Memories about first days after combined Russian-separatist forces cut the M-03 route near Debaltseve.
There is a saying in the army: it is more important who your commander is, than in what detachment you serve.
Most of the Separatists attacking our stronghold were Kossaks from the Don region of Russia. Their diversion groups (consisting of five or six fighters) constantly tried to infiltrate the Ukrainian city of Debaltseve.
The official number of Debaltseve POWs, released by Ukraine’s General Staff, correlates with my monitoring and calculations: from 110 to 120 Ukrainian servicemen, including ninety-three from 40 Battalion.
The first Russian offensives at Debaltseve were similar to those made by the Soviet General Georgi Zhukov or the German Nazi General Heinz Guderian in the twentieth century: that is to say, they concentrated as many troops as possible and threw them all into the assault.
In this way I realized for the first time in my life that war consists not only of heroism, but also shameful cases of fear, panic and betrayal.
And none of us followed the enemy ultimatum to lay down our arms. In addition, one of our officers sent this Russian on his way with a clear, unmistakable message in the Russian criminal jargon.
Our POWs – being under severe duress with threats against their lives – were obliged to say on TV what their Russian captors demanded: false and critical statements regarding 40 Battalion and Ukraine’s military as a whole.
A rifle shot rang out, followed by a burst of machine-gun fire, and the two groups joined battle. Major Vakulenko was struck by a grenade, killing him instantly.
When the last page came out of the printer and I gave it to colonel, we heard the loud sounds of several powerful explosions to the right behind the wall.