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 VASYL KOVALCHUK: "WE WERE FIRED UPON WHILE SHOUTING LOUDLY: "CORRIDOR! DON'T SHOOT!"

VASYL KOVALCHUK: "WE WERE FIRED UPON WHILE SHOUTING LOUDLY: "CORRIDOR! DON`T SHOOT!"

Sloviansk, Savur Mohyla, Ilovaisk. Vasyl Kovalchuk has gone through the worst battles of the war. Friendly and polite, with steel endurance and keen sense of justice, he was sharing his memories of those terrible and still quite fresh moments of the war that continues.

I was born in Slavuta city of the Khmelnytskyi region. Before the war, I had no relation to the military, yet served in the army long ago. I have been doing sports for my whole life, I have a private business.


But after I was at the Maidan, in March I did not hesitate and went as a volunteer to the National Guard.


At a range practice, I met Ivan Zhuravlev who became my friend. In May we went to eastern Ukraine. And we were together until the moment when he was captured at Savur-Mohyla. (Recently Ivan was released from captivity, he is in a hospital - Ed.) Now I can tell that we were both scout snipers in the 2nd battalion for operational purposes.


Savur-Mohyla


One day in August we were ordered to go to reinforce our units near Savur-Mohyla height. We were about 30 soldiers from various units of the Army. As it turned out later, only few of us had combat experience. They did not really wanted to bring us to our destination, because it was very "hot" there. Colonel I. (let's name him like this) supervised the operation of holding Savur-Mohyla. He is now in a hospital with severe injuries. We set the goal to keep the height for 2-3 days. This height was of strategic importance. The enemies had suffered heavy losses, so they did not want to use manpower. We were shelled with heavy artillery around the clock. Grads were flying from one point, obviously from Russia. When there was no shelling, there were tanks firing at us. We successfully repulsed the assaults. We dug trenches under the wall thereto somehow hide from shelling. The Russians used drones to constantly watch us and fired at the wall with tanks. When artillery was beginning to work, we were hiding under the wall, and when we were fired at with tanks, we had to cross to another trench under shells. Each should have 2 trenches: for tank and artillery fire. On the second day, Ivan got heavy concussion.


It turned out that the fire correctors who came with us turned got broken equipment. So we had to correct fire of our artillery by maps, telling a data over a mobile phone.


After two days the fire correctors went away, because they realized that there was nothing to do there. Petrivka was heroically surrendered. But they forgot about us. They said that we were not reachable. And I think that they did not want desire not get to us. Our group gave our coordinates for them, but no one was working out any solutions. We had only small arms, it was not clear what was the purpose of being there, we could not do anything. We just tempted the fate. Already on the third day we saw with our eyes how the Russian troops began to enter, the beginning of their convoys standing in Snizhne city and the tail still in Russia. Our artillery tried hard, but could not cope with them. It turned out that we were surrounded. The day before there was an order to evacuate: a car, presumably from the artillery, came to pick us up. But the colonel sent only wounded by this car and did not even tell us about it.


From the top of the height we could perfectly see how the Russian artillery was destroying the Ukrainian one. Once again about a hundred daredevils tried to break through to us. Their aim was to strengthen us or to make some kind of a corridor. But I saw how they were repelled from two directions, there was no chance they could get to us. In the 4th -5th day I received confirmation from the staff that we are in a deep encirclement, about 50 kilometers in the enemy's rear. I asked the staff to give an order for our group to exit, in response they suggested that such an order had been given already. But, according to the colonel, there was no such an order. I tried to talk to him that one needs to take responsibility for his soldiers and they must be withdrawn. The commander was in panic, his eyes running, he behaved improperly. Again and again he replied that there was no order to retreat.


ковальчук

At that moment I felt really scared, because I realized what I got into.

The guys were terribly tired, after not sleeping for seven days under fire. We were without any water and with one infrared detector, while its batteries were about to end.


(Me and Ivan had an infrared detector, the only one in the whole group, and we are very grateful to the volunteers of People's Rear organization.) Not days, but hours were left at our disposal. At that time, not only we were surrounded, but also thousands of our soldiers near Ilovaisk. They just forgot about us.


I was still trying to raise some concern to get an order to withdraw. Instead they sent us a detachment of 17 soldiers. According to the colonel, they were real cool commandos.


Another car broke through to us and the guys that were there, took the wounded, including Ivan. His conсussion was progressing and we did not have the medicine to relieve swelling of the brain. Ivan asked me: either get me out or shoot me. The guys in the car decided to go back the same way they got through to us. And they were shot. One of them who managed to survive called us and said they were all shot. But on the third day I found out that Ivan was a prisoner with the DPR.


On the 24th we couldn't wait for the order any more and we decided to leave the position. I was taking out the guys, because no one knew how to get out of there.


We had to save lives and provide some benefit for the front, and not be a target practice.


The colonel was shouting that we still had to stay, that at night a helicopter would come for us, but it was ridiculous. First, a group of 6 people went, and 2 hours later a group of 14, including the colonel. We missed those 17 guys that had been in the woods somewhere for three days. It turns out that some of them went up to the mountain, when we already left. I asked to stop them, ward them off. For it turned out that most of those 17 people had no experience and it was first time they were holding a gun.


We walked using a map from the 80-s. From water to water. Sometimes we'd come, and the river was not there anymore. When you drank the water from the river, it seemed like you never drank a better water in your life. We ate what we found along the way: corn or sunflowers. We moved mainly at night for 3 days. Guys had blistered feet, but I forced them to go on. From time to time I moved away from the group, turned on my cell phone and communicated with the command. They'd give us an extraction point, which would change every hour because the front was retreating.


Ilovaisk


When we reached Mnohopillia, we received an order to join the team up with the surrounded garrison at Ilovaisk. Compared to Savur-Mohyla, it was a resort.


They had water, but food supplies were almost exhausted. They had 2 tanks. One of them captured from the Russians. However, there was only one crew for these two tanks. When the guys found out who we are and where we came from, their spirits were elevated.


The next day there was talk about the corridor in exchange for prisoners. But Russia has posed another ultimatum. They wanted us to leave the weapons and equipment. I did not like this idea. The day before there had been a truce for a few hours, in order to take out the wounded and dead. The Russians did not let them out and opened fire. And this was a signal that they could be trusted.


We were woken up at 5 a.m. to leave. The column was enormous. Most were traveling by regular cars. We found a KAMAZ truck with a metal body. We loaded up in it with the whole unit. Its body has saved our lives. In their heads the guys were already home. Some were sleeping, with their guns away. We moved seemingly freely, but the enemy started shooting a little from the sides, kind of mocking us. A few kilometers on real shooting started, mines were flying directly at the vehicles. They were shooting from the woods. We went down into some valley. There were several empty huts standing there, detached from the village. On both sides of the field.


We all shouted loudly: "Corridor, Corridor!!! Don't shoot!!!" None of us was ready for an attack.


At the beginning of our battle the colonel was seriously wounded in the head. We were able to leave the road and take up defensive positions near a ruined old house. Beside it was a basement in which we brought the wounded. There was no foothold anywhere there. All the ammo was left in the cars, and almost all of them were burned down. It was a real mess. No commanding officers. It was not clear where the other troops were. We just scattered in all directions. Between those huts, from the bushes we were shooting back for 4-5 hours. We tried to negotiate with them to create the promised corridor. Because we had their prisoners, but they simply shot our vehicles together with their own fighters. The wounded cried for help, there were many of them. It was unclear how many were dead. The field was strewn with the bodies, the column was dead.


Sometime in the evening the guys ran out of ammo and began to surrender. For me it was unacceptable, given the Maidan and military specification (recon sniper). I went alone, not taking anyone with me because it was an incredible risk, we were surrounded. I just crawled from the perimeter. Initially, I crawled away two hundred meters and found a place with tall grass where you can wait out a bit. I had very little strength left, but when I saw the grass behind me burning, I crawled another three hundred meters, found a safe place and waited till dark. In the morning, I got to the village, where I hid at the outskirts.


From locals I heard the story that at the end of the village there was a checkpoint with our guys and they were blanketed by the artillery and the dead were just rolled into the ground by tanks and that's all.


An elderly woman was crying as she told me. She said that even the Germans did not do things like that.


At that time I did not even have a map. I found a little water and food, hid my clothes, found civilian ones and pretended to be a bum. And on the next day I walked for avout thirty kilometers. And after two days I was taken out at the extraction point. So few were that lucky. Few managed to get out on foot. No one from our unit came out. Some are in captivity, some disappeared without a trace.


Our guys have heard the talk of the command that we must break through fighting, but they forgot to tell us about it - and we just went to be slaughtered. Who is now responsible for the casualties? For hundreds of fallen heroes at Ilovaisk?

I resent the fact that the state over the last month has not found those responsible for this tragedy. Has not removed a single of the senior officers in charge of that failed operation "green corridor". Errors during the so-called "ATO" are systemic in nature, which gives me the right to state extreme degradation and unprofessionalism of the command or even a betrayal of the military oath. The external enemy is not as scary - we have learned to successfully beat him. The real threat to the state is an internal enemy - traitors and amateurs.


Every night I am at the war. I understand that I need to sleep, but I am there, at that war. This is a normal syndrome.
After all those events I keep in touch with the guys from different units. The wives became friends, they all prayed every day and got us. Unfortunately, not all of us.


We clearly understand who the enemy is. And he we will stop where we stop him. But we must stop him adequately. This war - the war with Russia from day one - has not been recognized.


I certainly dream of peace. I remember how our parents met at the tables when I was little, and they were toasting "to peace" which seemed strange to me at the time. Because we grew up and did not know what war is.


It is my strongest belief that wars occur due to mental and spiritual poverty.


Text and Photos by Vika Yasynska, Censor.NET

 
 
 
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