On Aug. 1, 2014 Evgeniy Pushkarev turned 18. His page on Vkontakte social network has no ordinary photos. On each of them, he poses in uniform with guns or plays war games. War ceased to be a game on Sept. 5, 2014, when his mother came home in the evening and found a note from him reading "Mom, I left for Rostov to visit a friend."
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Later on, he showed up and told his relatives on the phone that he was fighting in Ukraine. "Mom, I'll be back in two months," he told his mother. He came back earlier, in a coffin, and the parents brought the bullet, which they said had been extracted from their son's body. According to his combat comrades, the billet hit Evgeniy's shoulder area, went through the body, and got stuck in the buttocks.
The relatives say the boy had dreamed about the army since the 6th grade, and ran away to war to "gain combat experience and then get into a good unit."On popular Russian social network "Vkontakte," he was member of the groups "Donetsk Republic Russian Summer" and "Voenkomat NOD Pavel Gubarev" ("Mercenary recruitment for the National Liberation Movement of Pavel Gubarev"). Evgeniy's parents want other parents in Russia to check pages of their children in social networks to know which groups they are in, whether they communicate with recruiters who are even ready to enroll children in the war.
Evgeniy's relatives do not want Russian children to die in the South-East of Ukraine because of media and Internet propaganda.
"The guys say, Evgeniy arrived to the border and was not allowed to pass by Russian border guards due to his age. He was sent home, but returned and crossed the border illegally. People have to have some rules of morality. Yevgeniy was in fact a child, but he was a mercenary; this is youth maximalism, nothing more, I think.
"We would like more publicity; it might save someone's life, make parents more cautious. We spoke to the guys, and they said many went there. And it's been hidden from us; we do not know this. If you can save someone's life, then you need to talk about it," aunt of the deceased boy believes.
Journalists from the medium spoke to militants who witnessed the last combat engagement of Evgeniy Pushkarev. Terrorists with call signs of Tikhiy ('Quiet', has been fighting in the 'LPR' since Sept. 23, 2014) and Mangust ('Mongoose', has been fighting since Sept. 6), together with his relatives brought Evgeniy's body to Kronstadt and agreed to talk about how the 18-year-old machine gunner died. They said that 75% of mercenaries were Russian citizens and only 25% were locals, as Ukrainian men avoid participation in war for various reasons.
On Sept. 23, I've got my first combat mission. The name of the village was Kruhlyk, the Krasnyi Luch district. The assignment was to hold a residential area, and that's where I met Zhenia. We spent eight days there, and then returned to the base in Krasnyi Luch town, the Luhansk region. We spent five days at the firm base, had some rest, were able to take shower and some break from the military routines. Our commander left for Moscow to arrange humanitarian aid for our squad.
After that, we were given our second assignment, which was to advance to Nikishyne village.
Krasny Luch is like a muster point for those who want to join the terrorist gangs. Everybody gets there on his/her own. Some get through different organizations. But all of them are in fact mercenaries. Some have military experience, others don't, and some are locals. They just gather there and have some short military training provided, which is just a few very basic instructions, and everybody is good to go then.
In the evening of Oct. 8 they asked for 10 volunteers to advance to Nikishyne village to support a group of the 'DPR' combatants who were holding the village. Honestly, 'holding' wasn't the correct word, as they were periodically gaining control over a street and then losing it again.
The positions were held by Russian Cossacks together with the 'DPR' guys. All 10 of our volunteers were sent there. Once we arrived, bomb explosions were heard. In five minutes after arrival, one of the bombs fell so close to me that I had to hide in a trench nearby.
We took a shelter in one of abandoned houses and had a chance to eat and drink. We kept watching all the night, and in the morning we were sent to do house-to-house search of Nikishyne's outskirts. We had three to four people in each group. We walked along a street, entered the houses, thoroughly checked everything and then settled in several houses. Two members of our group marked the houses where we should settle.
The instruction we received was to sit in the house quietly and not to get out, in order to keep the position secret. Our position was in a corner house. 'Tikhiy', Zhenia and 'Volk' were across the street. We could see their house. There was another part of the group a couple of houses further down the street. While we were there, we could hear sounds of cross-fire, sniper's shots and odd bombs' explosions. There were no residents left in the village, except for two old women somewhere in the outskirts. Cows and other livestock were abandoned. It was like in a horror movie.
On Oct. 10, at approximately 6 p.m., after we had already finished our dinner, the group in the house of 'Tikhiy', Zhenia and 'Volk' were just getting ready for their meal.
At that time, the sun was behind us, and Ukrainians were most likely watching us - where we were and what we were doing. They understood that we've got relaxed, and that we were not really experienced soldiers, and that we behaved light-mindedly. So they decided to take advantage of the moment and the sun's position, and they opened fire.
First, they fired from mortars, their shells falling next to the house. Then, machine guns joined the assault. Eventually, there were at least 30 to 40 people shooting at the same time. They were shooting from different positions and we understood that they were trying to surround us. We could not see them.
When the shooting started, 'DPR' fighters in a forest behind us, who had grenade machine guns and mortars, started shooting back. Then, grenades from machine guns started exploding near our street.
We had a small observation point there, a looking hole in a fence, and Zhenia noticed an approaching group of people and infantry. He yelled to us: "Guys, we have contact, they are trying to surround us, retreat." We decided to retreat across the street to the next position, literally 10-15 meters away, in order to create common defense position.
We were retreating in an organized manner: I went first, followed by Volk, Zhenia was the last, covering our retreat. He was a machine gunner; he had a Kalashnikov LMG 74 and was using it to scare the enemy, shooting back. I ran to the new position followed by Volk. We looked back and realized that Zhenia did not manage to reach the new position with us.
We peeked out and saw that he was lying with his face down literally two meters away from the gate. At this time there was chaotic shooting, bullets were whistling in the direction of our positions. I mean the enemy already reached this street. Not far from our building, there was an empty plot of land, with ruins on it, they reached this plot and were able to cover the road with their fire. There was a ruined house near the intersection and they were shooting from that house, too. They were able to completely cover the road leading from our building to the settlement with their fire.
We with the guys ran to the road, grabbed Zhenia by the vest and quickly dragged him inside, closer to the fence.
After that Tikhiy yelled "We have a wounded." At this time I was inside the yard with our group of people, there were six of us. Tikhiy yelled and asked for help to drag Yevgeniy to a protected place, because the fire was massed and intense and everyone was trying to hide behind something solid. I went to them and helped drag Yevgeniy inside the building.
We dragged him into a hall in order to protect him from the bullets as much as possible.
We started shooting back, we were shooting into different directions without seeing the enemy, and I shot several times into the air.
Our machine gunner opened fire from behind the metal gates in order to suppress the enemy fire.
When the fire started going down, we had a chance to move out and look. We saw noticed someone in the bushes.
We unbuttoned his coat just before we retreated. I injected him some pain killers.
After that we continued shooting back, for some 30-40 minutes. Volk threw a grenade.
At first he tried hitting the ruins from an RPG, I saw how he went out into the street and bullets were hitting right next to him. He could not make a shot, so he ran back, left the RPG and decided to throw a grenade - and threw it. It exploded, the firing stopped for 15-20 seconds, and we started pulling Zhenia into the backyard of the house.
We decided to retreat through the yards between the houses and to evacuate the wounded; we did not discover any damage on him. We asked him where he was hit; he said he did not know and that it was difficult to breathe. Everything was happening fast. There was no blood on the body, he was only bleeding from his nose. We even thought that perhaps he was knocked out senseless by a grenade explosion or something. We dragged him out of the house and carried him to the backyard, where it was safer. We examined him there one more time.
There he became unconscious and quickly died.
His body went soft and showed no signs of life. It was clear that the man was dying. We could not understand what was causing his death and why it was happening. We had no medicine with us. The streets and yards were covered with enemy fire. We did not know how to retreat and we were retreating in any way we could. What I mean is that if we took Yevgeniy's dead body with us, then more people could have died. There would be new problems and everyone would have been worse off.
We could not understand who was shooting and from what direction. Everything around us was exploding and flying. We started retreating through the backyard between the buildings; we did not go into the street or into the field. I mean, we kept climbing over fences, fence after fence. We were moving and at the same time stopping whenever we could in buildings, in order to listen where there was shooting and where there was none. The shooting continued, however; we could hear the whistling of bullets and explosions. Me and Bizon ran into a building and saw all our guys there. We spent some time in this house, went into a room together with Bizon, then turned around and decided to retreat using the street, but everyone was gone by then. All ran wherever they could.
Bison had a radio. My radio's battery died so I used his instead. I informed Biker that we were under fire. He said that he could hear it but it was unclear what was going on. I told him how it was, that we were being shot at from all sides, from AGSs, mortars, assault rifles, and machine guns, and that we had one "300" (wounded).
He was already "200" (killed).
By then he was already "200". At that time, however, I was not able to say it with certainty. Biker asked where the fire was coming from. I gave him directions and asked to help us with some heavy cover fire in the direction of the field and the intersection, where they were shooting from. I heard how he gave orders, then three or four shells exploded, and that's when our cover stopped.
When the shooting stopped at sunset, it became dark very quickly; two hours later, when it was already really dark, we carried Zhenia's body to the entrance of the settlement, to Cossacks' position.
"Zhenia's parents did everything possible; they came to the location and delivered his body to Kronstadt. It was not simple, but there were people everywhere who helped them. A woman at "LPR" headquarters found a car to take the body to Kamensk-Shakhtinsk. Then, in Rostov, they were able to arrange delivery of the body to St. Petersburg for the minimal amount of 20,000 Rubles ($280). All this is done on their own, because officially, hired fighters receive no benefits," the publication summed up.