In an exclusive Interview, an infantry soldier of Ukraine’s armed forces who uses the call-sign Chik and is serving on the defensive line with Belarus, explained the possibility of a Russian offensive from Belarus territory. He also described defending Kyiv in the beginning of the full-scale war.
Is your unit serving right on the border with Belarus?
Yes, we are called the frontier of defense. At the beginning of the war, this territory was occupied by Russians who had a base here. Russians shelled Chernihiv (Ukraine's regional center in the north) and in other directions from here. In April, Russian troops left this area. We have been serving here for four months now.
Military experts cannot agree on whether the Russians will launch a new attack from Belarus territory. What do you personally think?
There is the Dnipro river on one side and the Desna river on the other. Russians have already been trapped here once. In spring, they built a pontoon across the Desna river to bypass Chernihiv, but they failed. They would be defeated were they to come here again.
Also, they need more forces to make a frontal attack. Russian command would need at least 150,000 servicemen for that. According to various estimates, Russian troops in Belarus now number up to 20,000. The maximum number of mobilized troops that they can receive at their training ranges is up to 90,000. They technically can't prepare for an offensive before February or March. The only thing Russia can do is divert part of the Ukrainian forces here.
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Have you seen the border with Belarus?
Yes, I used to go there. Belarusians put up roadblocks to prevent us from infiltrating their territory. However, the real fence is the Dnipro river - it stops the troops better than the wall and barbed wire. Especially in current weather conditions it would be challenging to pass. The Russian attack failed when we were unprepared and now they have no chance for success.
Are there enough weapons? Do you have a winter uniforms?
We needed more weapons and ammunition and bought the uniforms ourselves. Volunteers usually don't come to this part of the front, so our supply could be better. The Ukrainian people directly finance the needs of the military through volunteering.
How was the situation with army supplies at the beginning of the full-scale war?
At the beginning of the war, I served in Kyiv. There were no weapons at all. We were commanded to destroy everything we noticed, primarily in the air, but our weapons were archaic, like from a museum. In March, service members from special operations forces came to support our unit with two portable air defense systems.
I think that, at the time, we survived due to pre-war Western arms supplies and American intelligence data. We knew where the Russian forces would land.
What were the first days of war like?
I am a marksman and practiced shooting before the war. I was mobilized from the first days and appointed to be a senior marksman. I came with my weapon and the command was very pleased because they had nothing.
I served in the military unit defending Kyiv from the west side of the Zhytomyr highway. At first, there was confusion. No one knew what to do, and there was a defense breakthrough from Russian diversion groups along Prospect Peremohy [a major roadway that leads into central Kyiv].
At Hostomel Airport the National Guard repelled Russian attacks because they had intelligence on where the Russian force would land, and it was one of the most advanced and staffed units. They prevented the Russian planes from landing and establishing a helipad. On the other hand, we were closer and were waiting for the Russian landing force to approach the area from Hostomel to Kyiv.
We succeeded in repulsing the Russian attack. I don't know what weapons were used to shoot down the Russian helicopters, but I think it was American Stingers delivered before the war, just like the Russian tanks were blown up with American Javelins at that time.
Of course, the losses on our side were enormous. Russian military columns were crushing us, we only had Kalashnikov rifles.
What did the Ukrainian infantryman's day look like at the beginning of the war?
On the first day, in general, those who had weapons were asked to join because we had a shortage of weapons. I joined the units that were patrolling Kyiv. In the process, ineffective fighters were weeded out. There were accidental self-inflicted shootings because not everyone knew how to handle a weapon.
I saw one sergeant - we were coming out of a bomb shelter together - who was told that Russians had launched 200 rockets at Kyiv. He committed suicide immediately with the weapon given to him. There were different situations - a lot of people dropped out.
On the fifth day, we lined up the units that had formed and formalized. Everyone was asked by command: "Do you realize that this day could be the last in your life? Are you ready to defend?” Of course, we understood.
In the first days, we did not go to bed and passed out sleeping at our posts for two or three hours. Then we slept in basements. We had only summer uniforms, and it was very hard during winter. We all caught a cold and coughed until May.
What was most challenging for you?
The worst thing was that our unit was divided up. We were a well-coordinated group and became friends during our Kyiv service. When commanders asked who wanted to go to the region with hot hostilities - Severodonetsk, Lysychansk – our unit volunteered. However, we were divided and sent in different directions. Usually, commands don't tell us where they send us until we arrive, probably for security reasons.
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