I got a phone call in Popasna (the Luhansk region) on Thursday:
- She military you showed in your reportage yesterday has perished.
You want to scream at such moments.
"Hot" Zaitseve. Interview taken on the day before death on red front line. Part 1
“Why is this one of the hottest spots?”
“It’s difficult to say. I haven’t been to other places. I have been here for more than a year. Maybe, there are hotter spots, it’s hard to say. As far as I can understand the situation, no one needs this village that much.
Maybe, separatists have got a lot of ammunition, maybe they practise shooting using us as targets.
This local “DPR army” has its own system of bonuses. If you have taken part in a battle — you get these bonuses. This is why they are trying to get here all the time or to launch a diversionist operation. I think, they get their money depending on how many hours they spend in the action.
And the Russian are just practising. It’s like a shooting range for them and a luxurious one, by the way. You can come, unpack and adjust everything in real combat conditions.”
“They never return fire at shooting ranges...”
“They don’t, you are right. But we do not return it either. This shell you have just seen, it was fired from a mortar and if is a 120 mm one, than the distance must be at least 6.5 kilometres. I cannot fire back and hit him from a grenade launcher or a machine-gun, even if I wanted to.
This is why they are safe here. The person who adjusts their fire is sitting somewhere and directing them, they shell us from two points, get their bonuses and are absolutely happy.
It is difficult to say why they are here, this direction is interesting by itself. There is a road, Dzerzhynsk is on the right, one may try to break through to Artemivsk as well. If they ever try to break through our defense line, I think it will happen somewhere here if Artemivsk is their target.
They have been thinking about seizing it for a long time, it is a very important town for them. It is a big traffic juncture and there are a lot of plants there. Artemivsk is a necessary town for them.”
“Judging by their actions, can you say that they are getting ready for a break through?”
“I am not a tactic and I cannot plan strategically, but they disturb us very often. Small arms are used every day. Maybe, they are just preparing the ground so that we would return fire automatically, without concentration and this will be the moment when they will try to break through. We are ready. Still, you know as they say: a shepherd who used to shout about wolves all the time did not get any help when he was calling for it for the twentieth time. Maybe, they expect us to relax.
There are three houses up there and their observers used to hide in them. You can see the whole village of Zaitseve from those houses. So, we ousted them and seized those houses. I do not consider that to be a ceasefire violation because they were adjusting the snipers’ fire, sitting there like hunters and firing at us as if they had been at a rifle range.
We had to do that, everyone wants to live and we wanted to live as well. We could not even walk freely around the village as we are walking with you now. You are walking along the fence and you hear “click-click, click-click” around. Bullets are flying past you. Now this territory is ours and their fire became sporadic.
Heavy artillery is adjusted from Izotova Mine anyway. They have good equipment there and they can see all the territory with it.”
“When did you suffer losses for the last time?”
“KIA happened quite long ago, fortunately, 2 servicemen were WIA about four days ago.
Time flies quickly here. We do not have days off, weekends or holidays. If you are on duty somewhere at the motorway, you know that if there are no cars, then it is the weekend. Here we do not have any cars, every day is like the previous one.”
“Yes, Groundhog day. It has snowed and this is the only difference now compared to yesterday...
Now there are very few people in the village. There are 350 of them on the list and before the war it used to be a big village with five or six thousand inhabitants.
Actually, only half of Zaitseve is ours. The second half is controlled by separatists.
This village also has some kinds of islands. There is Zaitseve checkpoint in Artemivsk vicinity and it is the same Zaitseve though it is twenty kilometres away from the front line. This is why a lot of people confuse them. They come to another part of Zaitseve and say: Oh, it’s quiet here. Of course, it is quiet there, but as for the part where we currently are...”
“How do the locals treat you? ”
“The locals do not like us. Propaganda still works. I may be wrong, but in my opinion, there are only 10-20% of good people here who undersnad everything. There are old ones as well and they are wise due to their age. They just want the war to be over. And there are convinced separatists as well, of course.
But what can be said about those people if there are family members who fight on the other side in every house. How will they treat us? Of course, they hate us.
All of them hide the fact that their children fight for separatists from us. They tell us some weird stories.
Yesterday, for example, it happened all of a sudden. We have this very nervous woman here, you know, this one who is always dissatisfied with everything. Whatever happens, she always knows about it and she is always a sibling of a person it happened to.
So, she was screaming again one day and the funniest thing is that Mykolaevych, our political officer, had arrived here and he was trying to explain her everything. And she told him: “No, you must go away from here.” He said: “But listen, if we leave, separatists will come here that very moment.” And she answered him: “No, they will not. Basurin has promised us personally.” Do you understand what it means?”
Oleksiy Bratuschak for "Ukrayinska pravda"
New service "Explain Ukraine". This is a daily mailout of two articles which were written about the situation in the Donbas by Donbas journalists and translated into English. Honest vision of people who work in the field is unbiased and fresh which is crucial in the world which is full of desinformation and propaganda. We try to share this vision in out daily mailout. You can subscribe here.