8368 “We were fully aware of what we brought ourselves to and what could happen”

The interview with a Russian tanker who was sent to fight for Debaltsevo together with his battalion


Dorzhi Batomunkuyev, 20 years old, the 5th separate tank brigade (Ulan-Ude), military unit No. 46108. Being a conscript, drafted into the army on November 25, 2013, he entered into a three-year contract in June 2014. Military service number 200220, military card 2609999.

His face is burnt and bandaged; blood seeps from under the band. Hands are banded, too. Ears are burnt and shrunken.

I know that he was wounded in Logvinovo. In the early morning of February 9, Logvinovo — the neck of the Debaltsevo pocket— was secured by special tank forces of DNR (self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic) that drew a cordon around it (90% of them were Russian organized volunteers). The pocket was closed so fast that Ukrainian soldiers that were in Debaltsevo had no idea about that. Within further hours, the DNR troops, without any restraint, were burning cars leaving Debaltsevo. That is how the deputy head of the Anti-Terrorist Operation was killed.

The special task forces conducted a withdrawal, and rebel cossacks, who took up positions, were shelled by Ukrainian artillery. Meanwhile, Ukrainian soldiers started to organize their breakthrough from the pocket. A Russian tank battalion was sent to hold the position after staying for several days in the Donetsk Region before.

We are talking in Donetsk, at the burn treatment center of the central clinical hospital.


— On February 19, my tank exploded. It was dusk. The 19th of February is the New Year according to the Buddhist calendar. So, this year started poorly for me. (He is trying to smile, and blood starts running quickly from his lip.) Yesterday, they bandaged my face. My face is absolutely dried up. They do not operate because I may feel worse while my transfer. When I move my fingers, the blood is running, too. I hope to get to Russia as soon as possible.

— How were you wounded?

— I was inside the tank. There was a tank battle. I hit a hostile tank, and it exploded. I also threw a shell to hit another tank, but that tank was armored, the armor responded well. It turned back and hid in the forest belt. Then, we conducted a backblow to another place. And that tank suddenly attacked us.

The sound was ear-splitting – like “tee-n-n”. I opened my eyes and saw fire, a very bright light, just in front of my eyes. I heard a rustling sound. It was the sound of gunpowder exploding in the shell. I tried to open the manhole, but I couldn’t. My only thought was: “This is it. I will die.” I thought: “So, is that all? I am only 20 – and it is over?” Then, suddenly a protective thought appeared in my head. I moved – I realized I could move, so, I was alive. Alive – hence, I need to get out. I tried once again to open the manhole. And it opened. I got out from the tank, fell down from the tank – and started rolling to put the fire out. I saw some snow and crept towards it. I rolled around and dug into snow. But it was hard to dig into it. I felt my face was burning, my communication helmet was burning. I removed my com helmet with my hands and I saw that the skin peeled off my hands together with the helmet. Then I put my hands out and continued moving and looking for snow. Then, an infantry combat vehicle (ICV) arrived and the driver ran out of it: “Hey, man, come here.” I noticed that he held a red fire extinguisher. He put out the fire, and I ran to him. He cried: “Down, down!” — and he laid over me, put some more fire out. The infantry troop commander took out some promedol — I remember this exactly. And right after that I was shoved into the ICV. Then, we fought our way out of there. After that, they carried me to a tank, by which we reached some village. There, some fellow made me some injections, said something to me, talked to me. Then we entered Gorlovka. I got some more injections of promedol to my muscles - for me not to go faint. In Gorlovka, they hospitalized me to the intensive care department, as far as I remember. Later, when it was early morning, I was brought here, to Donetsk. I came to senses here because I was hungry. This was the 20th. Well, they fed me the best they could.


The road

— How did you get here?

— I was called to service on November 25, 2013. I got here voluntarily. Only contract soldiers could be sent here, but I came to Rostov as a conscript soldier. During my service I showed good results — both at firearms and physical trainings. In fact, I was drafted into the army in Chita and I completed the training course there. Then, I decided to stay at the military base in Ulan-Ude on a contractual basis. In June, I wrote a report with request. I joined the second battalion. The second battalion — in case of war – always leaves in the first echelon. Any military unit has such a division. We certainly had contract soldiers in our battalion, but mostly conscripts. Closer to autumn, October, they started to gather contract soldiers from all battalions of our unit in order to form one battalion. We didn’t have enough contract soldiers in our unit in order to form a tank battalion that is why they transferred contract soldiers from Kyakhta to our unit. We all were brought together. We got acquainted, lived together for about four days, that’s all, then – to the echelon.

My military service was to be over on November 27. We came to Rostov in October. My military service was still in progress. So, my contract commenced already here. We are the 5th separate tank brigade.

— Didn’t you retire?

— No, I didn’t.

— Did you come here to have maneuvers?

— We were told that we were going to have maneuvers, but we knew where we went. All of us knew where we went. I was morally and mentally ready to go to Ukraine.

We painted over the tanks in Ulan-Ude. Just while they were in the train set. We painted over the plates. Some tanks were marked with the guard sign – we painted them over, too. We took off the arm patches and chevrons here, when we arrived at the training range. Take off everything… for conspiracy reasons. We left our civilian passports at the military base, and our military service cards – at the training range.

Actually, we did have battle-seasoned guys. Some of them are on contract service for more than a year, some of them – for 20 years. They say: “Don’t listen to the brass. We are going to bomb khokhols[1]. Even if we have some maneuvers, we will anyway be sent to bomb khokhols afterwards.”

In general, a lot of echelons were going here. All of them slept in our barrack. Before us, there were special task forces from Khabarovsk, from various cities, solely from the east. One by one, do you get it? Every day. Our echelon was the fifth. We went on October 25 or 27.

The offloading ramp was in Matveyev Kurgan. While we were on our way from Ulan-Ude to Matveyev Kurgan, we passed a lot of towns. The trip took 10 days. The closer to this place, the more people welcomed us. They waved hands and crossed us. Most of us are Buryats. And they blessed us with cross signs. (He is laughs and blood starts running again.)

The same happened here: when we cruised around, grannies, grandpas, local children blessed us… Old women were crying.

— Which training range was it?

— Kuzminskiy. There are a lot of such training ranges. Tent camps. One group arrives, another leaves. We met people from previous echelons there. The Kantemirovskay Brigade from the Moscow Oblast came after us. They had paratroopers and one tank squadron of low power. Our tank battalion has 31 tanks. We can do something serious.

— Could you refuse?

— I certainly could. Nobody forced me. There were some guys who refused in Ulan-Ude, when they realized that the fit hits the shan. One officer refused.

— Did you have to write a report?

— I don’t know. I didn’t refuse. There were some guys in Rostov who refused. I know one soldier from our battalion. Vanya Romanov. We were in the same company during the course training. He is the man of low priorities. The commander of the Eastern Military District, Colonel General Surovikin, came to our training range before the New Year’s Eve. He came to our tank squadron. He shook everybody’s hand… He took Ivan with him to his native city, Novosibirsk. I don’t know what happen to Romanov now. But the fact is that it was possible to leave.

— Did Surovikin mention Donetsk or Ukraine?

— He said nothing about that. (He laughs.) In the train, while we were on our way for 10 days, there were various rumors. Some guys said that it was just an excuse, some said – no, really, the training. And it turned out that both of them were right. One month of the training passed, the second month, the third month already. Well then, this meant we really came for training! Or, maybe, to show that our sub-unit is at the boundary, so that Ukrainians got a little bit more scared. The very fact that we were here was a sort of psychological attack.

We’d passed the 3-month training, just as planned. And then… we counted days until the training end. We had special people, deputy commanders for political affairs, who worked with the armed personnel. They received information at meetings, and then told it to us. The deputy commander said: “Arm yourself with patience for a week, and then we will go home.” Our shift had already arrived. Our commanders said: “This is it, the platform will come soon, we will load the tanks; mechanics and drivers will go by train; the others – commanders and gun layers – by plane from Rostov to Ulan-Ude. A 12-hour flight – and you will be home.”

Then suddenly we got a signal. We started out.

— When?

— On February 8, I think. The captain of our group just said: “This is it, guys, we are going, full alert.” Full alert means sitting in the tank, started up. Then the convoy starts out.

— Did you leave quickly?

— We are military people, everything is very quickly. A kit-bag, submachine gun – and we get into the tank. Fill the tank, start up and go. All that is mine I carry with me.

When we were about to leave the training range, they said to leave our phones and documents there. We left Kuzminskiy towards the Russian boundary and stopped in the forest belt. When I got into the tank, it was light outside, when I got out from it – it was already dark. Then we got a signal. That was it, nobody gave lectures to us. They said: “We are starting the march.” We understood everything even without this command, without any words. For all I care is to get into the tank, that’s all, the main thing is that I am going.

— So, nobody – neither deputy commander for political affairs, nor the commanders – talked to you about Ukraine?

— Nobody did, because everybody was anyway aware of this. Why would they chew this porridge for us? Nobody fed us with this patriotic puke. We knew everything when we got on the train.

— Did you understand that you crossed the boundary?

— All of us understood that we were crossing the boundary. What else could we do? We couldn’t stop then. We had to follow orders. We were fully aware of what we brought ourselves to and what could happen. And, nevertheless, few of us got scared. Our commanders know their work, they do everything stable, precise and professional.

— When did you find out that you were going to Donetsk?

— When did we find out? When we read it was Donetsk. When we entered the city… There is also an inscription: “DNR”. Oh, we are in Ukraine! It was dark, we were going at night. I leaned out of the manhole to see the city. The city was beautiful, I liked it. On the left, on the right – everything was beautiful. I saw a huge cathedral on the right. Very beautiful.

In Donetsk, we parked in the shelter. They took us to the campus to have a hot meal, and then they accommodated us in the rooms. After that we all went to sleep in one room. Our mate had a phone. Well, some guys took their phones with them. We found Sputnik radio. And listened to the radio discussion: are there Russian soldiers here, in Ukraine? And all the discussion participants said: “No-no-no”. And our company was lying in the beds saying: yeah, sure. Who would say openly? Our government understands that we have to assist. If we carry out an official military entrance, it will rile up Europe and NATO. Although, you realize that NATO also participates in this by supplying weapons to them.

— Did they explain to you how many days you should stay?

— No. Maybe, until the end of the war.

— Did you ask?

— No. We realized that all this war depended on us. That’s why they trained us so hard for these 3 months. I can only say that we had been trained really well, as well as our snipers and all other troops.


The war

— How many of you entered this country?

— Well, there were 31 tanks in the battalion. We entered company by company. Ten tanks in each company. They added three ICVs, one medical vehicle and five Urals with ammunition per each dozen of tanks. This was the numerical strength of the tactical group of one company. The tank battalion is about 120 people – three tank squadrons, a support platoon, and a communication platoon. Plus infantry, of course. Approximately, 300 people entered. All of us were from Ulan-Ude. Mostly Buryats. The locals looked at us and said: “You are desperate guys.” And we, the Buddhists, live this way: we believe in the Supreme Being, in three elements and reincarnation. If you die, you will surely be born again.

— Did they explain to you at the site that you were to lock up the pocket?

— No, they explained nothing. Here is the position, there is the fire locking position, you should look there, don’t let anybody out. Everybody who is coming out should be killed on the spot. Fire for effect.

— Did your commanders go with you?

— All our commanders are great. No one of them got frightened or scared of something. All of us were equal, irrespective of your status of a colonel or an ordinary soldier. Because we fight elbow to elbow. The commander of my battalion… he is in Rostov now… was burnt in the tank, just like me … he is my combat, the colonel. On the 12th-14th, some time on those days. We had to liberate one village. I don’t remember its name… We released the village… everything was fine…

We played a merry-go-round. This is a tactical method of battle firing from the tank. Three or four tanks drive up to the firing position, shoot, and when they have shut down all their munitions, they are replaced by the same three or four tanks, while the first tanks are recharged. So, we replaced each other in such a way. But the combat was not lucky. While doing the merry-go-round, when you shoot from the tank… A tank is a very capricious machine, sometimes the shoot is protracted. You think that you shot, but the tank did not shoot at all. It just doesn’t shoot, bluntly, it doesn’t shoot – that’s all. The first tank shot – bam, the second, the third tank — delay. While “ukrops”[2] hammer them away. That’s it. The combat jumped inside his tank, went there – he destroyed one tank, the other tank destroyed him. The gun layer of the combat’s tank, Chipa, was also burnt. The mechanic… well, mechanics always feel good. They sit in the tank, have reliable armor, huge armor… you are absolutely protected from anything. It is much easier for the mechanic to survive. When a shell hits the tank turret, the gun layer and the commander catch fire, and the mechanic doesn’t if he is clever. There is such a button in the tank – an emergency turn of the turret. It turns to other side, and you freely get out. My mechanic escaped this way, and the combat’s mechanic did so.

When I looked at my mechanic, I saw that he was unharmed and unhurt. Then I looked at my commander… Spartak — he is lying there, in the corridor. But he didn’t get burnt as much as I did. He opened the manhole immediately, and mine was closed… I am a gun layer, an ordinary soldier. The tank burns out for a long time.

— Were there any dead guys?

— No. There is Minakov, he lost his leg in the tank. It went off with the whole boot. And he doesn’t have a toe on his right foot; it was also torn into pieces. The combat was burnt, as well as the gun layer Chupa, Spartak… That is what I remember.

— Did you fight together with the rebels? Did you have common tasks with them?

— No. They just… They would take one border, and, when they should proceed to lean on the enemy, they refuse to go. They would say: “We won’t go there, it is dangerous.” And we have an order – to continue the attack. If you even want to – you couldn’t order them. So you go further. But that’s ok, we have almost locked up the pocket.

— There is no pocket anymore. All those who were within the pocket either ran away or were destroyed. Debaltsevo is DNR now.

— That’s good. We’ve accomplished… the task.

— So, you assisted in the pocket formation, didn’t you?

— Yes, we put everybody within the pocket, surrounded them completely and just watched. They tried to escape – the infantry groups, both in Urals, and in the ICVs, and by tanks, or on whatever they had. We had the order – to kill immediately on the spot. So we shot them. They were trying to escape from the pocket, make a way for themselves, but we must have them over a barrel.

They made sorties at night, when it got dark. This was the time when the stir started. You could see people everywhere, someone going by a tank, some people going there, and then – fire for effect. We didn’t safe bullets or shells. We had enough ammunition. The basic ammunition was in the tank. 22 shells in the rotary conveyor, and there were also 22 inside the tank. In total: the tank ammunition was 44 rechargeable shells. We also brought the second ammunition in Urals. I had a very good tank. It was not just “T-72”, it was “T-72b”. The “b” tank is better because it has 1К13 sighting device, this is for night shooting, night observation, for firing with guided projectiles. I had 9 guided projectiles. I also had cumulative and fragmentation ones. The main thing was that they showed me how to use those projectiles. Now, it would be hard to miss the target. Various dugouts, shelters – all these were easily destroyed. Let’s say: a reconnaissance party reports that there are infantry groups behind the building, one ICV and two Ural tracks … We had only two tanks of such type – one was mine, and the other one was operated by my commander. We replaced each other in the battle. And we always hit the target. The tank was very good. Now it is burnt.

— Did you happen to kill civilians?

— No. When we saw a civil car, we held off until we were sure that there were ukrops. Then we shot. But there was a situation with a pickup. They said: “Shoot, Shoot.” – “One second”, - I said. What can I be afraid of when I am in the tank? I looked through the sighting device until the last moment. Then I saw that the man wears a white stripe, he was a rebel. Then I thought: if I had shot now, I would kill a friendly soldier. And there was also one armored vehicle with rebels. They never inform us which way they go. I shouted: “Friends, friends!” This was the first time I was scared. To kill one of our own.

— So you did not coordinate with them at all, did you?

— No. The rebels are strange. They shoot and shoot. Then they stop. It seems they go to work. No organization at all. No leader, military commanders. They act out of concord.

— In which residential settlement did it happen?

— I don’t know the name of the settlement. All of villages are similar. All destroyed by shelling.

— How many villages did you go through?

— I am not sure. About four villages. There was one time when we liberate a village. As for the other, we just entered them… (He falls silent.) I am certainly not proud of what I did. That I killed, destroyed. No one can be proud of this. But, on the other hand, I comfort myself that I did it for the sake of peace, civilians – children, old people, women, men. I am not proud of this, of course. Of the fact that I shot and hit the target…

(He takes a long pause.)

It is scary. You do fear. Subconsciously, you realize that there is the same like person as you are, in a tank like yours. Or the infantry, or in any machine, vehicle. He is anyway… a man like you. Of flesh and blood. But, on the other hand, you understand that this is your enemy. He killed innocent people. Civilians. He killed children. And this swine is sitting there and trembling with fear, praying not to be killed. Starts asking for forgiveness. Only God may judge.

We captured several of them. They all want to live when things get dire. A man just like me. He has mother (He takes a long pause again.). Each person has his own fate. Sometimes, it is sad. But nobody forced them to do this. As for conscripts — the situation is different. The conscript soldiers were 2 or 3 thousand out of 8 thousand. They were forced to come here. I thought about what I would do. What I would do if I were an 18-year old lad. I think I would have to go. He got an order. If you don’t kill, we will kill you and your family, if you refuse to serve. One chap among them told: “What could I do? I had to serve.” I said: “Are there those among you who killed civilians?” – “Yes”, - he said. “And what about you?” – “Yes”, - he said. (He falls silent.) Those contractors who came from Poland or some Chechens, who are guided by the sole idea of war, who can’t live without war, - those should be destroyed.

— Did you see contractors from Poland?

— No, but we were told that they were there.


The civilians

— Did you communicate with civilians?

— No. A lot of civilians came to talk to us. But we tried not to talk to them a lot. The commanders said: “Do not make contacts.” When we were in Makeyevka, they told us that 70% of civilians there supported the ukrops, “so, you should be on the alert, guys”. We got into Makeyevka, hid in the town part, hid our machines, disguised them – and in an hour or so they started to shoot us with mortars. We immediately started to dig trenches and make movements. I got into the tank – I don’t give a crap. The tank can’t suffer from the mortar. Splinters… They even say that if a 4-meter Strela shell hits the tank, the Grad shell – the tank won’t be damaged. There is no better shelter than the tank. And we live in the tank, sit and sleep. It was cold, but that was ok, that’s how we slept.

— Weren’t you worried about Makeyevka? 70% of locals were for Ukraine, what if it was true?

— We did, of course. In your mind, you are waiting for some trap from everybody. What if they… well, people brought us some food. Sometimes - tea, sometimes - something else. We took it, but we didn’t drink. It could be poisonous. But as they say: “You can’t defeat the Russians. You can only buy them off.” (He laughs.)

— Didn’t you have doubts: if, indeed, 70% were for Ukraine – why did you come then?

— We did have doubts. But 70 per cent of citizens of one village isn’t so significant for me. We have to respect people’s choice. If Donetsk wants to be independent, it should get it. I talked to nurses and doctors here. They say: “We would be happy to have independence and government, like you do, and Putin”.

The thing that is interesting is when DNR gets independence – I hope it does – what will they do? They will develop as they did according to Stalin’s five-year plans, won’t they? There is no economy. If there is no economy – this means nothing will get done.


The family

— I didn’t expect to meet Kobzon here. (He laughs loudly.) The second time in my life! He came to this hospital on February 23. He also came to my school in 2007. In 2006, my school 2006 won… became the Best School of Russia-2006. School No. 2 in Mogoytuy. He came to the hospital, and I said: “I met you once, we said hello to each other.” He opened his eyes wide: “When was it?” – “You came to my school. I even shook your hand. We all stood in line and held out our hands towards you.”

Kobzon said: “Are you Buryat? I am looking at you and see Buryat features.” I said: “Yes, I am Buryat.” He said: “I was planning to visit Aginskoye on March 14.” I said: “I studies at School No. 2 in Mogoytuy.” He answered: “Oh, I know, I know, well, I will say hello to your fellow-villages from you.” I said: “Ok, please, do so.” That’s all.

And they also showed me on TV. Then they edited this video and put it on YouTube. My sister found it and showed to my mother. My family saw that I was here, and what happened to me.

— Did they know where you were?

— Yes. When my father died, I was a little boy… We have Buddhist lama monks – like your priests. When a lama was praying for my father, he looked at me and said: “He will live a long life, and he knows his fate.” My mother told me this when I said that I was going to Ukraine. Of course, she, as any mother would do, was against it, but eventually we managed to find a common ground with her.

When I was leaving Ulan-Ude… Then, we… guessed everything beforehand. I asked my mother to pray for me and told her that I would be fine. After all, the lama said that I would have a long life. He said that, and he didn’t lie. When I was burning in the tank, I thought that lama was wrong. And here is how it turned out to be.

When I got wounded, my body was all burnt. They put me in an ambulance; I was “drugged-up” with medicine. I didn’t feel much pain. There was a fellow rebel. “I need to call,” — I said. “To Russia? Here you are. You can call.” There was also a young guy sitting there, he was from the medical group. He dialed my mom’s number. I called and said: “Happy New Year!” That was the New Year’s Eve. She was glad, she greeted me. I asked: “So, how are you?” She answered: “We have guests. How are you?” I said: “I am fine. I got burnt in the tank a little.” My mother’s voice somewhat changed. I lost my senses. And the young guy from the medical group, Buryat, too, continued the talk to calm her down.

Now, all my family has seen the video. They say that they are praying for me. What else could they do?

— Will your family receive any benefits or allowance?

— I have no idea. In Russia, it is usually like that: when it comes to money, nobody knows anything. (He grins.) Maybe, they will pay something, or maybe they will say that I’ve been retired for a long time. It couldn’t happen if I came here, and still remained listed there. My conscription service ended on November 27. Oops, and the service is over there, and here I am just a guest worker. So, I’m a little worried.

I signed the contract in June. After I completed my course training. They asked: is there anybody who’s willing to stay on contract service? I raised my hand. The first contractual term is 3 years. So I signed it. There is nothing special about life under the contract: you just do what they say, fulfill all demands of the commander, that’s all. But when I signed the contract in summer, I didn’t think that I would go to Ukraine. (He falls silent.) No, I was wondering about it. But I didn’t suppose. My place is very far away from Ukraine. There are other military districts, those that are closer, such as the Southern, Western, and Central Districts. We didn’t expect at all that they would send us to the Eastern Military District. Later our combat explained, that he was told at the meeting: “You are Siberians, you are stronger, so they’ve decided that you should go there.”


The future

— Do you have regrets?

— Do any regrets make sense now? I have no offence. Because I know that I struggled for the right thing. You always watch the news about Ukraine: elections, elections, elections, then – “orange” revolution, later on: Odessa, Mariupol… When I was in Peschanka, during my course training, in Chita, we had basic military training there, some day we watched news on TV. And that was the day when people in Odessa… were burnt. That moment, all of us… We felt bad. Because we had this feeling… maybe… that this was wrong. It was inhuman and unfair. And the fact that I… that, in fact, it was wrong to bring conscripts here. They must not have done this. Nevertheless, I came here. Not with the sense of duty, but with the sense of justice. Here, I got an eyeful of murders. Acts of violence. The same sense of justice. When we drive in our tanks, sometimes ukrops catch our radio wave. I remember exactly that man’s voice: “Listen attentively, you, degenerates from Moscow, Petersburg, Rostov. We will kill all of you! First, we will kill you, your wives, children; we’ll reach your parents. We are fascists. Nothing can stop us. We will kill you as our Chechen brothers, cut off your heads. Keep this in your mind. We will send you home in zinc coffins, cut to pieces”.

My great grandpa was at war at the time of the Great Patriotic War, and his comrade was Ukrainian, they fought together. I have a rifle from my great grandfather. Hunting is allowed. So I hunted. So I learnt to shoot in my childhood…

— How are you going to live further?

— I’ve had enough of war. I’ve completed my service. I fought for DNR. I just have to live a peaceful life. Study and work. My body is recovering, fighting for survival.

So, I think, that I will likely get well in Rostov and go back to Ulan-Ude as an injured soldier (“cargo 300”).

The only thing that I would like to visit for now is the Sensation. It takes place in Saint-Petersburg every year. Everybody is dressed up is white according to the dress-code. The best DJs perform. My sister attended it…

I traveled a lot around the world. I was in Nepal, Tibet. Tibet is very beautiful. The city is awesome, as well as the monasteries; I’ve been to China – in Manchuria and in Beijing, I saw everything — the Forbidden City, the Emperor’s Palace, I stood on the Great Wall. Then, I visited Dalian, Guangzhou, there they grow the best tea — Pu-erh. I’ve also been to India. I attended the teachings of our Dalai Lama. I’ve been to Mongolia. On the federal highway, there is a huge Genghis Khan statue. You can go up by an escalator — and you get into Genghis Khan’s head. I flew across a half of our planet; I was at the Black Sea in Sochi. I swam there. But, although I’ve been to the Yellow Sea, and to the Black Sea, I didn’t see anything more beautiful and better than Baikal. I have my cottage house there. There is capricious fish there: omul, ringed seal. Whatever sea you take, Baikal is anyway more beautiful, and it is still clean.

(He falls silent.)

I don’t have hard feelings to our guys at all. Nobody is safe from this. Nobody knows what happens in a battle. Maybe, you will kill — maybe you will be killed. Maybe, you’ll stay there. Maybe, you’ll stay alive like me.

— Do you have any questions to Putin?

— I have nothing against him. (He laughs.) He is quite a tricky guy, that’s for sure. And sly, and “we’ll bring in – we won’t bring in the troops”. “There are no troops”, - he says to the whole world. And in fact he sends us quickly: “Go, go”. But, on the other hand, there is another thought. If Ukraine joins the European Union, the UNO, then the UNO may place its rockets, weapons here; it is possible, in principle. And in that case we will be at gunpoint. They will be much closer to us, no oceans between us. Just some land. And then you understand that this is also a way to defend our opinion, our position, in order to us to stay safe, if something happens. This is the same as the Cold War, just remember. They wanted something, then we deployed our rockets in Cuba, and they suddenly changed their position to “ok, ok, we don’t want anything like that”. Just think of it, today Russia is worried. According to what I read and learned from history — only nowadays they’ve started to take Russia’s opinion into account. It used to be like this: the Soviet Union and America were two geopolitical powers. Then the Union collapsed. Now is the time when we are arising, and they start to despise us, but there will no collapse anymore. But if they will take Donbass and deploy their rockets, they will reach Russia if anything crops up.

— Did you discuss this with your deputy commander for political affairs?

— No, I have this on the subconscious level, you see? I am not a fool. Sometimes you talk to a person, and he does not understand what you are saying. I talked to officers, they say: such course of events is possible. In this war, we assert our rights, too.


On Friday’s evening, Dorzhi and two other wounded soldiers were transferred from Donetsk to the intensive care department of military hospital No. 1602 (Rostov, Voyenved District), where they are staying without registration with the admission department lists. None of the officers of the military unit and the Ministry of Defense contacted either Dorzhi, or his family. Today, Dorzhi’s mother arrived at military base No. 46108, where she was informed that Dorzhi really was included in the lists of soldiers sent from that base to Ukraine, and that means that the Ministry of Defense will fulfill its obligations to the soldier to the full extent and will pay for his treatment. His mother said: “They told me that they would not abandon him.” Dorzhi gets in touch with his family thanks to his hospital roommates, who lend their phones to the soldier.


[1] Derogatory term for Ukrainians (translator’s note)

[2] Another derogatory term for Ukrainians (translator’s note)


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