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.
Andriy Denisov was born in Prague, the Czech Republic, and he became a resident of Zaporizhzhya only 9 yeas ago.
In 2002, he became a cadet of Sumy Military Institute. After graduation, he was directed to the 55th artillery brigade and was assigned a rank of lieutenant.
Andriy Denisov is from a military dynasty. His grandfather was lieutenant colonel, chief of a signal unit. His father was colonel, artillery brigade commander, chief of the garrison in Kovel, the Volynska region. So, Andriy decided to follow his father's steps. His father died 10 years ago, and he could not see the process of formation of his younger son who goes ahead persistantly, fairly, and is working hard.
The battery under the command of Andriy Denisov has gained indispesable combat experience for a year spent in the ATO zone.
Despite the military experience and sufficient training, even professional servicemen were not ready for the developments in the east.
Denisov's unit left for the anti-terrorist operation zone on May 29,2014. “We were woken up by the alarm at night. We went to the village of Dovhenke ner Izyum. The headquarters of sector “C” were under formation there. In two days we were to advance and to participate in the liberation of Slovyansk”, major Denisov recalls. “However, nobody had bullet-proof vests, and the operation was suspended”.
On June 1, 2014, the battery with 69 people, equipped with ordinary helmets and bullet-proof vests of the soviet time (and they were only 17 of them), we left for the military field camp Sarmat. On June 3, when the battery was completely equipped, the operation in Slovyansk started.
On the way to the town, the column of the 79th brigade was moving in front of the 55th separate artillery brigade. At that time, each brigade was accompanied by paratroopers. The total number of vehicles in the column was 14-15, with armored troop-carrier of the 80th brigade at the beginning and at the end of the column.
Militia which accompanied the column was like a lighthouse for the enemy. When the red signal flare was launched, the militia made a u-turn and went back. At night the column was attached, and a battle started.
Andriy Denisov says that if at that time his vehicle had been the first, he might not be alive now.
"The training of artillerists was not sufficient for participating in such a battle, besides, a direct hit at the vihicle with ammunition could destroy the whole column”, Andriy says. The battle lasted for 20 minutes. A hundred automatic machine guns of paratroopers were the response to the first shot of the enemy. At the crack of the dawn the column moved ahead at maximum speed.
“We felt the powder smell, clinging to the automatic machine guns. It is difficule to describe our feelings. At that time we did not know where we were going. We thought that it would be for a couple of days. We had no idea about this war. At the same time, we understood that it was not for fun; it was real war”.
The artillery together with 80th and the 95th brigades stayed in sector “C”. The first brigde had to eliminate enemy's checkpoints, and to cover the infantryman power which directly moved to Slovyansk, Semenivka, and Seleznyovka.
“Do you know what thing is the most scary one? It was coming through enemy's checkpoints which our first battery “had seen to”. But it gave the opportunity for our soldiers to move forward.
When the battery was deployed near Seleznyovka, the enemy undertook a distracting maneuver from the south. About 20-30 militants started untargeted shooting. Maybe, because of the lack of experience. Everyone was in panic. Some people thought that the enemy started an advance. Battalion commander Denisov started preparing the soldiers for the battle. Then a message from a nearby brigade came that their checkpoint was being attacked. The person who sent it was in panic too, because, asking Denisov for help, he gave the wrong coordinates for targeting. When it was clear what route separatists (there were abot 250 of them) would choose, the artillry started shooting and correcting the fire.
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