Voices from Russia

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Brisk, But Without Hustle

00 russian naval infantry. kerch. crimea. 21.08.14


Our Ukrainian naval infantry battalion rallied to the Russian side. The beginning of 2014 was a rough time for our unit. In December 2013, they transferred us from the army to the Ukrainian Navy. We had to master the basics of naval infantry tactics and modify our training facilities. In late February, our unit faced a detachment of the Crimean forces and it seemed that an attack could come at any time. When we reported the deteriorating situation to higher headquarters, they kept telling us, “Hold on!” Meanwhile, supplies from the Minoborony Ukrainy practically ceased, but well-wishers gave us a special bank card to have money for food. We felt like they’d just abandoned us to our fate.

In early March, soldiers in Russian field uniforms without insignia showed up outside our base. Looking at their kit, we deduced that they were paratroopers. Their CO explained his orders to us… he wouldn’t allow provocations from either side of the fence and he wouldn’t allow any weapons to leave the base. Military professionals could easily assess that these guys were proficient, well-trained, composed, and self-confident. They gave crisp commands, carried them out expeditiously, but without haste. Their signals discipline was good… everything was succinct and unambiguous. Even the way that they carried their weapons showed that they used them as an extension of themselves. Obviously, this was a bunch of pros. Our contractors tried to establish closer contacts with them, but they kept a correct distance. They kept to themselves; they didn’t mingle with the locals who milled about the base entrance.  There wasn’t an ounce of arrogance or bravado in their conduct, but we were well aware that this was a serious set of dudes.

At the same time, we noticed that they sympathised with our difficult situation. Every day, we saw how the contemporary Russian army acts when it carries out live operations. There’s no doubt that this behaviour influenced the majority of my troops to choose to serve under the St Andrew banner. On the day that we were to choose which side we’d serve on, Major General Aleksandr Ostrikov, the commander of the coastal forces of the Black Sea Fleet, came to visit us. With utmost objectivity, correctness, and in full detail, he described the situation and laid out to my people the choices that were before them. The next day, I formed up the battalion and announced that I’d chosen to serve Russia. Three-quarters of my battalion supported me. Now, we engage in intensive combat training, and our training will soon be on par with the terse paratroopers who stood before our gates in those tense days. The battalion understands that we’ll have to put forth more effort to learn the dynamics of our new service. However, it’s worth it if we can follow in the footsteps of those “polite people” in Russian military uniform…

19 August 2014

Lieutenant Colonel Aleksandr Saenko

Commander, 501 Naval Infantry Battalion

Kerch (Republic of Crimea) RUSSIAN FEDERATION

Krasnaya Zvezda


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