no more fighters from our brigade and no Siberians. I put the documents away and looked my arkharovtsy over, thus indicating that there were no more of our comrades. They turned away again and gazed at the scenes of recent battles racing by.

Demolished buildings, houses, uprooted trees. Burned out vehicles could be seen in places. Commonly, these were tanks with turrets blasted off over the distance of many meters, ripped tracks. The BMP and BTR got torn to pieces sometimes, depending on where the grenade trooper hit it and also what type of ammo was inside. Some mechanics got lucky, others - not.

It was painful to see felled trees - I like nature. A man has a choice. He can choose not to go here, to serve time for desertion, to buy a “white ticket”, engage in self-harm, or one of the many other ploys the cunning mind of a Russian citizen is capable of. Meanwhile trees, animals - they do not have the same choice. They are not responsible for any of this. They are kept or planted due to a man’s whim and another man comes and maims them and there is nothing that they can do. Neither the trees nor the animals can flee and somehow protect themselves. So many accepted death on the threshold of their own house, together with their keepers. Those animals that remain will soon be eaten as there will surely be a famine. Already I witnessed people, shuffling like shadows amongst the ruins, mostly the elderly or middle-aged women. Everyone capable of bearing arms has left to join the partisans, to avenge themselves. Fair enough, we’ll avenge also. And the circle is complete. Each one of us is fighting, in their opinion, the just, holy cause. Each one prays to their own gods, calling to their aid and demanding vengeance for their comrades, cursing the enemy. The Lord divides the spoils of war evenly. Fine then, we’ll go to war. Only it is hard to fight a people. It would be better to fight the regular army of a state, as we were taught to fight. Knock out the enemy in an open field, conquer a city, grab some trophies and then into the open fields again. Meanwhile, this place is just like Afghanistan - you’re fighting a whole people, hell knows for how long and neither is it a real war. By law - a crappy police operation to restore constitutional order and what this order means exactly, nobody really knows and are unlikely to ever find out. OK, so while we and the Chechens shred each-other, somebody up in the capital will handsomely warm their hands. I have seen enough of it already. For some it’s war and for others it’s their own mother. If one of those bitches was indicted for all the blood that has already been spilled on the former Union lands. I am not talking about the Balts - having jailed their thugs and OMON cops, what good did that do? They gained nothing other than vengeance for their comrades. Meanwhile those that sanctioned such actions, those that lead and gave the orders - it is in their belly-button that one would like to dig around with a bayonet-blade, look into their eyes, dilated from pain and fear, to grow deaf from their screams, to inhale the scent of their blood - that would be truly fun. Not this ****.

The people here, for four years lived according to GULAG laws. It was us that fed them with money, supplied them with arms, raised and trained them in GRU camps. We wanted them to fight for us in Ossetia and Abkhazia, as if it was none of our concern. And when they were no longer needed, they had to be exterminated, but no - we hoped to tame the Chechen. High hopes - the Chechen turned against the Moskovite posse. One question remains - why is it that the whole country has to suffer from your Chicago shoot-outs and we had to race over here all the way from Siberia to pull you apart. China for us is closer than Chechnya. On top of that you brought in troops from Transbaikal, The Far East, Marines from the Pacific, for whom the States are closer. And another things I’m wondering about: why did these Chechens leave the oil refinery completely untouched and that we are strictly forbidden to use heavy arms there? Look at the air force - merrily bombing residential districts, but the old industrial district—no no.

That means that this is somebody’s property, somebody who can shoo the Minister of Defence, that he dare not wreck it. He has leave to level the entire city, but not the oil refinery. Naturally when the Russian trooper gets wound up, it’s difficult to contain him, but even the Chechens know not to go there. Naively reckoning he is fighting for his shitty freedom, the idiot has no clue meanwhile that we are all simply a part of somebody’s sort-out. Ordinary, urkagan sort-outs, although particularly brutal ones. One little pakhan, decided to throw a big one and establish his own business, so the pakhan sent his posse—the Russian army to sort it out. The little pakhan meanwhile smartly, squealed about independence of state and his “bulls” also rose up also. And so the sort-outs began. Nobody can now properly recall how this **** started. The boys are smashing each-other up, the pakhans are raking in the dough. Using the war as an excuse they take away pensions and allowances. The little pakhan meanwhile is inciting the Islamic world with his cheap religious ideology. God, have mercy and help us!

At this point, the BMP made a sharp turn and we nearly fell off the armour. Serves you right, you idiot. You sit on the armour and shut your soup-hole, or you get picked off or fall off and break your neck. The commanders will do the thinking for you and deliver the right decision. Your task is to survive and fulfil the objective. Everything else is nothing but ****. For example Andrej Petrov, the former commander of the Mortar battery, upon dispatch demanded that his formation be given two weeks for personnel training. He motivated his demands with the fact that his fighters were conscripted in November, having held an assault rifle in their hands only once before—during the taking of the oath ceremony. He was discharged, so that others would not deign, discharged with dishonour for desertion. A snotty, lieutenant was promoted in his place - a two-year tertiary graduate. Where is this lieutenant and his battery now? During the assault on the airport, he laid down most of his men himself including. That’s how it is. The army is staffed with idiots. With some you mess around for two years and with others - twenty five.

No matter how we tried to convince our big-star commanders that we are not prepared for war either materially or technically. The men are unprepared physically. When in December, the command came to load up onto the echelons and head out, just then it was bitterly frosty. As it happens in our army, the BMPs were fuelled by the summer formula, whose constituency at this point resembled that of syrup. So the military district smartasses decided to pour kerosene into this syrup to dilute it. They poured…One BMP went off right in the motor-park, along with full munitions kit and it was simply a miracle, that nobody got hurt. The second exploded when loading onto the railway platform, but again The Lord was on our side. Again, as it happens in the army, a heap of equipment and armament was written off on these accidents, exactly like in Suvorov’s “The Liberators”. According to documentation, it turned out that these machines carried no less than fifty winter coats, twenty five night-vision instruments and no less than a hundred ugg boots and camouflage suits. When the write-off papers were brought to an officer of the staff for authorisation, having read it, he ordered: “A winter coat and camo-suit, report to me”. The rear commander’s deputy increased the number of “destroyed” winter coats and camo-suits exactly by one unit each and brought one of each back together with the papers for signing. The general signed without hesitation.

This general is now here with us. Thank god he does not interfere in the running of the brigade, just signs disposal papers for “combat losses”.

My thought then switched over to how best to convincingly lie regarding the sniper’s failure to reach the headquarters alive. I understood, that naturally, nobody will be breathing into my face in righteous indignation, only regret that they themselves had not the opportunity to spin his guts onto their elbow. Special forces and reconnaissance will experience heightened regret. For both want nothing more but to lay their hands on the adversary so they can be made to talk. In this we are also quite capable with the only difference being that they retain a veneer of intellect, whilst we are much simpler, although we can loosen some tongues much faster. You can’t beat a master at his trade.

Something stirred in the ruins and glimmered in the rays of the dying sun. The brain did not even react properly, the arms already cocked the gun, the finger gripped the trigger, searching for the target. Only then did I consciously perceive that these were anti aircraft gunners from our brigade, that took up positions upon the ruins of some house. They too were greeting us with pointed guns, but we both had enough brains and composure in order to not open fire. Moreover since their Shilka, the self-propelled anti-aircraft mount ZSU-23 with four paired barrels was already turning in our direction. If they were to open up on us out of that thing, there would be nothing left. Oh well, it’s a good thing we identified one another. We yelled something merrily to greet each other. OK, this means the command post is right ahead of us. Oh and there’s the fountain of fire spewing out of the ruptured gas pipeline. Another two hundred meters or so and we are “home” We can even relax.
-Radioman, I directed to Glue, - inform them of our arrival, or they’ll start shooting.

Glue chattered something into his apparatus and then nodded to me to indicate that yes, we are being expected. There was no desire to talk and more so shout over the din of battle hanging over the city, exasperated by that feeling of the presence of a fallen comrade. It is as if we felt guilty for his death but at the same time each one of us knew that it could have been them in that kid’s place.

The vehicles reduced speed and slowly manoeuvred through the improvised labyrinth of wall panels and piles of broken brick. From around each corner, a soldier with a dusty face watched us through his gun-sight. Because of the dust, their weary, strained and chronically sleepless, red-eyed faces looked as if made of stone. Having recognised us, they lowered their weapons and greeted us with smiles and waves. I guessed that already the officers, like the soldiers were betting on the delivery of the captured sniper. Personally I would not wager on delivery. We greeted the minutemen wearily.

It a good thing that we arrived while it’s still light, as some smartass at the Ministry of Defence invented a new system of passwords. If before everything was simple and understandable, now without ten classes of education and a half-litre, there is no working this **** out. Example. If before there was the password “Saratov” and the response “Leningrad” - that, a dummy can understand. We now have fighters who can’t read or write properly - children of the Perestroika. Meanwhile the gist of the new system is such that a numerical password is established for a day, let’s say thirteen. So. The sentry spots a silhouette in the darkness and shouts “Halt! The password is seven!”. You must immediately calculate in your head that thirteen minus seven is six and shout into the darkness “The answer is six!”, after which the sentry adds six and seven in his head, resulting in thirteen and lets you through. But if one of you can’t count or think straight, the sentry, according to the Charter of sentry and garrison duty and in wartime on top of that has the full right to shoot you without trial or jury and no prosecutor will lift a finger to punish him later. In that, you idiot, should have studied maths at school, harder. All good if you’re not too concussed and the fighter is thinking straight, but there are some smartasses, who shout out fractions or negative numbers, which is where you’ll curse all their relatives and loved ones, involuntarily remembering meanwhile middle-school maths. On top of all, some Moskva shithead might get a commendation out of all this or even a medal for his chest. Those ****ers can easily pull something like that off.

With such thoughts in mind, we rode up to the semi-demolished kindergarten housing our brigade’s command post. I jumped off the BMP, massaging stiff, frozen legs and walking rigidly approached the head of staff Bilich Alexandr Alexandrovich, or as he was known to everyone in the brigade, San Sanych. As I moved, I turned around and yelled to my fighters:
-Unload the hero and be careful.

They nodded their understanding.

Bilich San Sanych was about one seventy in height. His hair, not so much white as they were fair. Wide in the shoulders, he always had sparks in his eyes, or perhaps it always seemed that way to those around him? What set him apart from the other brigade officers was that by his very nature and in life, he was an intellectual. At first it seemed to everyone, this was a front, but the more one interacts with him, the more they see that no, this was just his nature. It seemed like he did not belong in our times, but in the times of hussars, balls and duels. Even now, when having more or less learned to fight, having acclimatised to the city conditions and having began to rout the enemy, when the war took on a positional, if still patchy character, Bilich found the time for his small morning exercises.

In the mornings, if we managed to nap over night, we crawled out of our holes in the basement and shook from the cold. Because winter, even if it was in the south is still winter. As a rule, there usually was no water and the several days’ stubble no longer stuck out, but grew smoothly over our faces. But looking at our nonchalant commander one somehow felt the desire to straighten up and find wanter and time for shaving. Although many officers didn’t shave due to superstition or laziness. Some even looked all-right that way. Only Khlopov Roman, the commander of the recon troop, that possessed a naturally dark skin looked like a true Chechen when he let out his beard. During the battle for the train terminal, his own fighters shot at him. To his good luck he was wearing a helmet and a flack jacket, otherwise they would have wacked him. From then on Khlopov, whom we called Khlop took up the habit of shaving daily, disregarding the conditions.

A week and a half or so back, when he and the reconnaissance chief broke through to the “Severny” airport to the staff of the united forces commander, they came upon an ambush on the way back. Grenade troops shot up their BMP at point-blank. Khlop was killed instantly, the recon chief was heavily concussed. The soldiers fought their way back to their positions for two days. They even brought back the mutilated Khlop and the concussed, almost deaf and semi-blind chief of reconnaissance captain Stepchenko Sergei Stanislavovich. As the fighters later told us, they laid low in basements during the day and moved by night, risking assault rifle fire from both the Chechens and their own. They slept in turns, sometimes using Khlop’s remains as a pillow.

Something went awry with Seryoga Stepchenko’s head. Maybe due to the concussion, maybe due to the time spent holed up in basements next to a corpse. His concussion treated with vodka, spirit and cognac saw his hearing and sight gradually restored, but he could not stand enclosed spaces. At first glance he seemed all-right - fighting, working, but suddenly, he’d start talking utter nonsense. The brigade commander, colonel Bakhel Aleksandr Antonovich ordered to relieve Stepchenko from duty and keep an eye on him, lest he pull something. There was no prospect of evacuation - the wounded were kept in dugouts and the helicopters could not approach. Leutenant Krivosheev Stepan, a recon troop commander was temporarily assigned to the post of recon chief. Bilich San Sanych took care of Stepchenko and not only him - but all who were by his side. He decreed that the fighters that pulled Stepchenko and Khlop out were recommended for the title of Hero of Russia. But for now these papers were kept in the mobile safe of the brigade’s chief of staff.

Bilich did not recognise on principle the use of physical methods or obscenities in conversation with the enemy or subordinates. But I know that shouting in mat at somebody ensures a clearer understanding and a speedier execution of the orders. From personal I experience.

And so it was to this hussar intellectual that I was meant to explain that I did not deliver the sniper because the fighters lost all restraint and strung him up on a tank gun barrel. As I walked into the staff building, in my head I was polishing some of the gentler phrases that might spare the refined depths of San Sanych’s soul whilst at the same time covering the asses of the com-batt and Ivan Il’in.

On the way I ran into the deputy chief of brigade rear Kleimenov Arkadij Nikolayevich. Everyone spoke of him that “Suvorow was right, any quartermaster can be safely hung after a year on the job”. And when one beheld the well-fed face and figure of this man, they knew that the Generalissimo was indeed right, and in his time Kleimenov would long since have swung from a thill. His personal baggage grew continuously, despite the state of warfare we were in.

-Ah, Slava, how was the trip? Did you bring the shooter?
-Alas, Arkadij Nikolaevich, he carked it. Passed away. - I made a sombre face, though my eyes were speaking otherwise, the quartermaster understood and parried.
-How did he die? - surprised, he put on a questioning expression.
-Weak heart, - I scoffed, - also he was wounded, so he didn’t live until departure. Except, how to tell this to San Sanych, lest he become too upset?
-He’s got other worries other than that sniper. Neither did anyone believe you’d really deliver him. Especially when you and Il’in could well have administered him harakiri on the spot. It a shame though, as there was a line-up forming here for a colloquy, - grinned Klejmenov.
-Did they wager on delivery? - I asked.
-Yeah, but mainly on non-delivery.
-Yeah, also I brought Semyonov - the fighter went MIA during the storming of “Severnyj”. My guys are currently unloading him. So what else is new?
-So you’ve only been away for four hours. Oh, also, - Arkadij Nikolaevich’s voice changed to a gloomy tone, - second battalion’s chief of staff was wounded.

It seemed for a moment that the walls tilted.
-This is Sashka Pakhomenko? - I asked.
-Him. They are storming the hotel “Kavkaz”, and in that area there as many Chechens as demons in hell, so he got it in the chest. The medics could not get through. The nurse bandaged him. Right now we are preparing a storm troop who will try to drag him out under the cover of darkness.
I could see that Klejmenov became very upset as he told me this.

Captain Pakhomenko Aleksandr Il’ich was the brigade’s favourite. Of huge stature and open personality he loved to wisecrack and jest. He knew many anecdotes, stories, tall tales and lacked maliciousness. Most importantly he was responsive and sincere and this endeared him to the people, who after just ten minutes of interacting with him felt as if they knew him since academy days. On top of it all he was no idler or freeloader. He threw himself first into the toughest spots, came to the aid of his comrade and because of this the officers and soldiers loved him dearly. He could help in word or deed as well as he could lay on in three-tiered mat - he swore virtuosicaly. He could drive a BMP in place of a mechanic-driver, dig around in the engine in the bitter frost and competently conduct exercises. In less words, he was that very type of officer that the mass media went on about. Loathed the enemy, did not hide his feelings, always ready to get you out of trouble. Unfaltering. Although sometimes overly noisy, but one got used to that fairly quickly. That was Sashka Pakhomenko, who asked to be called “simply Il’ich”. It’s strange but somehow the war dredges up long forgotten details about your interactions with people. And now this joker was lying around in the basement of a semi-demolished house with a hole in his chest. The Lord, give him strength.

-Well, Arkadij Nikolaevich, I’m off to report to San Sanych, - I nodded my head and departed onwards down the corridor.
-He’s with an agent of the unified command there. Bakhel is out visiting the third battalion, so this straightedge chap is riveting Sanych’s brains. They’ll probably send us on some break-through again, where the elite troops shat themselves. It’s always like this with us. The elite forces get to receive medals and shoot up the parliament in Moskva, while Siberian Makhra has to gnaw the asphalt in the cold of winter. Then when it’s over, they’ll send us away and these slinks will tell pretty girls about their feats as the cameras flash. He spat, gesticulated in resignation and departed.

There were soldiers and officers in the corridor, some smoked, some slept leaning against the bullet-cratered wall, rising up to the sound of the particularly close gun reports.

This kindergarten came to us a high cost. Dudaev declared that he doesn’t need academics, only warriors, so the boys should study three classes, whilst the girls only one. And since all women now stay at home, there is no need for kindergartens. People close to the government, either through bribery or force, would appropriate the premises, just like this one, refurbished as a mansion for some bandit. The host and his guard fought for it fiercely.

We spent half a day smoking them out of here and when we finally stormed in, we could establish that this particular bandit lived well: carpets everywhere, not the mass-produced kind, but hand-made, expensive furniture, crystal, porcelain, such electronics that we had seen only on TV. We studied the photographs of the owner and his household. As much as we missed women, I have never seen beauties here, neither in photographs, not in real life. They all have small faces, small eyes, their noses are kind of crooked, small mouths, to my mind, really resemblant of rats. Everyone has his tastes, but as they say - “there are no ugly women, only a shortage of vodka, but I can’t drink that much…”

My mind thus occupied, I descended into the basement where the brigade headquarters were located. Drawing away a soldier’s water-proof cape that hung over the door I immediately felt the warmth of a soldiers’ field stove - the potbelly, that probably survives only in the army. But as long as the Russian Army survives, this stove will warm its soldiers in training and in battle.

-Comrade colonel, captain Mironov, after fulfilment of objective, reporting. - I chanted, seeing Bilich rising his head from the map. Over that map also leaned a senior officer of the staff - my partner or as we referred to each other “accomplice”, major Ryzhov Yurij Nikolaevich and some major unknown to me.
-We have been waiting for you a long time now. How did you go with fetching the sniper? - asked, looking inquisitively into my eyes, the chief of staff. - Your buddy here wagers a case of cognac that you would not bring him.
-Had I known that the talk was of cognac, I would have at least bought his head. But he died, the dog, from his wounds and by the looks of it from a weak heart. The bastard was our comrade by his own admission, a Siberian. Thirty two notches on the stock and an excellent sight on his gun - Japanese.
-Where’s the gun? - inquired Ryzhov.
-I left it with the com-batt and Il’in. They only have to show it to their fighters and they go berserk. And it’s a good charge-up for them too.
-Enough, enough out of you about the “charge-up”. Right now we need only the one type of charge-up - aviation from the air, the approximate location of the enemy and where those bitches are getting their supplies from. They were not prepared for war and consequently had no stores of arms, ammunition or supplies.
-That’s not all, - I interrupted Bilich, - upon our return route, we were fired upon, engaged, counter-attacked, destroying the enemy and discovered upon one of their bodies, here… - I handed over the dead private’s Id, - Our fighter. Semyonov is his surname.

Again, I felt that lump in my throat, interfering with my speech and breathing. I took out the cigarettes and although Bilich did not smoke, he sympathetically did not object. I felt the lump disappear after I dragged a few times. I continued:
-It seems, that these bastards subjected him to prolonged torture, then cut off his member while he was still alive and nailed him to the cross. Then they shoved it in his mouth. We brought him back, the fighters must have unloaded him by now. Also, here are some more, - I handed over the other Ids, - no more of our boys.

San Sanych listened attentively, then looked straight into my eyes and then accepted the Ids. He quickly looked them over examining only the serial numbers of army formations, then stacked them down on the table.
-By the way, say hello, - he turned to the major, - major Karpov Vyacheslav Viktorovich, a representative of the unified command, officer of the General Staff. And this, - pointing at me, - is captain Mironov, a senior staff officer, an adventurer, still drawn to battle, still can’t get used to not being a company commander, but a staffer.—San Sanych chided me fatherly-like.

I was a little startled, I did not expect my boss to report me so warmly. I extended my arm, the major did also.
-Vyacheslav, - he introduced himself.

A namesake, huh. Let’s see what sort of a bird you are and why the dick you fluttered in here. He must be a really big deal, this guy, seeing he was sent here to us. Maybe they want to butter us up before a suicide mission, check out the state of affairs in the collective, so as to remove the commander later. These far cats from Moskva like to pull such tricks.

I looked him over attentively. A familiar mug. I’ve seen him somewhere, but where, for now, I could not remember. Very well, we’ll sort that out later. But the fact that this was a Moskovite and on top of that General Staff made me dislike him immediately as it would any field officer. These Moskovites are the root of all evil, all of them scoundrels, thieves and coveters. This acxiom was known to every soldier, who watched them come down for inspections and engage in nothing but drunkenness. They then left carrying away lavish gifts. Slinks in other words - these Moskovites. We are here because of them. Moskva planned the first and the current storming of Grozny. November 25 and January 1 will be days of mourning in Russian military history.

All of this raced through my head, as I shook the moskovite’s hand and squeezed out a semblance of a smile. I think that my thoughts broadcast on my soot-covered faced very well. But I could not right there and then and in the presence of the commander send this fop to hell.
-Vyacheslav, - I introduced myself in reply to the Moskva fop.
-Major Karpov, take these documents to the stavka, let them sort out who’s who and inform the relatives. - San Sanych handed him the Ids.

The Moskovite nodded in agreement, took the Ids and without looking at or counting them shoved them into his pocket, not even the inner pocket as a normal officer would do out of respect for the fallen, but the outer pocket of his coat that hung on the chair.

This severely pissed me off and with a poorly concealed irritation in my voice I said to this son of a bitch:
-Dear sir, make sure you don’t loose them, huh, after all these are someone’s lives.

San Sanych and Ryzhkov both sensed the rage in my voice and looked at the newcomer like he was the enemy of the people. Perceiving hopefully, that he made a mistake, he muttered something under his nose and moved the documents into his inner pocket. As he did this the ****er looked at me very expressively as if he wanted to grind me into dust. Well well, kiddo, have a good look, I can calm a drunken soldier with my stare, but as for you, you dandy, I’ll put you on your knees with my stare and my gun. I held out the stare of his watery unremarkable eyes. He himself looked a bit puny. A meter seventy in height, maybe less, thin with a small head. Very pale, almost an albino, the difference being that the eyes are not red, but somehow colourless. Somehow he immediately instilled a repulsive impression. His long fringe, that he constantly adjusted gave him an almost impercievable effeminacy. “Maybe a faggot”, raced a mischievous stray thought through my head. An officer of the General Staff is a queer. Imagine the hoo-hah. Although they say that to change sexual orientation is fashionable in Moskva now. But no - I won’t sleep next to him. Maybe he’s just colourless like a jellyfish. I should tell this reamer to paint himself into some happy colour - like red for instance. The sniper’s job would be easier too.

For a second, I imagined major Karpov painted red and a smile stretched over my face. Karpov began to look himself over nervously checking if by any chance there was something out of order with his clothes. Establishing this not to be the case he realised that I was insolently laughing at him and stared back at me angrily.

Knowing my explosive temper, San Sanych spoke in order to discharge the atmosphere:
-Enough glaring at one another, let’s go look at the corpse, fill in the papers and you, Vyachelav Ivanovich, - he looked at Karpov, - will have to take him to the airport and send him home.

We rose to exit. The soldiers and officers already gathered in the yard. Semyenov’s corpse was neatly laid out on a tarp, his hands folded on his chest and the nail wounds clearly visible on the backs of his palms. Somebody covered his face with a soldier’s handkerchief. The people simply stood there, keeping a mournful silence, their heads bared. And only by the tenseness of their figures could one judge what was going on inside each of their souls. The sniper was lucky that he was finished off over there. Here he would have had the misfortune to live a lot longer.

Bilich approached the dead man, lifted up the handkerchief and looked into the dirty face contorted in an unmoving mask of horror. He sighed and turned to Klejmenov, who stood near. He ordered:
-Arkadij Nikolaevich, fill out the act of identification and prepare him for shipping. The stavka agent will take him with, when he goes.
-All right, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich, - and to the surrounding soldiers: - Take him, bring him in, it’s warmer there and we’ll be able to sew him up. And call the scribe, let him prepare the identification act, death notice and everything else that’s needed.

Everyone got busy at the same time. Bilich, addressing me, Ryzhov and the Moskva fop:
-Let’s go have dinner.

I would not have minded a snack of course, and to let through a hundred grams, but not in the company of this colourless mug, so I politely declined.
-Thank you comrade colonel, but I’ll eat a little later. I need to wash up from the road, prepare the report about the sniper and Semyonov plus the other work is piling up. I need to catch up.
-As you wish, and report to me at 21.00, the brigade commander should be back by then. - he looked at me attentively as he said this, it seemed he knew the real reason for my refusal.

They entered the building. I watched how the fighters brought in what remained of Semyonov, turned about and departed towards my vehicle.

{continued next post}

UVB76 07 Jun 11 03:34

"I Witnessed this War. Chechnya 1995" by V.N. Mironov
English translation by R.N. Belousov, published with permission.

Chapter 2 {continued from previous post}

Each staff officer had his own vehicle. I and Yurka Ryzhkov had a GAZ-66 with a plywood kung. Whereas many officers preferred to spend the short periods of rest in basements, me and Ryzhov loved our kung. We had a driver - Kharin Pashka, a meter seventy in height, big-boned, wide, ever-grinning mug, small eyes with ginger hair and a shaven back and flowing forelock, as was the soldiers’ fashion. Paska’s nature was that of a scoundrel, wriggler and conman, but I have seen him numerous times in action, driving the truck and us out of the line of fire, which is why we loved and trusted him. In civilian life this Pashka was a self-willed, heinous ****-stirrer and a womaniser. A pregnant fiancé awaited him where we came from. He had another year until leave into reserves. Pashka knew about almost everything that happened in the brigade as he kept up warm relations with the fighters in the staff, communications, the mess. He supplied us with news and knew some things before we did, having learned them from the communications officers. This gave us time to think and prepare and to deliver ripened ideas during meeting, while the others were only beginning to digest the new information. The command appreciated this and thought of us as competent officers. We were not debils of course, but it helped.

Having reached the vehicle, I noted with satisfaction that over the course of the day, Pashka found the time to fill up paper sandbags and position them around the vehicle. I can breathe easier now. A waft of smoke was streaming from the pipe, meaning that inside there is warmth, hot water and dry cigarettes. I went to the door and without opening it, called out:
-Pashka! Where are you?
-I am here, comrade captain. I’m guarding.

Pashka emerged from the twilight. I glanced at the spot he picked to take up guard duty and noted that it was well-chosen.
-So, my illegitimate son, what will you delight your father with? Did you behave? - I jested to Pashka.
-All is well, Vyacheslav Nikolaevich. Here - I secured the vehicle with sand, procured some provisions.

There was a problem with provisions, as well as mattresses, underwear and uniforms. The supply columns fell back , back at “Severny” and there was no sense to drag them here under numerous cross-fires. Only the fuel trucks, under escort brought us diesel for the vehicles and power generators. It’s a given that every soldier and officer in their vehicle or BMP, had access to spam, preserved porridge with meat, etc, but that is not food. That is a direct route to a stomach ulcer. For that reason, everyone, without exception constantly hunted for provisions.

During the storming of this lovely former kindergarten, significant stores of provisions and alcohol were located in its basements. A lot of it we already ate and drank, but we also knew who grabbed more than the rest and through personal charm or some other ploy of Paska’s continued to dekulakize the communications personnel.

-Dear son, - I directed to Pashka whilst climbing into the kung, - what exotic delights will you bring your elderly, ailing father?
-Dutch ham, cured lamb, sardines, French, I think, and two bottles of cognac, also French judging by the label. - he reported.
-Hot water? - I inquired, taking off the gun, the coat and other ammunition.
-Yes, a full kettle. Pashka reported, as he threw the gun over his shoulder.
-Come and pour me some water and then we’ll have supper. - I have already began to enjoy the warmth in the kung and very reluctantly emerged back out into the gloomy frost, seeing that I had to also undress.

I washed my face thoroughly, snorting like a cat and spitting out the dust lodged in my mouth and nostrils. There was no sauna for the time being, so we used sanitary napkins that we picked up at the airport and some cheap polish cologne, which we periodically rubbed into our skin having first undressed completely. We simply threw away our underwear, donning fresh ones each time.

Back in the kung, while I was dressing, and polishing the gun with a rag, Pashka sliced up the ham and the pungent lamb ribs and opened a can of sardines. In the cenre of the table he hoisted the unopened bottle of cognac “Hennesy”. I opened the bottle and sniffed its contents. They smelled all-right. I poured into the plastic cups. A little more for myself, a little less for Pashka. Raised the glass and looked at the liquid through the light, sniffed it once more. I definitely like the smell.
-So Pavel, to good fortune.
Clinking, we drank.
-Vyacheslav Nikolaevich, why did you not bring the sniper?
-You know damn well why. Glue, Semyon, the American and the others must have already told you. He died from a heart attack and from his wounds and the rest if not your business.

-Tell me the news. Has the war ended yet?
-Nooo. - dragged Pashka. — There is an order to assist in the taking of hotel “Kavkaz”. They promise air support. Then they’ll send the whole brigade to take the Minutka square together with Dudaev’s palace.
-That’s where we’ll perish, because it’s suicide to storm such a target with one brigade. What else?
-The chief of staff of the second battalion is wounded. Up there with him is the singer Shevchuk from DDT. Have you heard of this?

craven 08 Jun 11 01:31

Thanks for your hard work. This is one of those wars which I have seen little to no information on other than political hacks on both sides of it.

UVB76 17 Jun 11 04:53

Chapter 3

-No, I haven’t heard of this. What is he doing there?
-Nothing, he just came to play a concert at “Severny” and when he was there, asked to be taken to the frontline. He left his band at the airport and ended up with our guys. Who would have known that the second battalion would get surrounded so thoroughly, that they won’t be able to get out? So he’s staying put for now. The guys are saying over the radio that he’s a fine lad and is not afraid, wants to fight.
-Wait and see, they’ll send reinforcements to break through and get him out and by the by, they’ll take “Kavkaz”. Then they’ll get all the wounded out to “Severny” and from there home.
-The moskovite keeps lurking around, asking the soldiers about their living conditions, probing and so forth.
-You should have sent this ****er to hell and be done with it. They can’t send you further than the front. Meanwhile what he’s doing—we have our own political officer for that, whom we have seen at work and in combat. He doesn’t hide behind other soldiers’ backs and doesn’t gnaw his rations under his bunk. And he doesn’t instigate any showy exercises. Anyway, I’ll sort this condom out. Only, I can’t remember where I’ve seen him. But we’ve crossed paths before somewhere.
-He was saying that he fought in Transnistria and that the situation there resembled this one. You were there too and maybe that’s how you met?
-Maybe we met there. Only Pashka, I’ll tell you the **** in Transnistria was certainly brutal, but in comparison to Chechnya, that was child’s play in the park. The battles there were mostly of the classical positional type, although Bender and Dubossary changed hands several times. But in comparison to the local madhouse, that was a scout camp.

I noticed that Pashka wore a bullet on a string around his neck - an ancient soldiers’ amulet, that’ supposed to represent the bullet cast for that particular man. Oh if only it was true. These trinkets are no good - they help the man relax, blunt his vigilance. I laughed:
-You’d better hang a grenade by its pin and I’ll pull it, or a mine or a shell. How do you know that it’s a bullet that’s cast for you as opposed to a piece of shrapnel, hmm? Maybe it’s a concrete slab, you should sling that around your neck too, it’ll come in handy. Remember how they found a fighter from the tank battalion that suffocated on just such a silk string? The bullet didn’t save him, so don’t be a bull, take it off and use it according to specification.

Fooling around in this manner, I finished off the provisions that were on the table and leaning back against the kung’s wall retrieved the sniper’s cigarettes and lit up. They were damp, probably from my sweat and let’s face it, it’s not May out there.
-Pasha, are there dry cigarettes around?
-Here, he handed me a packet of “Pamir” or as we called them “Pauper in the mountains” because the design features some bum with a crooked stick wearing a safari hat and a felt cloak, a basmach, a dukh in other words. - Take them Vacheslav Nikolaevich, there are more on the stove. And hand yours over too, we’ll dry them.

I took the packet, spun it around in my hands and placed it in my pocket.
-Give me some paper, I need to write up the report about the sniper and Semyonov.

Pashka fetched the paper and sat down near me.
-Some Cossacks came to the commander, asking to be allowed to fight. They brought recommendations from their commander.—Pashka said quietly, removing the leftovers of my supper from the table as I continued writing.
-Well, if they want to fight for the Russian idea, let them fight. In Moldova they fought well, even procured their own weapons, I remarked, not lofting my head away from the paper.
-Yeah, Bakhel said the same thing and sent them to the reconnaissance guys. There are five of them.
-We should go make friends with them later...

Suddenly a fierce fire-fight broke out near-by. We leapt out of the kung. I hurriedly put on my coat, a bag of spare cartridges dangling off my arm. In the case of the headquarters coming under attack, every soldier and officer had their own zone of responsibility, their firing range and knew their place. And so without much ado, we ran to a little trench dug out by Pashka a few days ago.


The shooting came in long volleys indicating a close range of fire contact. Somebody was issuing orders out of the darkness:
-North-east, a white five-storey building. An infantry group has been spotted numbering up to ten people. A diversion manoeuvre is a possibility.

Nothing could be made out in the thickening gloom, only dim silhouettes. Suddenly somebody started launching flares and Pashka followed suit with a few of our own. I noticed that about thirty meters away a group of Chechens was crawling towards us. They were dressed in good-quality Turkish camouflage which was conveniently distinctive from ours in both its pattern and grade of material. If I come across a Chechen my size, I’m going to undress him. Like that time in Transnistria, when we caught a policeman. It was May and I was dressed in high boots, which were very hot, my feet nearly melted off. This fellow meanwhile was wearing GPs. Which were in deficit at the time. On top of that they were the Afghan lighter model with a reinforced sole, so as to aid in mountain-climbing. Back then in Moldavia, we did not execute prisoners, they were like us after all - orthodox and they were fighting because of dumb politicians. I’m wearing these boots even now, three years now and they are still good, although they lost their shelf appeal. Nobody makes them like this any more. And maybe someday, somebody will likewise take them off me dead or alive. The Lord only knows.

I touched Pashka’s elbow and pointed out the Chechens.
-Let’s go, - I whispered.
And we opened fire. We shot after aiming, in short bursts. One could see little fountains of snow, earth and mud in the flare light. The Chechens knowing that they have been discovered, returned fire. They were in a less favourable position and therefore fired in long volleys as they crawled back. Someone started firing the underbarreler cutting off their retreat. Suddenly a machine gun reported behind us. So, the bastards decided to encircle us?


Tough chance, you mongrels! I felt the day’s fatigue disappear, the rush of battle taking over me once again. The blood pumped thudding into my head, chasing away the remnants of alcohol.
-Pashka, cover me, I’m going to work these bitches over with the underbarreler, I said preparing the grenade launcher for combat.
-Don’t let me down, baby, - I muttered inserting the first grenade.
“Bang”, reported the underbarreler, spitting out the grenade at the Chechens. Over-flight. I corrected for it and made the second shot. Gotcha. The grenade exploded in the midst of the crawling infantry. Two of them span on the spot, wounded by the looks of it, the third rose up to his knees clutching his head and without taking away his hands collapsed face first into the mud.
-Done, baked him, - I said in ardour, looking for the next target meanwhile. But the other Chechens hid behind piles of debris and started hosing us down with machine gun fire. The flares suspended in the air now worked against us, revealing our fire-points.




An underbarreler grenade exploded behind us, meaning they too had that weapon. “I wonder if they were issued out of the same supply dump?”, I contemplated bitterly, smirking at such unhappy thoughts.

I switched from the underbarreler to the gun, searching out the source of the shooting. At this point, the sound of footsteps emerged from behind us and we turned our guns towards the darkness, ready to fire. It turned out to be Ryzhov Yurka.
-****, you scared us, you idiot, - I said returning to what I was doing previously.
-It’s merrier here, compared to being with that moskovite, that is. He’s droning on and on; this isn’t right, that document isn’t worked out correctly. Don’t write “captured”, instead write “unlawfully held by unlawful armed formations”. It is recommended to continue advancing towards the hotel “Kavkaz”, using our own resources. Take it as soon as is possible and then shift in the direction of Minutka and take it on the go. - Yura fell silent for a moment. - Take it head-on.
-They can go to hell. They can take it if they want it so badly, we need aviation meanwhile, the more the better, let them knock away at it, - I shouted angrily, firing into the darkness. After Yurka’s news, I was riled up and started firing off long volleys. - Yura, I took one out using the undrerbarreler, and those two are twisting around on the spot - must be wounded.

From the way they were firing, we knew that the Chechens did not want to leave it at this. Meanwhile, the Shilka—the same one that was installed today, started reporting somewhere behind us. Well, that thing with its speed of fire and calibre will chop everyone into cabbage. Together with Pashka, Yurka were also arduously hosing down the darkness with long volleys, not letting the Chechens peek out.
-Slava, that Moskva asshole says he’s seen you somewhere. Says it was in Kishenyov.

And then it came to me.

I remembered everything. When were shipped into Transnistria from Kishenyov, over the front line, in civilian clothes and without documents, this freak was in the human resources of the Stavka of the South West front. This organ was then made into the Ministry of Defence of Moldova. This fop remained in the same department as on the same post. Meanwhile our dossiers fell into Moldovan hands. As a result, we were declared war criminals and it was to him that I came to appeal for my dossier to be returned to me. He put on airs—”no”, he said, “You are a criminal and I don’t want to be your accomplice. I recommend that you leave immediately or I will call the guards and you will be arrested”. The chameleon bitch. But it seems, he had to leg it from there in the end too. An amnesty was declared a few months later, so for now - I’m not a criminal.

The Chechens again started firing at our positions using the underbarreler. After a grenade explosion, somebody shouted out behind us. ****, one of ours must have been wounded. But we spotted the muzzle flash in the dark and shifted our fire. After a few minutes we heard screams issue from there and then some sort of other noise.

We continued firing for another few minutes, but received no response. It seemed the Chechens having encountered resistance must have fallen back. There was no desire to go and confirm this in the dark. Once it grows light—we’ll sort it out.
-Looks like the former owner came for his cognac, - Yurka joked.
-The ****er must have forgotten what Marx wrote in the second volume of “Capital”, on page two, second paragraph.
-So what does it say there, Vyacheslav Nikolaevich? - Pashka enquired out of the dark.
-It’s is very simple, it says - what was yours is now ours, expropriation of the expropriators. Had they not kicked up a fuss, we would not have come.
-Is there anything left to drink there? - said Ryzhov to me.
-There is, don’t fret. Didn’t you drink with the colourless fellow? - I answered.
-We drank, but that bitch turned us down. Probably because we didn’t offer him cognac - we poured him vodka. And by the by the creep enquired if we had any trophies.
-Moskovite, ****ing, ulcer his soul, - I spat to the ground, fumbling to replenish the empty magazines in the utter darkness. Looks like it’s quiet. Let’s be off, I still have to fill out the report and go to the meeting with San Sanych.
-Let’s go. Pashka, you’ll remain on guard duty, make a noise if something happens and we’ll sprint over and save you from the evil Chechen, - Yurka joked



Shaking off the clumps of mud from our trousers, we emerged from the dug-out and walked to the kung. Other officers walked towards their vehicles beside us, to ready themselves for the war council.
-Oi, people, who was wounded there? - I shouted into the darkness.
-Larionov, the comms driver. He’s OK though - the shrapnel went through his leg sparing the bones. He’s with the medics now. - A voice answered from the darkness, probably that of the armament deputy Cherepkov Pavel Nikolaevich.
-The medics are running out of room to keep the wounded, we should break out to get them out of here, otherwise we’ll loose them, - Yurka announced loudly, as we approached our vehicle.
-This should be brained over and offered up to the father-commanders, - I picked up his idea.
-Let’s drop a hundred and go hear the moskovite pimple’s crap, -Yura said, throwing off the assault rifle into the corner of the kung, - I’m sick of listening to it alone. The Moskovites reckon that we can’t fight and that we should inspire the guys with images of the Siege of Berlin and that Dudaev’s palace is the Reichstag. It’s some crazy paranoia. If we let them, these mongrels will lay us down in stacks for the sake of their propaganda, - Yurka was riled up, but this did not prevent him from continuing to pour the cognac and crack open the delicious oily imported sardines.
-Well, Yurok, don’t fuss, we’ll have a drink now and then go **** this ass-licker up at the meeting. Don’t worry. Whatever these geriatrics come up with for us to accomplish—we’ll accomplish. But with the current artillery and air support, we won’t get far. Let him go to hell. Well, - I lifted up the plastic cup filled with amber liquid to eye level, contemplated the play of light within it, - let’s go, to us, good lads and to death to idiots.
-Whatever, you won’t get it from them, - Yurka had no intention to let it go and continued to foam.—No matter how well you fight, the advantage will remain on the side of idiots, as if they are deliberately working for the Chechens, so as to waste as many of ours as possible.
-Don’t shout, Yura, we should think about how we’ll ferry the wounded out. The Chechens won’t leave us alone anyway, until we resume the advance. And as you yourself well know there will be more wounded then. I’d say, we take the recon troops by the ass, the third battalion with anything that they’ve got that still rides and break out. Otherwise we’ll loose people without count. Let’s drink—I raised my glass again, and drank without clinking. Yurka drank his.

When we were departing, our formation’s incomplete numbers were supplemented with a battalion from Novosibirsk. The plan was for complete preparations by autumn and depart for Tajikistan and then to join either the 201-st division or the peacekeepers, same **** really—no-one knew for whom and for what we were to fight. So this battalion arrived in new, experimental BMP-3’s. Outwardly and conceptually, this is a wonderful machine, but in reality - pure crap. Like your import car, my reader, it’s choke-full with electronics. But it is made by our, that is Russian manufacturers. And so we drank from this chalice together. It cannot shoot whilst moving, the electronics fail from the jolting. The aiming and tracking systems are all electronic, so the ****ing thing jams. And if it shoots, it doesn’t ****ing move, also something to do with the electronics. In other words a very “green”, scary machine to be in. In early January the third battalion lost twenty four people because of the shitty electronics—a scary statistic. Ant it’s all because untested machinery was released into armament and into active combat on top of that. Quite a few of them got burned—five or so actually. They withdrew them to safer quarters and are using them as machine gun nests now—the cannon jams for half a day after one shot. Or they are used as taxis for movement over more or less safe ground. It’d rip the arms off the creeps that approved this half baked **** for armament.


Letting though the second shot, I heard Yurij’s account of how my Moskovite namesake foamed after I left. That apparently in war certain officers are allowing insubordinations towards senior staff, the discipline is deteriorating and so on and so forth. So we finished off the bottle toasting to the extremely distant removal of moskovite foolishness and departed for the meeting in a merry state of mood. Our souls were filled with the desire to demonstrate to all the officers in our brigade a shining example of courtesy and military craft to our moskovite reviser. The is only one treatment for revisers in war—you won’t be sent further than the front and even if you are reprimanded. Unlike gonorrhoea it won’t hang around and will eventually go away. By the way, gonorrhoea, my dear reader is known as the “officer’s cold”. Whilst they were still cadets most officers had time to experience this disease. There is nothing shameful about it in the army, unlike in civilian life. All sorts of things happen.

Every commander had his place at the meeting. Being officers of the staff, we sat close to the chief. The meeting was held in the former children’s gym, which then became the guest room of the Chechen host, where he constructed a decent fireplace, which was now being vigorously fired using his own furniture. By the way, mahogany burns poorly—a lot of smoke and little heat.


The chief of staff sat at the head of a large dinging table. It was obvious that he had not time to even wash his face after his journey and also that the second battalion was not doing at all well. There was talking behind me, I turned and saw that the chief of reconnaissance was sitting there. His mug was just as dusty as the com-brig’s. He must have shared his journey, so I asked:
-How was your trip with Bakhel? How’s the second battalion doing?
-Utter ****ing disaster. We were ambushed on the way back, lost one BMP. The mechanic was wounded—you know Gusarov? He got banged up. First they tore up the track, then shot us up. We narrowly escaped from under fire.
-No I don’t know him, - I shook my head. Badly wounded?
-His palms got burned and the shrapnel tore off half his ear and cut up his shoulder. If they save his hands, then all will be well. A shame, he was a competent mechanic, I wanted to make him a sergeant.
-Listen, I’m going to now propose that we bring out the wounded before coming to the second battalion’s aid, otherwise they’ll cark it. Your mechanic can be brought out with them. The third battalion will be required to do this—your Arkharovites. What say you?
-Of course I’m for it. When we were dragging out the wounded guy, I remembered that a republican pharmacological stores are situated nearbly. Meanwhile our medics are out of everything other than aspirin and enthusiasm.
-Great, suggest this to the council, we’ll work out the details and take the medicaments from the Chechens. Junkies and speculators will do that anyway.
-Attention, Comrade officers! The chief of staff addressed all present.

The room fell silent and everyone’s attention turned to the brigade’s command.
-In the last twenty four hours, our brigade engaged in combat at the railway terminal, the hotel “Kavkaz”, and here at the bridgehead. Also, during tours of the brigades positions, some elements of the of the brigade’s staff were ambushed and committed to short fire-fights. As a result of these engagements we have suffered the following losses—the room went deadly quiet, - dead: private Azarov—tank battalion, sergeant Kharlapidi—the engineer-sapper battalion, totalling two. Wounded—the chief of staff of the second battalion lieutenant Pakhomenko, the commander of the first battalion lieutenant Krasnov, private Gusarov—recon troop and private Larionov—the comms battalion. The body of private Semyenov was located and brought back—engineer-sapper battalion, who was listed as missing in action. The man suffered an agonising death, - here San Sanych lifted his eyes from the paper and continues without looking at the brief: - He was tortured for a long time, then crucified, his member inserted into his mouth. It was a chilling sight, comrade officers, let me tell you.

There was noise in the audience, as the officers began to loudly discuss the soldier’s death, disregarding the presence of their superiors or the Moskva reviser.
-Quiet, comrade officers, - Bilich continued having withheld a slight pause, - I am no less outraged than you, but let us set emotions and anger aside as for now we cannot do anything about it. The first battalion captured a sniper, a Siberian by his own admission, from our own Novosibirsk. Captain Mironov was unable to deliver him to the headquarters, reporting that he died from wounds he sustained and from cardiac arrest.

Again it became noisy this time in the sign of approval. Those with whom I made eye contact, nodded approvingly and winked to me as if it was I who finished the sniper. Someone remarked from the back “He could not live with his conscious and so his heart gave out”. The officers heehawed approvingly. The room was bathed in a semi-darkness, the only light falling on the table where the commander, the chief of staff and Karpov sat. All others gradually receded into the gloom and so those at the back could comment without fear of being identified. Lucky.

Again San Sanych had to call for order and the noise gradually died down. I covertly observed the expression on the faces of the commander and that of the Moskavite. Whilst the commander’s lips smiled ever so slightly at that replica, the reviser continued to grimace with his thin lips indicating his extreme displeasure with what was happening. A rat is a rat. I wondered if he ever made at least company commander before ending up upon the parquet floors of the Stavka? I went through all the levels, was never promoted early, having licked commanders’ ass and as a result ended up travelling around the country and seeing a lot of wars. I do not want my son in an academy, even though my father, my father’s brother, my father in law and me—the idiot finished the same bloody military academy. Had I learned English instead, I would not have been stuck here now.

Later San Sanych began to explain the nature of our future task, that Karpov brought, who meanwhile bloated up from the pomp and importance of his mission, as if it was all his idea and we owed him bringing it to us into the very grave. The officers listened tensely, exchanging quiet replicas.

Then Karpov spoke:
-Comrade officers! The united command honours you with the task to be the first to storm the layer of the beast and destroy him. The Supreme Commander himself delegates the progress of this operation. You have recommended yourself well in the recent battles and in the name of the command I express my confidence that Siberian warriors will cope with the task at hand with honour.


And he continued in the same dull manner in the worst traditions of Soviet cinema. If he supposed that the audience would break out in unending ovation, he was deeply mistaken. Nothing was heard apart from quiet snickers and the same replicas as before. Then somebody from the back row pronounced loudly and clearly: “Go get ****ed”. I and many present knew who that was from the way that was phrased. Only one officer in the brigade spoke like that—Mazur Sergej Mikhajlovich the tank battalion commander. When we entered Grozny, we had forty two T-72 tanks. Now we had twenty six. In the ten days of fighting we lost sixteen tanks, often with their crews. So major Mazur had the right to send all the moskovite smartasses as far away and as often as was possible.


Everyone awaited the response and it came without delay.
-Who said that? I suppose this is not a particularly righteous officer who would dare step up and say it right to my face.
Mazur got up and pushing aside those sitting in front of him approached the table.
-I said it, and so what? Because of you ****ers, I lost forty eight people and who knows how many more will fall because of such bullshit command. Why can’t the artillery and aviation blow that square apart to hell together with everyone nested there? Why can’t the troops just block it meanwhile and take anyone trying to escape it? There will be less Russian blood and we’ll take more of them.


Everyone looked to Karpov. Taken aback, he cleared his throat and began:
-The issue here is that the whole world watches the events here with great intent and even in the Stavka, all leading news and television outlets registered themselves for coverage. So if we were to employ artillery and aviation on such a scale, the international community may not understand. You remarked correctly that the process will take longer, meanwhile the country’s leadership requires a speedy resolution of this conflict. Also the local opposition, who are on our side are against a resolution via the massive deployment of artillery and aviation. Maybe some of the militants will wish to surrender? Also. We currently have reliable information that a group of prominent rights activists headed by a deputy of the State Duma Krylov are currently located in Dudaev’s basement as guarantors of his safety. They may come to harm during a massed raid.
-**** him in the mouth with sweaty toes!
-Go get ****ed!
-I’ll spot the aviation fire myself, so that the lads don’t miss!
-That bitch needs to hang!




Many other unflattering things were uttered about the prominent rights activist Krylov. This would have continued for a long time if the commander didn’t say:
-Enough! I urge you not to speak unless it’s business. The order is not subject to discussion but subject to fulfilment. The details such as artillery and aviation support as well as deadlines will be worked out later. I’m listening. Remember that you have three days to take the hotel and mop up the surrounding area. Any suggestions?



I raised my hand.
-If I may comrade colonel, - and having received a nod of approval, I proposed: - If we have to face such an engagement, we will have many more wounded, whereas we already have no room to pit them or medicine to treat them. To that end, I propose the following: using the third battalion forces, supported by the recon and the chemical-warfare companies, we must break out to Severny tomorrow and bring out all the wounded. In that vicinity are located the republican medical stores and I think fresh medical supplies will be of help to us.
-Those stores are meant for the civilian population! - replied the retard moskovite. - we must not do that under any circumstances, as to not incite the local populace against us!
-Be quiet, major, you’ve had your say. The local populace are incited against us beyond any further measure as it is. Mironov, continue.
-That’s about all from me. If the plan is approved, I am prepared to personally lead the column. We just need to let the battalions know to ship their wounded here as early as possible and we’ll move out at 9:30. If everything goes as I plan, we’ll return by 17:00 with just enough time left for raiding the pharmaceutical stores.
-And what are your thoughts in regard to “Kavkaz” and the square?
-I propose that as the wounded are being shipped out, somebody talk to our superior at the Stavka staff and discuss all available combinations. If somebody would take over the rail terminal in our stead, then the first battalion in conjunction with the second can easily knock out the Chechens. During the mop -up we can even get the third battalion to support us. Also, if it is possible to have one of the division’s self-propelled artillery machines approach I think that we can fulfil the objective within the required timeframe...That is...if our friendly neighbours from “Severny” don’t shoot us up again as they have several times now. I couldn’t help but let that one out to stir up the reviser.



The pros and cons of my plan were scrutinised at length, until the commander largely approved it. He decided to lead the column himself, choosing myself and Rhyzhov to accompany him as well as the chief of reconnaissance, the medics commander, the third battalion commander and the deputy quartermaster. After a headcount it turned out that we had one hundred and twenty wounded, including those in the battalions and that many are refusing evacuation. One would think that the war having thus ended for them, having not given in to cowardice, having not shot themselves and with many being recommended for decoration...Many of the wounded fighters could well count on a speedy dismissal from military service. But no. Even some of the heavily wounded were refusing to be evacuated to the rear. Their commanders had to shout, order, try to convince them.


Honestly, some fighters openly wept, as if they were treated unjustly, offended, punished. Some did not want to leave the soldiers’ brotherhood, not a fake brotherhood, but a real one, many confessed that they have not yet satisfied their lust for revenge of their fallen comrades. Looking at these faces lit up with a mad inner fire, yet also their eyes, illuminated somehow, one understood that these people were ready to give up their lives for those around them. To die without thought or haggle with the reaper or the enemy, to stand between a bullet and their comrade, undemanding of any privilege, decoration or indulgence. I was asking myself the question to which to this day I find no answer: maybe this is that very might of spirit possessing of the Russian soldier, that no world army was capable of breaking? This is regardless of the fact that not one Russian ruler loved his army, they feared it, constantly trying to break its back, to achieve that which the enemy had failed to do. And all the while, the Russian Makhor, disregarding the intrigues of its rulers and the frenzied resistance of all its enemies, tears at their throats, avenging fallen comrades, destroying the foe as he himself perishes. The demise of one will give birth to desire for revenge in the brothers in arms who surround him and the power that be, aware of this paradox will keep supplying them with new enemies, when there are no more real ones, because they know that for one who has tasted blood, it is practically impossible to stop and that if they do, they might look back.


And, my reader, when one looks back they will see that while they were fighting out someone’s incomprehensible orders, the whole country lived peacefully and prospered. Somebody made a fortune in war, amassing a healthy fortune, brought their money overseas, meanwhile one’s soldier, whom they are dragging under fire, with both their legs missing is receiving a government pension of 300 roubles for both those legs.

And he will grab one after the third toast, look hauntingly into their eyes and ask “Why, why did you drag me out?”. And one will feel bitter, despondent, ashamed that they saved him. And that deed, that one felt so proud of, that they may have been decorated for will feel low and grievous, for the rest of their lives.

That is because one’s state sent them to slaughter upon its whim and then abandoned them. Both the living and dead. And nothing else. One’s paranoid fantasies ushered in by post-traumatic stress and numerous concussions are nothing—they’ll fix you up in a madhouse, give them five years or so, come on in. As for the remaining soldiers, they’ll scatter and retrench them, lest they wag their tongues, and discuss their superiors’ conduct. As the witnesses of a crime are removed, so are the military men of each “liberation” campaign are dismissed and exiled. This happened after Afghanistan as it did after the withdrawal from East Germany. Because they knew: the army may turn around and perceive that its real enemy is so near—in Moskva.

And when one is dismissed from active service, or ousted into civilian life, or exiled to a peripheral garrison, they will realise that the brightest, the most un-retouched memories they had, that the very taste of life they tasted out there in some wretched war. And that their life henceforth will always be divided into BEFORE and AFTER.

It is here that one is forced to choose, the eternal Russian question “What is to be done?”

One could try to live like everyone else, but they know that they will not get far in life. One can get recruited into law enforcement, where they are by the way very welcome, and thought of as madmen. One could become an assassin—familiar work and they say decent pay. However, to kill not for ideals or revenge and not in such a quantity, but for money...will one cope?

An then there is the third surrogate way—mercenary. Though, there one will need to fight alongside those at whom they were shooting at not so long ago, but money doesn’t judge and if they get a taste for it, they can wield ruthless vengeance on the aborigines with one’s friend, their recent enemy.

And the wounded knew all this. Some understood it, some felt it intuitively, with their skin. They knew that this was that very thing for which every real man lives and if they were to now leave, they will never experience it in their life again. Because of that they clung onto every opportunity to remain. The commanders deceived some of them, saying that they are to accompany the column and will return into the brigade upon its delivery. Some believed, others wanted to believe, hoping that maybe the column would not break through and would have to turn back, some believed that before being shipped to hospital they can fight one last time and dispatch many faithful to their Allah.

They like to shriek “Allah akhbar, Allah akhbar”, - we are guessing that he’s “akhbar” without their aid, but for some reason they are not in much of a hurry to meet him. Considering especially that they are promised heaven in return for war against the unfaithful. So, that means that we’re doing good works for the true faithful, dispatching them to heaven but they, like blind puppies, dare resist.

It was a sleepless night at the command post. I, Yurka, the chief of staff and the chief of recon, along with a large number of other officers were working out the various possible routes, conferred with neighbouring formations regarding passage through their territory and joint action in case of Chechen ambush. There was enough work for all; the mechanics prepared their vehicles for the journey, the armorers were trying to tune the BMP-3’s.


Once the matters of evacuation and the taking of medical stores were sorted out, only the staff officers remained behind. This council was led by the chief of the operations department and we spent a long time discussing various ways of storming the complex of buildings at the Minutka square. Firstly a lot was said in regards to the unified command and the moskovite smartasses but gradually people calmed down and the debate proceeded along peacefully.


Unanimously we concluded that a frontal assault was suicide. Moreover that it meant the taking of the bridge across Sunzha first, the bridge that led to the square and that lay directly in our path. That would mean that we would have to rally the troops across it, under razor-sharp fire and could have simply laid them all down right there on that little bridge. But we could not avoid it either, as that would mean going around through half the city.

At this point the sentry chief of the commanding post burst in.
-Comrade colonel, - he began excitedly, addressing the chief of staff, - the moskovite left.
-What, how did he leave? - San Sanych asked, having not understood him.
-He said that he was summoned to the headquarters, got into his BRDM and left.
-How long ago?
-Maybe fifteen minutes has now passed. I spoke to him on the radio and he said that he has to arrive at “Severny” before sunrise.
-Lunatic, idiot and a dumbass, he’ll die himself and get his people killed. He was supposed to depart with the column. Foolish cretin, - the operations chief continued to make noise.

We all realised very clearly what it meant to travel alone in a lightly-armoured car in the darkness in the war-torn city. The result is almost always the same –either Chechen capture or a shoot-up by friendly fire. Every soldier knew this, not to speak of the officers and this moron is counting on his status as a staff officer to save him from the bullets!

There was a curfew in Grozny and because of it we sometimes could not evacuate the badly wounded to Severny, to their better hospital.

And this pimple, this upstart out of the blue decides to leave into the night endangering the soldiers that accompany him.

We radioed “Severny immediately and told them about their retard. He probably did this impulsively in order to arrive ahead of us and report that we deigned to openly debate higher orders. It’s a pity that this careerist took the long suffering remains of Semyonov with him. There is no peace for the fallen lad. Forgive us private Semnyonov.

A panic spread at the staff of “Severny”. To think of it—an officer is missing, who is if partially but is still privy to the plans of the command and an officer of the General Staff on top of that. It seems that he knew enough for there to have been a night search mission organised to find him. Crazy things were happening on the air. All formations were reporting that the moskovite’s BRDM had not passed through their checkpoints. We were preparing ourselves for lengthy dialogue at the staff where we would be tried and tested if it was us perchance that sent him into the darkness. So instead of sleeping soundly the rest of the night, we spent it composing reports to the effect that that we did not, were not a part of and other similar nonsense. God forbid, they decide to implicate you in sabotage action against the higher bosses. You can craft pocket souvenirs from the enemy, but not dare as to look at the command sideways. OK, one will encounter plenty more fools in their life, but it’s a pity, after all he’s Russian and his fighters, the escort, will suffer needlessly. For some reason we were all convinced that he was taken by the Chechens as the formations along his path did not report him passing. God willing he was taken dead rather than alive, as in the latter case a lot will have to be changed in our plans.

At approximately eight in the morning, we learned that Karpov’s BRDM ended up at an OMON checkpoint that was put up just before nightfall. As we suspected, at first he pompously bragged about his influence, but the guys in OMON severely did not give a **** about some General Staff and some major Karpov. At first they simply thought he was a real spy and together with his fighters mercilessly beat him the remainder of the night. Towards the morning, they led him out to several mock executions, in order to extract a confession that he really is a spy. It was said that they even shot above his head. But everything cleared up in the morning, the paratroopers that arrived to pick him up, thoroughly beat in the militia’s mugs and departed, having collected Karpov in an unconscious state, along with Semyonov’s remains. After this, Karpor was flown out on the first flight to Mozdok and from there probably to Moskva. He’ll probably be decorated and will be seen on television or read in his memoirs recalling how he fought though half of Chechnya, or something to that effect. Good luck to him.


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