A man in military uniform came to the Community Law Center of Kherson regional Charity and health foundation. He asked where he could get consultations on ATO benefits. We talked. It turned out that Oleksandr is from our region, sniper called “Monk”, and has been at war in “Donbas” battalion. Now he is on rehabilitation – returned home from hospital after he was wounded in Ilovaisk.
- Oleksandr, how did you get to “Donbas” battalion? Via military commission?
- No, I volunteered. I worked as a national sales manager. I registered and sent a request to 2 battalions: “Azov” and “Donbas”. “Donbas” called me back. They were the first, so I joined them. They said that “Krym” battalion is being formed on their basis. I joined it, but it was disbanded.
- The commandment started stealing. 2000 armored vests, 1500 Kevlar helmets arrived, but we did not even see them, as well as optical equipment and uniform. That is why if you send aid, you should send it to someone specifically, not via commandment or bases. It does not work that way. There are volunteers who visit the ATO zone. They bring optics and other military equipment as targeted aid. Once someone even sent a package for me, but I did not receive it. There was a good American aiming device there for snipers, which cost around 30 000 USD – you could use it at night and measure distances. There were two packages of masking equipment as well. It was delivered to the base, and though it was for me, it “got lost” somewhere.
- How did you become a sniper?
- We shot from different weapons during our trainings. The wind was very strong; I noticed that and did not miss the target. They asked me: “Do you want to be a sniper?” I agreed. Sniper is not a person who shoots accurately, but the one who thinks.
There are a lot of nuances in the work of sniper, too. How to breathe, etc. But it is not difficult, in fact. We have a man who is about 60 years old. He wears glasses all the time but takes them off when he shoots. He has farsightedness, but it does not stop him from being a sniper.
- Why do you call yourself “Monakh” (“Monk”)?
- They asked me what code name I want. I did not know. The commander saw prayer beads in my hands, and said: “Then you’ll be Monk”.
- Where did you fight?
- In Artemivsk, Popasna, Kurakhovo, Maryinka (near Donetsk) – we ware based not far away. There were villages, too. The last battle was in Ilovaisk.
Photo from Internet. Damaged equipment, trees and burnt ground – the frightening remains of “green corridor”
Photo from Internet. Demonstration in Kyiv
- Were you wounded there?
- Yes. I was wounded 3 times when we were exiting Ilovaisk. We were there for 2 weeks, and nobody was wounded or killed. Though they shot at us every day. They start using mortar-guns at 6 a.m., and end at night. They also use “Grad” missiles.
- How did you survive?
- We dug trenches. We had shelters near each trench. We were on duty on our posts, but when the shooting started we hid in trenches.
- What if the trenches were far away?
- Do you know the peculiarities of the mines? They make little funnels and the debris goes upside angle-wise. In case of mine fire, if there are no trenches, you have to fall down as close to the ground as possible (not higher than 25 cm.) and put your hands on the back of your head. If the mine falls in 2-3 meters, it won’t kill. You will only got contusion. If it falls at you, then you’ll get killed. The same with “Grad”. It is important to understand what’s going on. You shouldn’t run. If there is a trench – hide there. If no – fall down.
- Were you afraid?
- Yes. Especially at first. You don’t understand what’s going on. Afterwards you start to understand what to do.
- Who supplied you with equipment and weapons?
- Our battalion is in National Guard. However, I did not receive any uniform. I went to war in my own clothes. I did not get a helmet as well. I did not need it, though. I had to mask myself, use sticks. Volunteers gave me a body armor. The army supplied food. I received my weapon from a separatist. We used their weapons a lot.
- Are our weapons worse?
- No. We just don’t receive them. We got some ammunition. You have to rely on yourself during the battles. Or on other soldiers. For example, we meet other soldiers:
- Guys, do you have ammo?
- What about grenades?
You just go and take what you need. That’s how we communicated.
- What else does the soldier need during the ATO?
- We didn’t have water in summer, so we used baby napkins for hygiene. We need dry alcohol. When you are in the trench, you can warm up some food, make some tea. Now we need gloves, winter uniform, warm underwear, socks. We need thermal cameras too. Without them, we can only react to the noise.
- What about night vision equipment?
- This is a good thing too. But there is such uniform which is not detected by the night vision equipment. It is detected only by thermal camera.
- A lot of our soldiers died in Ilovaisk. There is a lot of controversial information on this matter. What happened there?
- We were going to spend 1 day in Ilovaisk. We did not take anything with us, only weapons. We even left papers on the base. Our common task is to come, fortify ourselves and wait for the army. Soldiers are responsible for bringing order to the area. We did our task. But nobody came to us even in 2 weeks.
Photo via “Vhoru” newspaper
- Were you hungry?
- We did not pay attention to that. We understand that it is hard to provide food and ammo. That is why we shared one portion of food with 4-6 people. Nobody protested. We understood that we have no choice.
- Are there any traitors?
- Yes, especially in the army. The commandment of sector D headed by Litvin left us without defense. We got into entrapment. Then they said that everything is agreed upon, and Russians give us permission for exit. We went there, but there was no “green corridor”. They sent us for death.
- Who was responsible for agreement?
- The commandment. Semen (combat Semenchenko) was not there, he was wounded in the hospital. The head of the headquarters was carrying out his duty at that time, and he told us that everything is OK.
- Did you have to leave without weapons?
- No, we had our weapons. We came to Mnohopillya village, and Russians started shooting at us from mortar-guns. We received a command to go to the right. There were 35 people in our car, 5 of them were shooting back. All others were killed. There were soldiers from different battalions in our column – “Kherson”, “Aidar”… Only lucky ones survived. General Khomchak, the ATO commander, our commander and a group of officers used another way.
- How did you survive?
- The body armor helped. When we travel, we don’t wear them. We put them on the car, and you can hide behind them. I shot from the machine-gun hiding behind my body armor. I guess I felt something because I asked for a machine-gun just before we went there.
I got the first bullet in my leg. The second one went into ribs, and the other one – in the arm. I did not feel much pain because of adrenaline. I told my friend that I was wounded. He asked whether I could shoot, and I said: “Yes”. Then he got killed. I found a trench. I cut my pants, and put some Celox on my wound.
- Celox? People talk a lot about it, how did it help you?
- He is combined with blood and “closes” the wound. When blood vessels are damaged, the tourniquet is put on the wound. I had it too. Then Celox is added. When the blood stops, you need to take the tourniquet off because you can’t use it for more than 40 minutes.
- Did you have medical kits? And what should you have with you?
- We did not get medical kits. Volunteers brought medicine. We asked our doctor Katya what should we have, and she told us. You need to have Celox or something to stop the blood, tourniquet, individual first aid medical kit and anti-shock – strong painkiller.
- So you used medicine on you wounds, and then?
- Those who survived started defending themselves. They offered us to surrender. Squadron leader from our battalion took white cloth and went to negotiate. He offered Russians to let us go. They demanded our weapons. Squadron leader asked to allow Red Cross to take care of wounded soldiers. The Russians agreed to take the wounded, but insisted that we should surrender.
He returned and said that we give the wounded to the Red Cross and that those soldiers who want can surrender. He offered to wait until night and then try to go away. Somebody surrendered, somebody went with him. Some people were caught afterwards. They took the wounded in one pit…
So, I am lying there, there are Russians around. I asked where their commander is. He came to me and I asked about the “green corridor”. He answered that there was never any corridor and that they waited to kill us all. When I asked why he didn’t kill us, he said that he was a soldier, not a killer.
- What happened then?
- They put us in the truck and started driving around. I guess they were having fun listening to our screams. Then we came to Saur-Mohyla. There was no medicine there. Their doctors started looking for some medicine.
Then the doctor came and said that the Red Cross from Dnipropetrovsk is coming to get us. Colonel Steblyuk came with them. He deserves the medal for sure! He saved many lives by bringing 30 ambulance cars. There were 90 wounded soldiers, and he did not sleep for 7 days until they took all of us away. He used his car to bring me to Volnovakha where a helicopter took me to Dnepropetrovsk.
Then I came to the hospital. The doctors are perfect there. They spend all their time at the hospital. They took the bullet and the coin out of me. I had a coin in my pocket and it went into my leg together with the bullet. It saved me from bullet’s explosion.
Oleksandr has a medal “For loyal service”. The battalion commander gave him the medal when he was in the hospital. “Monk” hid it in his bedside-table. When the commander who negotiated with Russians in Ilovaisk came to visit Oleksandr, he asked:
- Where is your medal?
- It’s in the bedside-table..
- What does it mean? You deserved it, so you have to be wearing it!