Last night at the DPR Army checkpoint, next to the bridge at the end of Kievskiy Avenue, men fired machine guns from behind sandbags and artillery hammered the diminishing Ukrainian positions inside Donetsk Airport.
It was almost dark when I left, after spending an hour in the dugout. Sashka had run in front of me, then into the trees down the left side of the bridge. He’d reached the truck askew by the side of the road 20 meters ahead, and began shooting from there.
Now it’s 9:00 AM and on the tarmac you can see the bullet cartridges scattered. Some of the guys are exhausted and nervous. They glance around, some are able to maintain their smiles, but most are stoic and reserved. Some of the men make coffee, others clean dishes.
Anton, a 22 years old soldier, lifts the camouflage netting and lets me into the trench made of sandbags and thick metal sheets. A military jacket is folded in a corner near a gas mask filter. A heavy machine gun is placed in a small aperture.
Anton takes off his helmet and lights a cigarette. We sit silently for a while. His comrades outside halt cars showing up from both directions, they check trunks and documents—it’s the same every day. You must have your own good reasons to bear all of this.
Anton stares at nothing, blowing off smoke, then, shrugs his shoulders and in a calm voice begins to tell me his story.
“Before joining the DPR Army, I psychologically prepared myself for the eventuality of death for over a month. If I stayed home, I would have been ashamed just by looking at myself in the mirror. The Ukrainian Army is killing my people and me staying home not reacting?
Lots of my friends don’t feel anything at all about it. I had one friend until two months ago. That guy was born here. We had planned to join the Militia together. Then, he changed his mind. I gave him a phone call and he said, ‘You’d better go alone and figure out if they pay for that. And if they pay, then call me.’
That moment I realized we were no longer friends.
I was sick and tired of the so-called “Army On The Sofa”, better able to speak about war than grab a machine gun and go fight. You must act, not speak. That’s why I’m here on the frontline. And I knew where I was going. All of us are here for the same reason. No fear. You quickly get used to it.
Many guys are scared. After living here for 20 years, they fled and got refugee status. I understand them. I don’t judge anybody. People are different, of course. Don’t come here if you’re scared. When the shooting starts, those who are scared drop their weapon and don’t cover your back. There’s no need for such a soldier. That’s why I don’t criticize such people. I understand them perfectly.
Many people advise to move to Russia and get refugee status. But that’s not a way out, cause if I’m on the mobilization list, they can easily check it out at any Ukrainian block-post. Then, I’ll be forced to join the Ukrainian Army. That’s the time we live in.
In my village, the school authorities were given a phone number and they were told to report about those taking the side of the DPR. Lots of us sided with the DPR. In a town near Donetsk, a man reported three neighbors for helping DPR. All those people, children included, shortly later were shot dead by Ukrainians. Ukrainians are nationalists and Nazis. No way to deal with them. It is necessary to wipe them out. Everybody understands this, eventually. Though the time is not easy for us, we have launched a counteroffensive anyway, and soon they’ll get jack-all.
Ukrainian TVs say we have no morale. But we believe in what we’re engaged in, and we will win.
While still at home, I watched a program on the ICTV channel. They showed tanks shelling civilian homes and stated they were DPR tanks. They also claimed the DPR Army was short both on weapons and soldiers and that soon it would be defeated. I thought about this. If DPR Army was short on weapons, why waste ammunition shooting civilian homes? Now I know that Ukrainians can’t win a straight battle, so they take revenge by shelling residential areas. Unfortunately, many people trust TV and believe whatever it says. It’s not just lying, it’s provocation. But they will lose anyway. No matters how hard they stand for their nationalistic interest.
The Ukrainian Army has squads to terminate its injured soldiers. I’ve often heard this. When they’ve got about 10 injured soldiers, a car shows up from the backlines with some guys who kill them all. They do it in order to avoid the injured soldiers getting captured and then telling the truth about what happens on the frontline. Pravy Sektor deals that very way with soldiers who refuse fighting or retreat. They are all being killed.
For the Ukrainian Army, soldiers mean close to nothing. Same as the ground we walk on. They don’t care about them, just as they don’t care about civilians, whose homes they fire with rocket launchers and howitzers.
As you come here, it all gets clear.”