Everyday life of journalists on the front line between Seversk and Bakhmut. Right: Komsomolskaya Pravda military officer Alexander Kots and VGTRK military officer Yevgeny Poddubny. Photo: Personal archive of Alexander KOTS
How do mobilized men live in the trenches? What are they asking for? Will Caliber run out? When can we expect a turning point in Russia’s military operation and what do we lack to win?
The main questions of recent months in the Radio “KP” studio with the presenter Ivan Pankin discussed returned from another business trip, the legendary military commander “Komsomolskaya Pravda” Alexander Kots. The honest answers of a person who has visited all the “hot spots” on the line of contact are in our material.
WAIT FOR FIELD MAIL
– That rare case when you can find you in the editorial office after February 24th. For a long time in Moscow?
– Before the New Year, for sure, a lot of household chores and workers have accumulated, recently I have been a member of the Human Rights Council under the President, this also imposes responsibilities. It is necessary to delve into this work, which, in principle, I am familiar with, because for nine months I had to deal with the problems of people in uniform. And as far as possible, some even decide.
– What are the main problems you face?
– The first is equipment. Moreover, this problem is not always due to the bungling of the command. People were properly equipped, for example, they were brought to the forest, they live in the forest, and there are harsh conditions. And the form wears out quickly. Comes under fire “KamAZ” with supplies, burns everything that was in it. Or initially something was given out, but it was lost in battle. Sometimes the negligence of the rear.
There are complaints and questions about the promised money, especially among the volunteers. There are a lot of requests from relatives who are looking for their sons and husbands. For a month he did not get in touch, and his relatives are already in a panic. I understand that in a special operation zone, a military man may not get in touch for months, there are places where it is simply impossible to call. But a mother or wife cannot be reassured by this. Moreover, until recently, we did not have field mail as a class. During the Great Patriotic War, postmen carried almost 11 billion letters from home to the front and back. After 80 years, for some reason this has become a problem. The Ministry of Defense has published the address where letters and parcels can be sent. Let’s see how it will work.
REGULAR GUYS ARE THE SALT OF THE RUSSIAN EARTH, FIGHT, DO NOT COMPLAINT
– Do you have a feeling that the situation is somehow changing for the better? Or not?
– The loudest are negative examples, and there are fewer of them than positive ones. Over the past two and a half months, I have met with those mobilized in the Kherson direction, in Zaporizhzhya, at the Svatovsky line. I was not taken to special exemplary places, I chose it myself and went to the front.
I met the salt of the Russian land, our ordinary men, former locksmiths, builders, I only got an IT specialist. And, in principle, they, of course, are not so directly tactically dressed and equipped, but normally provided with uniforms, they live in difficult, but tolerable conditions. No one on the front line will create conditions for you. You create them yourself.
– You once wrote: “do not pay attention to the difficulties that you encountered …”
– It’s hard to ignore. A man comes from a civilian, and then he has a shovel in his teeth – and knee-deep in water, dig a trench for himself. And make drainage ditches… And I just looked at these men, a lump came to my throat with pride: people were pulled out of civilian life, thrown into this hell, and they do not lose their spirit, their sense of humor. They show miracles of bravery, courage and precision. Two guys mobilized from the Tambov region especially sunk into my soul. For three weeks they were preparing as a calculation of the Malka 203 mm gun. And they are now at the forefront, on the Svatovsky line. Every day they destroy enemy equipment. Clearly, precisely, according to the coordinates that intelligence gives them. Their commander calls them “jewelers”. These are guys who once upon a time served in military service, completely unrelated to artillery. This suggests that they had high-quality training at the training ground, a normal commander. And he taught them to shoot from this huge caterpillar colossus. Yes, they live in the forest, in field conditions, but they are provided with rubber boots, raincoats, and thermal underwear. This commander knocked out for them. They fight with desire.
MOBILIZED ALREADY PLAY THEIR ROLE
– What is the atmosphere like at the forefront?
– People want to move forward. They say: “We are tired of sitting in the trenches.” I was talking with the guys in the Kherson direction even before we left there, they just say: “Well, what mood can it be? People in Russia expect some kind of victories and exploits from us, but we have been standing in the forest for several months now. We want to go.” At the same time, there is an understanding that there was actually nothing to go before the start of mobilization. Because we were advancing for a long time in the spring and summer, losing people, equipment, and there was nowhere to make up for it. Now the industry is working, and the situation has been stabilized in many areas. At the same Svatov frontier, the mobilized played their role. They are holding positions. They shoot from “Malok” and “Tulips”, they drive tanks. And the bulk of those called up from the reserve, who are undergoing in-depth training, have not yet arrived.
There is a slow, but still advance in the direction of Artemovsk (Bakhmut). This is a very important story, because Ukraine spends most of its artillery stocks there, Kyiv is now suffering the greatest losses in manpower, and it is for the Donbass front that the battle for Bakhmut may turn out to be a turning point. After all, the task is not just to take the city, but also to destroy as much enemy manpower and equipment as possible, since he allows this to be done, it does not take into account any losses. The nature of the hostilities is such that Ukraine suffers losses many times more than ours.
But let’s not be sly, they are now on the verge. They are trying to transfer reserves from the Kherson direction to both Svatovo and Zaporozhye – that is, they threaten us with breakthroughs both there and there. Ukrainian artillery fires more per day than Americans fire in Afghanistan in a month. This cannot go on forever. Sooner or later, the Ukrainian troops must begin to decline – due to losses, due to lack of ammunition.
WAR WITH “SOVIET HERITAGE”?
Shells in the Donbass do not spare. The intensity of artillery fire is higher than in any battle of the Great Patriotic War. The barrels wear out so much that on some guns they have already been replaced with new ones several times.
A photo: Alexander KOTS
– Let’s start from the words of the same adviser to the head of the office of the President of Ukraine Arestovich, who says that the Russians are running out of shells and missiles. What is he pushing for? The Russians are still bombarding us with “Soviet legacy”. What do you say to that?
– Are we fighting the “Soviet legacy”? Including. And what’s wrong with that? Thanks for having it. And what are they fighting?
– Is this good or bad?
– It’s a given. It is bad that we do not yet have systems similar to the French Caesar. It’s bad that we still don’t have analogues of the American Hymars. There is no low-orbit satellite constellation …
But I know that there are developments, I won’t say from which “Soviet heritage”, which in terms of their characteristics will surpass the “Haymars”. And we have the opportunity to make a lot of them, these systems are already being tested in combat conditions, but not yet mass-produced.
IF IT WOULD NOT START OWN, UKRAINE WOULD ATTACK CRIMEA
– So you will go to the front after the New Year, what are your expectations?
– High expectations usually make you upset. Therefore, I’m just going to continue working, talking about people who are fighting, treating wounds, helping with humanitarian aid. For me, a special operation is, first of all, fate. This year I was on a business trip for 8 months out of 12. I talked about dozens of heroes, both in uniform and without.
– Advisor to the head of the office of the President of Ukraine, Podolyak, said that in six months they would take Crimea. What do you say? Should I be afraid of it?
– There is no need to be afraid, you need to understand that they keep this in mind and in all seriousness. It’s not some crazy statement from a city lunatic, they really have it in their plans. And I’ll tell you that if we hadn’t launched a special operation, they would have started a war against the Donbass and crushed it. I am personally sure of this. They would just overwhelm them with quantity. And with courage they would go further to the Crimea. And there would be heavy fighting. And what is happening now in the territories of Ukraine and new Russian regions would have happened in Crimea.
If now, in the winter campaign, they succeed in an offensive operation, for example, in the Zaporozhye direction, they can cut our grouping and go to the border with Crimea. Therefore, it is no coincidence that powerful defense lines are being built there now. This means that we calculate all scenarios.
– Is the winter campaign still more of a revival of hostilities or, on the contrary, will it be such a trench confrontation?
– This is a change in the nature of hostilities. If there is a warm winter, then there is no need to wait for any great activity using heavy equipment. At the same time, if we recall the campaign at the beginning of this year – yes, in February there were still frosts, when we arrived in Kiev, the equipment calmly drove in the Kharkiv direction … 2015, January – Donetsk airport was taken, despite any weather conditions. They took Debaltseve. And how did they fight in the Great Patriotic War? They didn’t pause for the winter. The main thing is that the industry should reach the point where it will be able to supply some equipment to the troops online every day.
FOR 9 MONTHS, 4 BARREL SHOULD BE CHANGED ON THE CANON
– It has already been announced that our military-industrial complex works in three shifts.
– Yes, yes, I know, we are doing very well on Caliber, we are doing very well replenishment on Iskanders. But we also need modern tanks, gun barrels, because the wear and tear is terrible. I have a friend in Lugansk, the commander of a cannon division, they have already been given the fourth barrels for the Hyacinths in these 9 months.
– Good. As for the equipment. There were complaints at the beginning, how do you evaluate it now?
– Like the barrels, the equipment also has very serious wear in the field. I repeat, where the commander is proactive, where he treats the personnel normally, where he understands that the performance of the combat mission will depend on how his soldiers are equipped, everything is fine there. If it is not possible to knock out something from the rear, he is looking for ways to find volunteers, sponsors. There are examples of excellent interaction between business and the army, regional authorities and the army. I will not name anyone now, so that I would not be accused of bias. But there are great examples.
INSTEAD OF THE FINAL
Who does time work for?
– Last question. Who does time work for if hostilities continue one way or another in a global sense?
– Now time is playing on us. Ukraine has an inexhaustible mobilization resource, we called for 300 thousand, and they will call, conditionally, a million. But by this time, our 300,000 will, I hope, have been well trained and equipped, armed, and provided with equipment. But the enemy will still have problems with equipment and ammunition in the near future one way or another. We will not drive the enemy to the western border with a cavalry charge. But some kind of turning point, I think, should still happen in the winter campaign in our direction. Maybe within the next month.