Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Meanwhile, in the Ukrainian Army… | MicroBalrog

This post is originally by Gennady Volkov, a Ukrainian reporter. Translated by MicroBalrog  from this post

I have recently visited the “eastern front”, at the camp of the 51st Separate Mobile Brigade of the Ukrainian Army. This is the unit that had recently lost to an unknown attacker (presumably the separatists) – 17 dead and 30 injured.

My impressions from the trip are dire. Let me sum it up.

The brigade numbers just over 4,000 men and is manned by West Ukrainians, mostly from Volyn. The logic is clear – it will be easier for “westerners” to shoot at “easterners”, whose mentality is alien to them. Sadly, however, reality is far more complex.

On the roadblocks, the soldiers are very vigilant. The recent tragedy has served as the best reminder that combat regulations are written in blood, and that their life is in their own hands alone. I have noticed that for roadblock crews, vigilance is a capital-letter word. HOWEVER: As the soldiers have admitted to me in an off-record conversation, the roadblocks are mostly irrelevant: the separatists easily bypass them by unpaved village roads and go wherever they need to. “We are protecting ourselves here.”

Our convoy, led by jeeps carrying Volyn people’s deputies that carried gifts for their neighbors in the military – ballistic vests and useful gadgets, like night vision goggles and IR scopes – was escorted by a truck that carried a squad of troops and an officer. It turned out the soldiers had not seen the enemy yet. Only the commander had been shot at before – by our own men. He told us the story as follows: a group of soldier were sent to greet some Colonel who lost his way on his UAZ. In the location where they were looking for him, the search team did see an army Jeep by the roadside – and suddenly from the bushes emerged men in black mask and camouflage, carrying rifles. The team took them for separatists and stepped on the gas, and the men, in turn, opened fire. As a result, the driver was killed, another man was injured, and the masked men turned out to be from the local defense battalion. The prosecutor arrived on location totally drunk, the cops ignored it. As per the man who told us this story, nobody was punished. This is how it is when men with identical uniforms without rank badges and with identical guns fight each other.

Speaking of uniforms – the Ukrainian Army cannot properly dress it men. The soldiers on the roadblocks resemble either Mexican rebels or Caucasian Mujahedin – some kind of paramilitary gang wearing a mix of camouflage uniforms from around the world and civilian clothing. Many men’s clothing is heavily worn and unwashed.

Which brings us to the next topic. I don’t mean to spread panic, but you can’t take words out of a song – and the words the soldiers asked me to relay are thus: “We are held here against our will in animal-like conditions, everyone has lied to us.”

Complete story at - Meanwhile, in the Ukrainian Army… | MicroBalrog

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