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The Russian capture of Avdiivka and its military’s slow subsequent advance this spring has come at the cost of thousands of deaths of its own servicemen, to say nothing of Ukrainian losses. Since the summer of 2022, Russian commanders have repeatedly sent their soldiers on suicidal assaults, essentially using them as cannon fodder. Deprived of proper support, sapped of motivation, denied medical aid, and left with no route of retreat that does not involve the high risk of being shot by their own side, Russian soldiers are dying in droves for every kilometer of uninhabitable territory “liberated” by Kremlin forces.

Survivors of these “meat grinder” assaults supplied The Insider with harrowing accounts. They took cover behind the corpses of their former comrades during shelling. They were tasked with collecting the shredded remains of blown apart bodies. They were trapped in trenches for days with no food, water, ammunition, or hope of evacuation.

Content
  • “Dead bodies were everywhere, and we walked upon them — we couldn't see the ground beneath”

  • “I'm a mortarman, not a trained stormtrooper, but no one gave a sh*t: 'Go forward!'“

  • “There was an order not to evacuate us — we were doomed there”

RU

“Dead bodies were everywhere, and we walked upon them — we couldn't see the ground beneath”

Igor (name changed for anonymity), a participant in the assault near Novomykhailivka:

Upon receiving my draft notice, I promptly reported to the military enlistment office. There, we were given an ultimatum: either sign a contract and go with some semblance of dignity, or face immediate deployment to the front lines, devoid of any training or preparation. Those who hesitated were swiftly dispatched to battle, while the rest of us were shuffled into military units, then shuttled off to the training grounds in Bamburovo [in the Russian Far East]. Over the span of a month, we underwent rigorous training under the guidance of instructors, many of whom were SMO [“special military operation”] veterans. When our “training” concluded, we were sent back to the unit to wait for a military plane, but in the end, we flew civilian. In late December [2023], we arrived in Ukraine, near Volnovakha.

APC stands for «Armored Personnel Carrier,” a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops to the battlefield, support them during combat, and evacuate them when necessary.

IFV stands for «Infantry Fighting Vehicle,» a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops and provide direct fire support on the battlefield.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.



RPG stands for «Rocket-Propelled Grenade,» which is a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher.

«Munition drop» — in military jargon, this refers to the use of a munition dropped from a drone, most commonly of a commercial quadcopter type.

«Strongpoint» or «stronghold» refers to a fortified position intended for defense by a small unit, typically ranging from a squad to a company.

«A foxhole» is a small shelter dug in the ground, typically suitable for one person.

«DRG» stands for «diversionary reconnaissance group,” a term commonly used to refer to any unit that crosses the front to operate behind enemy lines.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.

FEBA stands for Forward Edge of the Battle Area. In military jargon, this refers to the frontline of friendly defense and the immediately adjacent territory.

A holding group is a unit whose task is to secure a position after it has been cleared by the assault group and to repel any enemy counterattacks.

«Cargo 200» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been killed in action.

«Cargo 300» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been wounded in action.

«Baba Yaga» is the nickname given by Russian soldiers to heavy agricultural drones used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to drop large munitions onto Russian positions. They often carry PG-7 anti-tank grenades or TM-62 mines.

«Storm» — assault units up to a battalion in size. Not to be confused with the ex-prisoner Storm Z / Storm V units, although the latter can also be part of the «Storm» units.

The «pit» or «basement» in Russian military jargon refers to a place where servicemen or civilians are illegally detained and often subjected to abuse and torture.

Lit. “Go to the Woods,” a Ukrainian group that helps Russian soldiers defect.

We were given an ultimatum: either sign a contract and go with some semblance of dignity, or face immediate deployment to the front lines, devoid of any training or preparation

Life in Volnovakha was a daily regimen of uncertainty, with training exercises dominating our routines. These exercises simulated real-life assaults, requiring us to immerse ourselves in the chaos while listening intently to the commands of our superiors. We would wake up, get on an APC or an IFV, and move out to various locations — be it to assault a settlement, traverse forested areas, or navigate trenches. However, tragedy struck during one such exercise when a shell landed on our training grounds, claiming the lives of some of our comrades and prompting an immediate cessation of training in that area.

Despite being designated as a “green zone,” Volnovakha was not immune to periodic shelling. Each day brought fresh casualties as explosions reverberated through the air. Initially, the gravity of the situation eluded me as I struggled to comprehend the constant threat we faced. Our stay in Volnovakha lasted until January, after which we were relocated to Olenivka. Less than a day later, we found ourselves thrust into the midst of another assault, this time near Novomykhailivka.

APC stands for «Armored Personnel Carrier,” a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops to the battlefield, support them during combat, and evacuate them when necessary.

IFV stands for «Infantry Fighting Vehicle,» a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops and provide direct fire support on the battlefield.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.



RPG stands for «Rocket-Propelled Grenade,» which is a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher.

«Munition drop» — in military jargon, this refers to the use of a munition dropped from a drone, most commonly of a commercial quadcopter type.

«Strongpoint» or «stronghold» refers to a fortified position intended for defense by a small unit, typically ranging from a squad to a company.

«A foxhole» is a small shelter dug in the ground, typically suitable for one person.

«DRG» stands for «diversionary reconnaissance group,” a term commonly used to refer to any unit that crosses the front to operate behind enemy lines.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.

FEBA stands for Forward Edge of the Battle Area. In military jargon, this refers to the frontline of friendly defense and the immediately adjacent territory.

A holding group is a unit whose task is to secure a position after it has been cleared by the assault group and to repel any enemy counterattacks.

«Cargo 200» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been killed in action.

«Cargo 300» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been wounded in action.

«Baba Yaga» is the nickname given by Russian soldiers to heavy agricultural drones used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to drop large munitions onto Russian positions. They often carry PG-7 anti-tank grenades or TM-62 mines.

«Storm» — assault units up to a battalion in size. Not to be confused with the ex-prisoner Storm Z / Storm V units, although the latter can also be part of the «Storm» units.

The «pit» or «basement» in Russian military jargon refers to a place where servicemen or civilians are illegally detained and often subjected to abuse and torture.

Lit. “Go to the Woods,” a Ukrainian group that helps Russian soldiers defect.

Russian soldier near Novomykhailivka.
Russian soldier near Novomykhailivka.
Screenshot from a video by the Russian Ministry of Defense / Telegram

We quickly realized that we wouldn't have any reconnaissance or evacuation groups — nothing. They only gave us a couple of APCs. What saved me was being assigned to the assault group, which, in addition to storming, was also responsible for evacuation.

The plan was to send each group forward on an APC or an IFV and gradually increase the forces as we advanced. In simpler terms, we were supposed to be brought to a certain point, and from there, we would proceed on foot. During the advances, some were wounded, some died. The wounded were forbidden to evacuate or retreat: if you could hold a rifle, you were still a stormtrooper, so you had to keep moving. Desertion during the assault was impossible — machine gun nests were set up, and we would have been “welcomed” upon returning. If anyone tried to go back, they would be shot, so the assault meant only moving forward.

APC stands for «Armored Personnel Carrier,” a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops to the battlefield, support them during combat, and evacuate them when necessary.

IFV stands for «Infantry Fighting Vehicle,» a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops and provide direct fire support on the battlefield.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.



RPG stands for «Rocket-Propelled Grenade,» which is a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher.

«Munition drop» — in military jargon, this refers to the use of a munition dropped from a drone, most commonly of a commercial quadcopter type.

«Strongpoint» or «stronghold» refers to a fortified position intended for defense by a small unit, typically ranging from a squad to a company.

«A foxhole» is a small shelter dug in the ground, typically suitable for one person.

«DRG» stands for «diversionary reconnaissance group,” a term commonly used to refer to any unit that crosses the front to operate behind enemy lines.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.

FEBA stands for Forward Edge of the Battle Area. In military jargon, this refers to the frontline of friendly defense and the immediately adjacent territory.

A holding group is a unit whose task is to secure a position after it has been cleared by the assault group and to repel any enemy counterattacks.

«Cargo 200» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been killed in action.

«Cargo 300» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been wounded in action.

«Baba Yaga» is the nickname given by Russian soldiers to heavy agricultural drones used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to drop large munitions onto Russian positions. They often carry PG-7 anti-tank grenades or TM-62 mines.

«Storm» — assault units up to a battalion in size. Not to be confused with the ex-prisoner Storm Z / Storm V units, although the latter can also be part of the «Storm» units.

The «pit» or «basement» in Russian military jargon refers to a place where servicemen or civilians are illegally detained and often subjected to abuse and torture.

Lit. “Go to the Woods,” a Ukrainian group that helps Russian soldiers defect.

If you could hold a rifle, you were still a stormtrooper — so you had to keep moving

The initial groups that advanced were immediately decimated — they were met with artillery fire, targeted by tanks, infantry. Soon the battlefield was strewn with bodies. They barely ventured out before being killed. Subsequent groups managed to push the Ukrainians back slightly, but almost the entire company was wiped out. On the first day, we managed to advance about three hundred meters. I was able to drag out three wounded soldiers. It was a miracle we succeeded — snow had fallen, allowing us to haul them on sleds. I'd lay one down, drag him back to zero, return for the next, and repeat the process as many times as I could. We had to drag them for roughly two kilometers.

There were no medics. We had to rely on ourselves. Retrieving the wounded was nearly impossible — artillery fire blanketed the area. Kamikaze drones swarmed nearby, about twenty of them — circling like birds. Meanwhile, our artillery remained silent, firing perhaps once an hour. Then silence again. Assault groups advanced in APCs and IFVs. I believe we even had a tank, but all those vehicles were quickly taken out, smoke from the explosions leaving the sky ominously dark. When our vehicles were knocked out, there was a brief lull — it was impossible to bring in reinforcements. You'd sit there, listening to the first group screaming and exchanging fire, the wounded pleading for help, while support never arrived. There was simply nothing to bring them on.

Only a few survived from the initial groups — those who managed to apply tourniquets quickly or whose injuries weren't as severe. Because [with serious wounds] people bled out within 30 seconds; the first ten seconds you're fueled by adrenaline and shouting, the next ten you're coming to grips with what's happened, and the last ten you're trying to do something. But if your strength fails you, that's it.

There were no officers with us. The only officer who wasn't afraid to join the assault went in the second-to-last assault group, right alongside everyone else. But the company commander never showed up at the positions. Throughout my time in Ukraine, I saw him only once — at night he visited the deputy. And the deputy commander spent the entire two days during which we were thrown into the assaults holed up in the bunker, never showing his face.

APC stands for «Armored Personnel Carrier,” a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops to the battlefield, support them during combat, and evacuate them when necessary.

IFV stands for «Infantry Fighting Vehicle,» a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops and provide direct fire support on the battlefield.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.



RPG stands for «Rocket-Propelled Grenade,» which is a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher.

«Munition drop» — in military jargon, this refers to the use of a munition dropped from a drone, most commonly of a commercial quadcopter type.

«Strongpoint» or «stronghold» refers to a fortified position intended for defense by a small unit, typically ranging from a squad to a company.

«A foxhole» is a small shelter dug in the ground, typically suitable for one person.

«DRG» stands for «diversionary reconnaissance group,” a term commonly used to refer to any unit that crosses the front to operate behind enemy lines.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.

FEBA stands for Forward Edge of the Battle Area. In military jargon, this refers to the frontline of friendly defense and the immediately adjacent territory.

A holding group is a unit whose task is to secure a position after it has been cleared by the assault group and to repel any enemy counterattacks.

«Cargo 200» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been killed in action.

«Cargo 300» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been wounded in action.

«Baba Yaga» is the nickname given by Russian soldiers to heavy agricultural drones used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to drop large munitions onto Russian positions. They often carry PG-7 anti-tank grenades or TM-62 mines.

«Storm» — assault units up to a battalion in size. Not to be confused with the ex-prisoner Storm Z / Storm V units, although the latter can also be part of the «Storm» units.

The «pit» or «basement» in Russian military jargon refers to a place where servicemen or civilians are illegally detained and often subjected to abuse and torture.

Lit. “Go to the Woods,” a Ukrainian group that helps Russian soldiers defect.

No officers joined us during the assaults

As dawn broke, it was our turn to advance. We were loaded onto APCs and sent forward. Just like with the earlier groups, machine guns and rifles fired at us, snipers took aim, and artillery shells rained down — 150s and 80s [artillery and mortar shells of corresponding calibers]. There was RPG fire as well. And all of this was while we hadn't even reached our intended destination yet. We were still on the way.

We drove into the forested area, quickly dismounted, and the APC drove off. The wounded lay there, left behind. The barrage went on for four hours: tanks, artillery, mortars, infantry. Rockets came screaming down. Explosions were everywhere — the forested area was littered with dead bodies. These bodies were ripped apart, and we treaded right over them because there was no other choice — you couldn't see the ground beneath. Among these bodies, we sought refuge and shelter from the blasts. You'd lie on them, sit on them, walk over them.

Artillery pounded for four hours, and then for another five, we played dead to avoid being detected by Ukrainian scouts. Finally the enemy ceased shelling, the kamikaze drones and drones used for munition drops stopped coming. Yet we remained motionless until darkness fell. Of the entire company — around a hundred men — only seven survived.

APC stands for «Armored Personnel Carrier,” a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops to the battlefield, support them during combat, and evacuate them when necessary.

IFV stands for «Infantry Fighting Vehicle,» a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops and provide direct fire support on the battlefield.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.



RPG stands for «Rocket-Propelled Grenade,» which is a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher.

«Munition drop» — in military jargon, this refers to the use of a munition dropped from a drone, most commonly of a commercial quadcopter type.

«Strongpoint» or «stronghold» refers to a fortified position intended for defense by a small unit, typically ranging from a squad to a company.

«A foxhole» is a small shelter dug in the ground, typically suitable for one person.

«DRG» stands for «diversionary reconnaissance group,” a term commonly used to refer to any unit that crosses the front to operate behind enemy lines.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.

FEBA stands for Forward Edge of the Battle Area. In military jargon, this refers to the frontline of friendly defense and the immediately adjacent territory.

A holding group is a unit whose task is to secure a position after it has been cleared by the assault group and to repel any enemy counterattacks.

«Cargo 200» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been killed in action.

«Cargo 300» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been wounded in action.

«Baba Yaga» is the nickname given by Russian soldiers to heavy agricultural drones used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to drop large munitions onto Russian positions. They often carry PG-7 anti-tank grenades or TM-62 mines.

«Storm» — assault units up to a battalion in size. Not to be confused with the ex-prisoner Storm Z / Storm V units, although the latter can also be part of the «Storm» units.

The «pit» or «basement» in Russian military jargon refers to a place where servicemen or civilians are illegally detained and often subjected to abuse and torture.

Lit. “Go to the Woods,” a Ukrainian group that helps Russian soldiers defect.

Of the entire company — around a hundred men — only seven survived

The next day, we were supposed to wait for reinforcements and resume the assault, but we were informed that no reinforcements would be coming. So we fortified our position and attempted to hold the defense while simultaneously clearing the strongpoint of the bodies of our comrades so that they could later be sent home.

I was with two other guys. During breaks between artillery barrages, we pulled out as many bodies as we could. There were several layers of bodies — all piled on top of each other. Broken, covered in blood, with disfigured faces and severed limbs. We just piled them all up closer to the road.

I tried to detach myself. I knew that relatives would be waiting for the bodies of their loved ones. Of course, I felt nauseous and vomited a couple of times. The smell was simply unbearable — the bodies were decomposing and stinking. The same thing happened in the trenches: people were being killed, they fell on top of each other, and as our soldiers ran over them, they too were killed and buried by the earth.

We didn't eat. We didn't drink. We could occasionally take cover in a hole and have a smoke. Otherwise, we were constantly moving, collecting and pulling out bodies. The bodies gradually became heavier, and they had to be carefully extracted, peeled away from each other. They froze in the cold and became as stiff as wood. And dead people come in all different heights and weights.

I remember there was this dead guy — probably weighed around 150 kilograms, all broken and battered. How do you even retrieve someone like that? We struggled to pry him out. First we got one arm out, then the other, then a leg, then the other, peeled the body away, cut off the body armor, removed the helmet, and somehow managed to drag him to the road. And there were just so many bodies. While we were gathering them, the artillery shelling never stopped. You could take cover in a foxhole or bunker to have a smoke, then get back to work.

We managed to pull out about thirty bodies, but a couple of hours later, I had to continue clearing the strongpoint alone because the other guys needed to return to their positions at the other end of the forested area to prevent the Ukrainians from advancing there.

We split up. With me was a machine gunner — lucky to still be alive despite being in the first assault groups. He was immediately put on cover duty and didn't leave his position. There was also the deputy commander, but he didn't leave the bunker. So I was the only one who could continue gathering the bodies. At one point, a Ukrainian DRG appeared out of nowhere, and we were sent against them with just two magazines. We had to search for ammunition among the bodies and gather whatever was left.

APC stands for «Armored Personnel Carrier,” a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops to the battlefield, support them during combat, and evacuate them when necessary.

IFV stands for «Infantry Fighting Vehicle,» a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops and provide direct fire support on the battlefield.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.



RPG stands for «Rocket-Propelled Grenade,» which is a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher.

«Munition drop» — in military jargon, this refers to the use of a munition dropped from a drone, most commonly of a commercial quadcopter type.

«Strongpoint» or «stronghold» refers to a fortified position intended for defense by a small unit, typically ranging from a squad to a company.

«A foxhole» is a small shelter dug in the ground, typically suitable for one person.

«DRG» stands for «diversionary reconnaissance group,” a term commonly used to refer to any unit that crosses the front to operate behind enemy lines.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.

FEBA stands for Forward Edge of the Battle Area. In military jargon, this refers to the frontline of friendly defense and the immediately adjacent territory.

A holding group is a unit whose task is to secure a position after it has been cleared by the assault group and to repel any enemy counterattacks.

«Cargo 200» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been killed in action.

«Cargo 300» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been wounded in action.

«Baba Yaga» is the nickname given by Russian soldiers to heavy agricultural drones used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to drop large munitions onto Russian positions. They often carry PG-7 anti-tank grenades or TM-62 mines.

«Storm» — assault units up to a battalion in size. Not to be confused with the ex-prisoner Storm Z / Storm V units, although the latter can also be part of the «Storm» units.

The «pit» or «basement» in Russian military jargon refers to a place where servicemen or civilians are illegally detained and often subjected to abuse and torture.

Lit. “Go to the Woods,” a Ukrainian group that helps Russian soldiers defect.

We had to search for ammunition among the bodies and gather whatever was left

After a day, I decided to check if there were any survivors besides the seven of us. I took a comrade, and together we ventured deeper into the forested area toward the Ukrainian positions. I approached each body, looked into their eyes, and shouted, “Is anyone alive?” — because even an immobile body could still be alive.

Soon, I found a guy who was wounded. Both his legs were shattered. The flesh had peeled away from the bones around his calves. Everything was charred, and gangrene had set in. He had been lying there since the 12th. I tried calling the guys over, and while they approached, I dragged the wounded man onto a sled. We pulled him out, and all we had to do was cross the field, but the other guys ran off, and only two of us remained. As soon as we stepped onto the field, mortar shells started raining down, and the Ukrainian infantry began firing rifles and machine guns at us. I was hit in the left thigh.

I said, “Let's get up and keep going.” The guy next to me helped pull the sled, and then something exploded near me and I was hit. I was wounded, I felt the blood flowing. I leaned onto the wound to press it with my body and told the guy to crawl on without me. He dragged the wounded guy with him, and I crawled further across the field. The commander of the last assault group behind me said he wouldn't leave me, and I moved forward under his command. Then I tried to stand up, but I was hit by a sniper.

A shrapnel fragment lodged into my left knee — it was never removed. It shattered my left thigh and chest. A fragment flew between the plates and damaged my lung, ligaments, muscles, and arteries. The pain was excruciating, unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life. When I finally crawled close enough, the guys threw me onto the sled and brought me back to zero. From there, I was taken to Volnovakha, where they performed surgery. I was conscious and begged the doctors to give me painkillers — for some reason, they wanted to do everything without anesthesia and claimed it wouldn't hurt. Then a female doctor came and ordered them to give me a local anesthetic. Thanks to that, I could endure the pain when they cut me open and inserted various tubes.

APC stands for «Armored Personnel Carrier,” a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops to the battlefield, support them during combat, and evacuate them when necessary.

IFV stands for «Infantry Fighting Vehicle,» a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops and provide direct fire support on the battlefield.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.



RPG stands for «Rocket-Propelled Grenade,» which is a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher.

«Munition drop» — in military jargon, this refers to the use of a munition dropped from a drone, most commonly of a commercial quadcopter type.

«Strongpoint» or «stronghold» refers to a fortified position intended for defense by a small unit, typically ranging from a squad to a company.

«A foxhole» is a small shelter dug in the ground, typically suitable for one person.

«DRG» stands for «diversionary reconnaissance group,” a term commonly used to refer to any unit that crosses the front to operate behind enemy lines.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.

FEBA stands for Forward Edge of the Battle Area. In military jargon, this refers to the frontline of friendly defense and the immediately adjacent territory.

A holding group is a unit whose task is to secure a position after it has been cleared by the assault group and to repel any enemy counterattacks.

«Cargo 200» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been killed in action.

«Cargo 300» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been wounded in action.

«Baba Yaga» is the nickname given by Russian soldiers to heavy agricultural drones used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to drop large munitions onto Russian positions. They often carry PG-7 anti-tank grenades or TM-62 mines.

«Storm» — assault units up to a battalion in size. Not to be confused with the ex-prisoner Storm Z / Storm V units, although the latter can also be part of the «Storm» units.

The «pit» or «basement» in Russian military jargon refers to a place where servicemen or civilians are illegally detained and often subjected to abuse and torture.

Lit. “Go to the Woods,” a Ukrainian group that helps Russian soldiers defect.

I begged the doctors to give me painkillers —they wanted to do everything without anesthesia and claimed it wouldn't hurt

From Volnovakha I was sent to Donetsk, then evacuated by helicopter to a hospital in Rostov, and later transported with other wounded to Vladivostok, because the hospital in Rostov was overcrowded. People were lying in the corridors. I was fortunate to be placed in a room, because a few hours after I arrived, they started transferring the wounded to other hospitals across Russia. New patients kept coming and coming. Everywhere you went, they were there: on the first, second, and third floors, even in the emergency room.

If I find myself in Ukraine again, I will refuse to participate in any assaults, request to be transferred elsewhere, and contact the military prosecutor's office. Right now, I'm trying to get myself declared unfit because the shrapnel is hindering my ability to live normally.

“I'm a mortarman, not a trained stormtrooper, but no one gave a sh*t: 'Go forward!'“

Yaroslav (name changed for anonymity), participant in the assault in the forested area between Verbove and Robotyne

I had a suspended sentence under Article 112 [kidnapping], and I violated it. They told me: either go to jail or go to war. I signed a contract in early November. They promised me that while I was still undergoing “training,” combat operations would end, and I would avoid having a criminal record.

The plan was for the “training” to last two months, but it ended up taking only 9 days. They sent me somewhere near Luhansk and took away my phone right away. I didn't even have time to let my mother know where I was. During the “training,” I fired off two magazines of rounds, and that was it. For the first couple of days, we went to the firing range, and the rest of the time we dug trenches and dugouts. They didn't prepare us for anything else.

APC stands for «Armored Personnel Carrier,” a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops to the battlefield, support them during combat, and evacuate them when necessary.

IFV stands for «Infantry Fighting Vehicle,» a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops and provide direct fire support on the battlefield.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.



RPG stands for «Rocket-Propelled Grenade,» which is a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher.

«Munition drop» — in military jargon, this refers to the use of a munition dropped from a drone, most commonly of a commercial quadcopter type.

«Strongpoint» or «stronghold» refers to a fortified position intended for defense by a small unit, typically ranging from a squad to a company.

«A foxhole» is a small shelter dug in the ground, typically suitable for one person.

«DRG» stands for «diversionary reconnaissance group,” a term commonly used to refer to any unit that crosses the front to operate behind enemy lines.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.

FEBA stands for Forward Edge of the Battle Area. In military jargon, this refers to the frontline of friendly defense and the immediately adjacent territory.

A holding group is a unit whose task is to secure a position after it has been cleared by the assault group and to repel any enemy counterattacks.

«Cargo 200» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been killed in action.

«Cargo 300» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been wounded in action.

«Baba Yaga» is the nickname given by Russian soldiers to heavy agricultural drones used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to drop large munitions onto Russian positions. They often carry PG-7 anti-tank grenades or TM-62 mines.

«Storm» — assault units up to a battalion in size. Not to be confused with the ex-prisoner Storm Z / Storm V units, although the latter can also be part of the «Storm» units.

The «pit» or «basement» in Russian military jargon refers to a place where servicemen or civilians are illegally detained and often subjected to abuse and torture.

Lit. “Go to the Woods,” a Ukrainian group that helps Russian soldiers defect.

The plan was for the “training” to last two months, but it ended up taking only 9 days

Then they took us to the Zaporizhzhia front and assigned me to the fire support platoon — appointed me as a mortarman. A week later, they sent us into battle.

APC stands for «Armored Personnel Carrier,” a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops to the battlefield, support them during combat, and evacuate them when necessary.

IFV stands for «Infantry Fighting Vehicle,» a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops and provide direct fire support on the battlefield.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.



RPG stands for «Rocket-Propelled Grenade,» which is a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher.

«Munition drop» — in military jargon, this refers to the use of a munition dropped from a drone, most commonly of a commercial quadcopter type.

«Strongpoint» or «stronghold» refers to a fortified position intended for defense by a small unit, typically ranging from a squad to a company.

«A foxhole» is a small shelter dug in the ground, typically suitable for one person.

«DRG» stands for «diversionary reconnaissance group,” a term commonly used to refer to any unit that crosses the front to operate behind enemy lines.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.

FEBA stands for Forward Edge of the Battle Area. In military jargon, this refers to the frontline of friendly defense and the immediately adjacent territory.

A holding group is a unit whose task is to secure a position after it has been cleared by the assault group and to repel any enemy counterattacks.

«Cargo 200» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been killed in action.

«Cargo 300» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been wounded in action.

«Baba Yaga» is the nickname given by Russian soldiers to heavy agricultural drones used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to drop large munitions onto Russian positions. They often carry PG-7 anti-tank grenades or TM-62 mines.

«Storm» — assault units up to a battalion in size. Not to be confused with the ex-prisoner Storm Z / Storm V units, although the latter can also be part of the «Storm» units.

The «pit» or «basement» in Russian military jargon refers to a place where servicemen or civilians are illegally detained and often subjected to abuse and torture.

Lit. “Go to the Woods,” a Ukrainian group that helps Russian soldiers defect.

Russian T-80 tank near Robotyne.
Russian T-80 tank near Robotyne.
Screenshot from a video by the Russian Ministry of Defense / Telegram

As we approached the FEBA, shells started raining down on us heavily. Yet we had to push forward. A mortar should have been positioned several kilometers away, but they rushed us. We positioned the mortar just a kilometer away from the Ukrainians. We could see them.

During my first mission, most of the commanders were wounded, and on the second, there was a new company commander who sent all the soldiers straight to slaughter. He had just arrived from training — no tactics, just “forward!” The boys were dying right before my eyes, and the command still kept pushing us forward.

When the assault troops ran out, it was the mortar crews’ turn. During the first mission, five guns were broken. The mortars were gone, and they told me: “You're going with the holding group,” but in the end it was an assault. We were divided into several groups of four: one group went first, then the next, then the third. Ahead of me, there was a single soldier, and just a bit further — Ukrainians. Even though I was not a trained stormtrooper, nobody gave a sh*t. They just urged me on.

As I approached an enemy trench, another soldier got in ahead of me. Turned out there were Ukrainians in it, and I heard them on the radio: “We don't take prisoners.” The other soldier yelled, “Guys, I want to live, I surrender,” but their commander said, “We don't take prisoners.” They didn't take prisoners because they couldn't be bothered to escort them to safety.

We advanced like assault troops. As our soldiers got wounded, they left their positions, and we moved forward in their place. You move forward about seven kilometers — with backpacks, in full armor. You see their trenches, and you are told: “There might be Ukrainians to your left and right.” You enter, shoot up the bunker, throw a grenade, and sit tight. We were told it'd be two or three days, but we ended up sitting and waiting there for eight. Frost set in — nobody gave a sh*t. I said, “I've got frostbite on my legs.” I got the reply: “Stay put.”

Later, when the mission was over, I went to the medic. He said, “If your legs aren't black, you'll be walking.” I said, “Treat me, I can't feel them.” He just said, “Stop smoking cigarettes, you'll recover.” That was it.

In the trench, I slept three or four hours a day, constantly watching the area where they said the Ukrainians would come from. I couldn't go to the toilet, couldn't eat, couldn't drink. I ate snow there.

They brought food every couple of days, but it was cold. And they brought frozen water. I said, “What am I supposed to do with it?” I couldn't melt it. The trenches were five feet deep, and I’m over six feet tall. I couldn't even turn around. I slept in a semi-crouched position, barely fitting in. Next to me was an old man — 70 years old. I don't know what he was doing there. He used to be a patriot, then he said his patriotism got knocked out of him after the first task. But now he had nowhere to go. Nobody knows what we're fighting for, what the cause is.

They treated us as if we were not humans. Commanders treat everyone like crap: “Get a move on, you d***heads!” Nobody wants to fight, nobody wants to shoot — everyone's scared, but we have no choice.

APC stands for «Armored Personnel Carrier,” a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops to the battlefield, support them during combat, and evacuate them when necessary.

IFV stands for «Infantry Fighting Vehicle,» a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops and provide direct fire support on the battlefield.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.



RPG stands for «Rocket-Propelled Grenade,» which is a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher.

«Munition drop» — in military jargon, this refers to the use of a munition dropped from a drone, most commonly of a commercial quadcopter type.

«Strongpoint» or «stronghold» refers to a fortified position intended for defense by a small unit, typically ranging from a squad to a company.

«A foxhole» is a small shelter dug in the ground, typically suitable for one person.

«DRG» stands for «diversionary reconnaissance group,” a term commonly used to refer to any unit that crosses the front to operate behind enemy lines.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.

FEBA stands for Forward Edge of the Battle Area. In military jargon, this refers to the frontline of friendly defense and the immediately adjacent territory.

A holding group is a unit whose task is to secure a position after it has been cleared by the assault group and to repel any enemy counterattacks.

«Cargo 200» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been killed in action.

«Cargo 300» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been wounded in action.

«Baba Yaga» is the nickname given by Russian soldiers to heavy agricultural drones used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to drop large munitions onto Russian positions. They often carry PG-7 anti-tank grenades or TM-62 mines.

«Storm» — assault units up to a battalion in size. Not to be confused with the ex-prisoner Storm Z / Storm V units, although the latter can also be part of the «Storm» units.

The «pit» or «basement» in Russian military jargon refers to a place where servicemen or civilians are illegally detained and often subjected to abuse and torture.

Lit. “Go to the Woods,” a Ukrainian group that helps Russian soldiers defect.

Nobody wants to fight, nobody wants to shoot — everyone's scared, but we have no choice

We tried to extract and evacuate the wounded, and there were a lot of dead. We slowly started to retrieve them too. There were many dead Ukrainians — for some reason, they were not retrieving the bodies. Dealing with the wounded was challenging too. We had an evacuation group, or rather, a guy who served as a mortarman filled in for them — poor guy, instead of firing the gun, he was pulling the wounded out. He made several trips back and forth, while the evacuation group sat somewhere in the rear.

On the last mission, in March, they sent me forward again with the mortar. I got wounded — shrapnel in my leg. I got back and asked, “Can I be evacuated?” They told me, “You're going on a mission.” I said, “What mission? I'm wounded, I can't walk.” And they said, “You'll go or you'll f***ing regret it. There are soldiers there waiting for rotation.” But eventually, my commander came, saw that I was really seriously wounded, and said, “OK, you're not going.” The soldiers — the three who went, all of them ended up as “cargo 200”. If I had gone with them, I wouldn't have survived either. Thank God for saving me.

In the end, I was sent to a hospital in Berdyansk, where they patched me up. But the treatment there was terrible too, and they also took away our phones. There were supply managers or rear echelon guys — I'm not sure — and while I was lying there, they'd come up and immediately say, “Why are you lying here bleeding, you swine?” Not to me, but to a guy lying next to me. I said to them, “Are you f***ing kidding me? His leg got torn off, he's bleeding out.”

When I returned from the hospital, they told me: “You'll be heading to the position where you refused to go,” and from there, everyone comes back either as “cargo 200” or “cargo 300.” So I fled through the woods. Then I found a taxi driver who took me through all the checkpoints to Donetsk, and from there, some acquaintances of mine helped me cross the border.

But it's all still before my eyes. I remember the guy who got blown up in front of me: the Baba Yaga dropped a grenade, and his legs were torn off from his body. Or another soldier who was on duty at a firing position — one of those it took a lot of soldiers to defend. He sat there for about a week, and one day I hear him crying on the radio: “Send me to a hospital, my leg got torn off.” The commander replied: “Stay put for now.” The soldier was yelling, crying. I listened to him on the radio all that time. A grown man — he was around forty — but he just broke down. He sat there for two days with his leg torn off. He was still conscious when they pulled him out, but he died after they extracted him.

APC stands for «Armored Personnel Carrier,” a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops to the battlefield, support them during combat, and evacuate them when necessary.

IFV stands for «Infantry Fighting Vehicle,» a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops and provide direct fire support on the battlefield.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.



RPG stands for «Rocket-Propelled Grenade,» which is a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher.

«Munition drop» — in military jargon, this refers to the use of a munition dropped from a drone, most commonly of a commercial quadcopter type.

«Strongpoint» or «stronghold» refers to a fortified position intended for defense by a small unit, typically ranging from a squad to a company.

«A foxhole» is a small shelter dug in the ground, typically suitable for one person.

«DRG» stands for «diversionary reconnaissance group,” a term commonly used to refer to any unit that crosses the front to operate behind enemy lines.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.

FEBA stands for Forward Edge of the Battle Area. In military jargon, this refers to the frontline of friendly defense and the immediately adjacent territory.

A holding group is a unit whose task is to secure a position after it has been cleared by the assault group and to repel any enemy counterattacks.

«Cargo 200» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been killed in action.

«Cargo 300» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been wounded in action.

«Baba Yaga» is the nickname given by Russian soldiers to heavy agricultural drones used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to drop large munitions onto Russian positions. They often carry PG-7 anti-tank grenades or TM-62 mines.

«Storm» — assault units up to a battalion in size. Not to be confused with the ex-prisoner Storm Z / Storm V units, although the latter can also be part of the «Storm» units.

The «pit» or «basement» in Russian military jargon refers to a place where servicemen or civilians are illegally detained and often subjected to abuse and torture.

Lit. “Go to the Woods,” a Ukrainian group that helps Russian soldiers defect.

He sat there for two days with his leg torn off. He was still conscious when they pulled him out, but he died after they extracted him

“There was an order not to evacuate us — we were doomed there”

Vladimir (name changed for anonymity), participant in the assault near Klishchiivka.

On October 28, [2022], I received a mobilization notice at work. Prior to that, some guys had already been mobilized — mostly older ones, and they were quickly returned for health reasons. I also thought I would return right away, that nothing serious would happen. But in the end, they didn't conduct a medical examination for us. They immediately started processing the paperwork. I tried to “jump ship” then, but at that point it was no longer possible. I had served in the second Chechen campaign, and I mentioned my previous injuries, but they seemed eager to retain an experienced soldier and had no intention of letting me go.

Initially, we were dispatched to the training grounds in Roschinsky, near Samara. However, it was anything but a training regimen. They attempted to simulate exercises, but running around amidst live shells and rockets, armed with just an assault rifle, is suicide. We stuck around there for a month under the guise of training, but it proved futile. A significant portion of our cohort consisted of individuals with no prior military service — they even recruited people recently removed from drug rehabilitation programs. Combat-experienced soldiers accounted for a mere 15 percent of the regiment.

APC stands for «Armored Personnel Carrier,” a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops to the battlefield, support them during combat, and evacuate them when necessary.

IFV stands for «Infantry Fighting Vehicle,» a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops and provide direct fire support on the battlefield.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.



RPG stands for «Rocket-Propelled Grenade,» which is a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher.

«Munition drop» — in military jargon, this refers to the use of a munition dropped from a drone, most commonly of a commercial quadcopter type.

«Strongpoint» or «stronghold» refers to a fortified position intended for defense by a small unit, typically ranging from a squad to a company.

«A foxhole» is a small shelter dug in the ground, typically suitable for one person.

«DRG» stands for «diversionary reconnaissance group,” a term commonly used to refer to any unit that crosses the front to operate behind enemy lines.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.

FEBA stands for Forward Edge of the Battle Area. In military jargon, this refers to the frontline of friendly defense and the immediately adjacent territory.

A holding group is a unit whose task is to secure a position after it has been cleared by the assault group and to repel any enemy counterattacks.

«Cargo 200» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been killed in action.

«Cargo 300» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been wounded in action.

«Baba Yaga» is the nickname given by Russian soldiers to heavy agricultural drones used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to drop large munitions onto Russian positions. They often carry PG-7 anti-tank grenades or TM-62 mines.

«Storm» — assault units up to a battalion in size. Not to be confused with the ex-prisoner Storm Z / Storm V units, although the latter can also be part of the «Storm» units.

The «pit» or «basement» in Russian military jargon refers to a place where servicemen or civilians are illegally detained and often subjected to abuse and torture.

Lit. “Go to the Woods,” a Ukrainian group that helps Russian soldiers defect.

Combat-experienced soldiers accounted for a mere 15 percent of the regiment

After the final “exam,” we were told we would be taken to Rostov, but by morning we found ourselves in the Luhansk region. Some guys jumped off the train when they found out. They held us there for a while, then took us to Milove.

There, so-called “buyers” came for us — they wanted us to join the artillerists or something. The commander didn't want to hand us over. He said we were needed as a full regiment, but in the end they sent one company — a bunch of completely untrained soldiers — to join a “Storm” unit. I didn't end up there, but later they were with us near Bilohorivka — after the assault, only 37 out of 100 remained alive.

Near Bilohorivka, we had the regimental commander with us. He attempted to prevent us from being sent on offensive missions by requesting our redeployment, but he was warned that if he didn't stop his attempts, he would be ordered to join us — as cannon fodder. The soldiers didn't want to go. They rebelled. Every week there were cargo 200 and 300, even though at that point we weren't being sent on any missions. Until July [2023] we were just digging trenches, fortifying positions and so on.

APC stands for «Armored Personnel Carrier,” a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops to the battlefield, support them during combat, and evacuate them when necessary.

IFV stands for «Infantry Fighting Vehicle,» a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops and provide direct fire support on the battlefield.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.



RPG stands for «Rocket-Propelled Grenade,» which is a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher.

«Munition drop» — in military jargon, this refers to the use of a munition dropped from a drone, most commonly of a commercial quadcopter type.

«Strongpoint» or «stronghold» refers to a fortified position intended for defense by a small unit, typically ranging from a squad to a company.

«A foxhole» is a small shelter dug in the ground, typically suitable for one person.

«DRG» stands for «diversionary reconnaissance group,” a term commonly used to refer to any unit that crosses the front to operate behind enemy lines.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.

FEBA stands for Forward Edge of the Battle Area. In military jargon, this refers to the frontline of friendly defense and the immediately adjacent territory.

A holding group is a unit whose task is to secure a position after it has been cleared by the assault group and to repel any enemy counterattacks.

«Cargo 200» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been killed in action.

«Cargo 300» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been wounded in action.

«Baba Yaga» is the nickname given by Russian soldiers to heavy agricultural drones used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to drop large munitions onto Russian positions. They often carry PG-7 anti-tank grenades or TM-62 mines.

«Storm» — assault units up to a battalion in size. Not to be confused with the ex-prisoner Storm Z / Storm V units, although the latter can also be part of the «Storm» units.

The «pit» or «basement» in Russian military jargon refers to a place where servicemen or civilians are illegally detained and often subjected to abuse and torture.

Lit. “Go to the Woods,” a Ukrainian group that helps Russian soldiers defect.

Our commander attempted to prevent us from being sent on offensive missions by requesting our redeployment, but he was warned that if he didn't stop his attempts, he would be ordered to join us — as cannon fodder

When Wagner withdrew from Bakhmut, we were sent there. Initially, we were told we would be taken to Luhansk, but in reality, we were dropped off in a settlement near Bakhmut. A team was assembled, and we received hasty explanations, without being told where we were going and why. We weren't even issued any maps. We were told we were all being assigned to the 83rd Airborne Assault Brigade. Then we were dispatched to Klishchiivka.

We arrived at dusk. About three hours later, shelling began. We were ordered to take positions, but by that time, we could already hear gunfire. A company had been sent there before us. and we realized we wouldn't be able to make it to the positions. Then the shelling started in earnest. When we first came under fire, there were no trenches, only trees and small hills, and we hid behind them. In the morning, when everything calmed down, new shelling began. We heard cries for help from the first company, which was closer to the Ukrainians: “Help! We have cargo three hundred!” We managed to evacuate some soldiers, but then shells rained down on the road. We couldn't let our guard down.

APC stands for «Armored Personnel Carrier,” a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops to the battlefield, support them during combat, and evacuate them when necessary.

IFV stands for «Infantry Fighting Vehicle,» a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops and provide direct fire support on the battlefield.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.



RPG stands for «Rocket-Propelled Grenade,» which is a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher.

«Munition drop» — in military jargon, this refers to the use of a munition dropped from a drone, most commonly of a commercial quadcopter type.

«Strongpoint» or «stronghold» refers to a fortified position intended for defense by a small unit, typically ranging from a squad to a company.

«A foxhole» is a small shelter dug in the ground, typically suitable for one person.

«DRG» stands for «diversionary reconnaissance group,” a term commonly used to refer to any unit that crosses the front to operate behind enemy lines.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.

FEBA stands for Forward Edge of the Battle Area. In military jargon, this refers to the frontline of friendly defense and the immediately adjacent territory.

A holding group is a unit whose task is to secure a position after it has been cleared by the assault group and to repel any enemy counterattacks.

«Cargo 200» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been killed in action.

«Cargo 300» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been wounded in action.

«Baba Yaga» is the nickname given by Russian soldiers to heavy agricultural drones used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to drop large munitions onto Russian positions. They often carry PG-7 anti-tank grenades or TM-62 mines.

«Storm» — assault units up to a battalion in size. Not to be confused with the ex-prisoner Storm Z / Storm V units, although the latter can also be part of the «Storm» units.

The «pit» or «basement» in Russian military jargon refers to a place where servicemen or civilians are illegally detained and often subjected to abuse and torture.

Lit. “Go to the Woods,” a Ukrainian group that helps Russian soldiers defect.

There were no trenches, only trees and small hills, and we hid behind them

The nearby village was in ruins. There was no communication between units — what could you do with those Chinese Baofeng radios, bought from the Albanians? Either you get hit, or you surrender everything to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. There was no food supply, just four rations per person, and that's how we tried to hold our positions. The Ukrainians saw us advancing, and the shelling began. Initially, you move across open terrain, where you need to advance another 500 meters across a field under a sky controlled by [Ukrainian drones]. You move like a living target.

About thirty soldiers refused to go after seeing this, saying, “We won't go just to be slaughtered.” Another company was dispatched after us, even though the command saw what was happening. For the next five days, we evacuated guys from Klishchiivka — whoever could walk, we pulled them out. There was an order from the command not to evacuate us. When we asked the drivers, they told us that we were not allowed to leave, meaning we were doomed.

Evacuees had to travel on foot four to five kilometers to Zaitseve. There were no medics. There was an evacuation group somewhere, but no one knew where exactly. Those who were not recognized as “cargo 200,” were considered missing in action. The Storm Z unit was nearby — a tank fired at them, and later the soldiers retrieved someone's leg so that the person could be identified by DNA.

APC stands for «Armored Personnel Carrier,” a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops to the battlefield, support them during combat, and evacuate them when necessary.

IFV stands for «Infantry Fighting Vehicle,» a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops and provide direct fire support on the battlefield.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.



RPG stands for «Rocket-Propelled Grenade,» which is a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher.

«Munition drop» — in military jargon, this refers to the use of a munition dropped from a drone, most commonly of a commercial quadcopter type.

«Strongpoint» or «stronghold» refers to a fortified position intended for defense by a small unit, typically ranging from a squad to a company.

«A foxhole» is a small shelter dug in the ground, typically suitable for one person.

«DRG» stands for «diversionary reconnaissance group,” a term commonly used to refer to any unit that crosses the front to operate behind enemy lines.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.

FEBA stands for Forward Edge of the Battle Area. In military jargon, this refers to the frontline of friendly defense and the immediately adjacent territory.

A holding group is a unit whose task is to secure a position after it has been cleared by the assault group and to repel any enemy counterattacks.

«Cargo 200» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been killed in action.

«Cargo 300» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been wounded in action.

«Baba Yaga» is the nickname given by Russian soldiers to heavy agricultural drones used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to drop large munitions onto Russian positions. They often carry PG-7 anti-tank grenades or TM-62 mines.

«Storm» — assault units up to a battalion in size. Not to be confused with the ex-prisoner Storm Z / Storm V units, although the latter can also be part of the «Storm» units.

The «pit» or «basement» in Russian military jargon refers to a place where servicemen or civilians are illegally detained and often subjected to abuse and torture.

Lit. “Go to the Woods,” a Ukrainian group that helps Russian soldiers defect.

Klishchiivka after de-occupation
Klishchiivka after de-occupation
Screenshot from a video by the 80th Airborne Assault Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces / YouTube

Corpses were everywhere. The stench of death hung in the air. Many injured soldiers were left behind without help. They were left to die, discarded like refuse. Bodies littered the trenches and the hastily constructed bunkers. You'd climb into one and find a corpse sitting there, life extinguished by wounds.

In my unit, there were veterans who had survived Chechnya, and even they were shocked. They'd say, “I'm no coward, but this is beyond anything I could have imagined.” It wasn't just corpses; it was people torn apart by explosions, reduced to dust. One guy, who had lost his legs, blew himself up with a grenade rather than burden his comrades with his care. Is this normal? No psyche can endure such horrors. To cope, many of the guys turned to drinking. There was a shop about 20 kilometers away from our base, and soldiers would drive there in a UAZ and buy vodka. During those trips, the guys would drown their sorrows in alcohol. It was harder for me. I didn't drink — I internalized everything.

When we finally left that hellhole for a wooded area, nobody expected us to return alive. But the toughest part was when, after our first mission, just three days later, they sent us out again — pushing us deeper into the forest strip. First twenty soldiers, then more. The enemy spotted us with their drones. Within minutes, the shelling began. The screams echoed. Several young men, aged 20 to 23, were killed in the trenches — some got it in the head, others in the gut. One of us saw them and collapsed from shock. But you couldn't do anything to help under enemy fire. Trying to carry a wounded soldier was futile. Four men and one injured — that's just a bigger target.

APC stands for «Armored Personnel Carrier,” a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops to the battlefield, support them during combat, and evacuate them when necessary.

IFV stands for «Infantry Fighting Vehicle,» a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops and provide direct fire support on the battlefield.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.



RPG stands for «Rocket-Propelled Grenade,» which is a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher.

«Munition drop» — in military jargon, this refers to the use of a munition dropped from a drone, most commonly of a commercial quadcopter type.

«Strongpoint» or «stronghold» refers to a fortified position intended for defense by a small unit, typically ranging from a squad to a company.

«A foxhole» is a small shelter dug in the ground, typically suitable for one person.

«DRG» stands for «diversionary reconnaissance group,” a term commonly used to refer to any unit that crosses the front to operate behind enemy lines.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.

FEBA stands for Forward Edge of the Battle Area. In military jargon, this refers to the frontline of friendly defense and the immediately adjacent territory.

A holding group is a unit whose task is to secure a position after it has been cleared by the assault group and to repel any enemy counterattacks.

«Cargo 200» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been killed in action.

«Cargo 300» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been wounded in action.

«Baba Yaga» is the nickname given by Russian soldiers to heavy agricultural drones used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to drop large munitions onto Russian positions. They often carry PG-7 anti-tank grenades or TM-62 mines.

«Storm» — assault units up to a battalion in size. Not to be confused with the ex-prisoner Storm Z / Storm V units, although the latter can also be part of the «Storm» units.

The «pit» or «basement» in Russian military jargon refers to a place where servicemen or civilians are illegally detained and often subjected to abuse and torture.

Lit. “Go to the Woods,” a Ukrainian group that helps Russian soldiers defect.

Trying to carry a wounded soldier was futile. Four men and one injured — that's just a bigger target

In the beginning, we scraped by on whatever old supplies we could find, grabbing a bit of sleep here and there, though we'd always wake up to the sound of shelling, unsure if we'd make it through the night.

Command was a total mess. The last time they tried to count how many of us were left on the frontlines, the battalion commander got killed. After that, there were no real leaders — just a bunch of officers who'd been mobilized with no real combat experience, only some basic military training.

When we finally managed to get out of there, we started getting in touch with lawyers to figure out why we were abandoned. The command disliked us for that. They brought in some general to sweet-talk us, provided better gear and hot meals trying to pacify us so they could send us back in. They were scared we'd rebel — like the Wagnerites did.

Within a month, people started deserting. Representatives from some “friendly services” would arrive — threatening families, making calls. They'd either lock someone up for a week and then let them go, or else beat them up in the local commandant's office or in some pit or basement. It started with threats and hunger, then escalated to violence.

To avoid going on another assault, I slit my wrists. What's the point of going if they wouldn't find my body or send it to my mother? At least this way they would bring my body back.

Instead they saved me — sent me to the hospital, which was a 10-minute drive away. Then they kept me in a house for about 10 days. A commander came, talked to me, and then I was locked up for a week. The sergeant was supposed to bring me food, but no one brought me anything. You could buy food through the guards though.

I managed to get them to send me to a mental hospital, and I escaped from there. They first gave me an evacuation document, but then said I was not eligible for evacuation. I'd have to go on my own, so I left. After me, two more people escaped.

Later, the [Chechen] Akhmat unit took 80 soldiers from our company, brought them to some warehouses, took their documents, and threatened that if they refused to follow orders, their families would be killed. In the end, only 30 out of those 80 returned from the mission. As they advanced, a machine gunner and a sniper were already waiting for them, and there was artillery fire.

After I ran away, I went to the doctors, but the hospital staff told me to get lost. They said my documents were not in order. I started looking for other doctors, and lawyers as well. I considered switching to an alternative service, but soon realized it was impossible to resolve anything through legal means. So then I started seeking help from the “Get Lost” organization to get me out of the country.

APC stands for «Armored Personnel Carrier,” a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops to the battlefield, support them during combat, and evacuate them when necessary.

IFV stands for «Infantry Fighting Vehicle,» a military vehicle designed to transport infantry troops and provide direct fire support on the battlefield.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.



RPG stands for «Rocket-Propelled Grenade,» which is a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher.

«Munition drop» — in military jargon, this refers to the use of a munition dropped from a drone, most commonly of a commercial quadcopter type.

«Strongpoint» or «stronghold» refers to a fortified position intended for defense by a small unit, typically ranging from a squad to a company.

«A foxhole» is a small shelter dug in the ground, typically suitable for one person.

«DRG» stands for «diversionary reconnaissance group,” a term commonly used to refer to any unit that crosses the front to operate behind enemy lines.

«Zero/null» refers to the very edge of positions held by one’s side in the conflict. Beyond this point lies no man’s land, followed by territory controlled by the enemy.

FEBA stands for Forward Edge of the Battle Area. In military jargon, this refers to the frontline of friendly defense and the immediately adjacent territory.

A holding group is a unit whose task is to secure a position after it has been cleared by the assault group and to repel any enemy counterattacks.

«Cargo 200» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been killed in action.

«Cargo 300» — in military jargon, this refers to those who have been wounded in action.

«Baba Yaga» is the nickname given by Russian soldiers to heavy agricultural drones used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to drop large munitions onto Russian positions. They often carry PG-7 anti-tank grenades or TM-62 mines.

«Storm» — assault units up to a battalion in size. Not to be confused with the ex-prisoner Storm Z / Storm V units, although the latter can also be part of the «Storm» units.

The «pit» or «basement» in Russian military jargon refers to a place where servicemen or civilians are illegally detained and often subjected to abuse and torture.

Lit. “Go to the Woods,” a Ukrainian group that helps Russian soldiers defect.

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