For 29-year-old battalion commander Andriy Denisov, the lasr year was the most difficult one in his life.
It was he and his guys from the brigade who were the first to go to the ATO zone in May, 2014. And it was under his command that the first howitzer battery of the 53d separate artillery brigade from Zaporizhzhya that got out of the Debaltseve kettle with minimum losses.
Story of battalion commander Denisov. How “Gods of war” fight
Story of battalion commander Denisov. How “Gods of war” fight. Part 2
On February 14, 25 minutes before the ceasefire, the team lost two soldiers. Yevhen Duzhyk died on the spot; Oleksandr Hovorukha died in hospital. “We have lost our comrades in arms, but they will be in our hearts forever! Stick it! And remember that I am with you!” – With these words, the commander tried to encourage the soldiers. However, it was the guys who supported their commander more than he supported them, as Andriy Denisov believes.
Brigades 55 and 128 got the order to leave Debaltseve on February 17. The meeting of the commanders was held to decide who, where, and how the subunits would go. They made the decision to withdraw in columns. There was no possibility to take the guns with them. However, the battery of the 55th brigade did not leave anything to the enemy.
That day the shelling destroyed the 122d regiment self-propelled howitzers and the 122d brigade’s ammunition depot. As they were located close to the positions of the 55th brigade, the fragments got to the artillerists’ positions, and as a result their equipment was also damaged. “We managed to take only wedges with us, and put shells inside the guns in such a way that it was impossible to take them out”, says Denisov.
Taking the guns with them was risky for the battery as the enemy would register a truck with soldiers and a gun attached to it, so the result would have been tragic.
“Equipment can be repaired or written off; people cannot be revived”, says Andriy. When “Denisovtsy” were leaving Debaltseve, all the trucks were without glass, and the frost was -12 degrees. The combat says that if you want to live, you will not care about that.
During the withdrawal, they often thought that they would never come back home again. The situation was very difficult. Nobody knew where to go; there were no roads, and the enemy was behind.
The 128th and 55th brigades got to Novohrygoryvka together. Their column was a kilometer long. There were drones above it, and the soldiers understood that they had been detected, and the enemy opened fire at them from self-propelled artillery.
In the dawn, the column was divided into two parts and the parts continued moving separately. The speed was very high though there were no roads. They went on frozen stony ground. The transmission of a KAMAZ truck with all the equipment which they had managed to save broke down. There was no time to repair it. So, they had to destroy it.
About 80-100 militaries from the 128th brigade joined us on the way. Their vehicles broke down, some vehicles hit roadside bombs. A lot of accidents happened, but nobody was left in the lurch.
The militaries of the 55th brigade were shot at from 5.45-mm, 7.62 mm mortars, launchers, and tanks. The militaries from the left 4 vehicles shot back from 30-40 guns, with some of them charging and others firing.
Two militaries from the 55th brigade were wounded in that battle. They were immediately taken to hospital. Both of them successfully completed treatment and rehabilitation.
Denisov’s brigade’s militaries are thankful not only to volunteers
As soon as the battery got to Artemivsk, Denisov called the unit commander to report on the withdrawal. “I said that we had no chance to take the guns, but the people were all alive. The commander answered that he would like to hug me and shake my hand, and that he would come to me in no time. Since that moment the commander and the chief of the brigade staff call me by my name. Maybe, it is the indicator of respect and trust”, recalls Andriy.
During the year in the ATO zone, the first battery under the command of Andriy Denisov passed a long way and gained huge battle experience. Their shooting skills improved and the artillerists’ work became more efficient. The brigade has got digital equipment and professional optics. Those things significantly improved the brigade’s readiness.
During this year, the artillerists learned to dig in, to make dugouts, to camp. And, what is more important, a powerful team of strong-willed people was formed. This has been achieved by strict discipline, order, and care about the staff which has not changed. The core of the subunit is contract servicemen aged 19-35. Some recruits also join them.
Andriy Denisov has entered the National University of the Defense of Ukraine.
The author – Yevhenia Fayenkova, volunteer of “Sestry Peremohy” Fund
To support the 55th separate artillery brigade of Zaporizhzhya:
Приват / PrivatBank: 5169 3305 0754 8946 – The card # of the All-Ukrainian charity Fund “Sestry Peremohy” (“Sisters of Victory”) for target support of the 55th separate artillery brigade; В0105, Запоріжжя / Zaporizhzhya PayPal: firstname.lastname@example.org (55 ОАБр, www.peoplesproject.com/debalceve-artileriya)
Tel: +38099 557 27 72, Volunteer Kateryna Matyukha
Cashless: All-Ukrainian charity Fund “Sestry Peremohy” (“Sisters of Victory”) Registration # of tax payer / ЄДРПОУ 39654316
Current account / Р/р № 26009052753420
ПАТ КБ "ПриватБанк / “PrivatBank”, Kyiv, МФО (interbank circulation) 300711
Призначення платежу / Purpose of payment: Благодійна допомога / Charity
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