“Now the state border of Russia passes through my trench”: How DPR fighters listened to Putin’s speech on the front line

Military commissar Dmitry Steshin listened to Putin's speech together with the DPR fighters.

Military commissar Dmitry Steshin listened to Putin’s speech together with the DPR fighters.

A photo: Dmitry STESHIN

I wanted to meet the day the Donbass returned home in the Vostok battalion near Ugledar. At that moment I wanted to see the faces of the fighters, both those who went to fight quite recently and those who have been pulling the soldier’s strap since 2014. He pulled silently, with the stubbornness of the doomed, sometimes – no longer hoping for anything. I bought a bag of sweets, chocolate, dates, raisins, gozinaki – I know how it “comes in” after the statutory stew. I left the Donetsk supermarket and suddenly realized that there would be no holiday! There is no light, no Internet, no cellular communication in the place where the battalion is stationed. “White noise”, information vacuum. Of course, everyone will be told the good news by radio, but the fighters will find out some details later, when they receive leave and return to civilization. What to do? It dawned on me, literally.

Finding a good radio receiver in Donetsk turned out to be not a problem, somehow I didn’t think that hundreds of villages near the front line still receive information the old fashioned way, using radio waves.

“Radio is an old man’s business,” the seller remarked to me, wrapping up the purchase:

– Of course, the young people left, why would they sit there without electricity and the Internet? But the old people remained … They listen to the radio, they burn kerosene stoves …

The radio receiver from which they heard about the annexation of the DPR to Russia.

The radio receiver from which they heard about the annexation of the DPR to Russia.

A photo: Dmitry STESHIN

I found myself under Ugledar in the early foggy morning. Habitually wrapped the car with a camouflage net. And immediately left with the fighters for firing from grenade launchers. They fired at empty shell boxes, standing in a compressed field at a distance of 250 meters. As the instructor put it, “this is necessary so that, in which case, you yourself, without a “second number”, shoot back, fight back.” There was something disturbing and important in these teachings. At the same time, it was not comfreys who fired, they are familiar with grenade launchers, but drivers, signalmen and young fighters from the replenishment. Everyone understood that it was necessary. Teachings without drill, “for the result”, finished quickly and returned back to the village. Only a few hours remained before the fateful decision.

A photo: Dmitry STESHIN

The fighters fired at empty shell boxes, standing in a compressed field at a distance of 250 meters.

The fighters fired at empty shell boxes, standing in a compressed field at a distance of 250 meters.

A photo: Dmitry STESHIN

Our voices against the enemy

My idea at the headquarters was called “political information” and even “political work”, which was the absolute truth. A pleasant revival began: they were looking for a more or less whole hut to fit twenty or thirty people at once, all who would be out of position during the day or left the front in rotation. But, the surviving houses in the village were all with direct hits, dark as cellars – the broken windows were clogged with anything, so that a ray of light would not break out. Then they began to look for a hut with a large shed over the yard. Found. Chief of Staff Askold, who blessed this fuss, sent me out of the dugout into the fresh air to check the radio.

A photo: Dmitry STESHIN

I was afraid of this test – suddenly, the radio will not catch anything? Hiding under a tree from enemy copters. First, I caught the good old Mayak, then Radio Russia. The reception is stable, of high quality, I took a breath. Further, all the ranges were filled with Ukrainian stations broadcasting to the occupied territories. In a quick tongue twister, on the move, male and female voices repeated one word that I could make out: “kharchuvannya” or simply – “grub.” The fighters participating in the testing had fun. Then the announcer changed, the language became clearer. It was about how European business will now enter the liberated Izyum and everything will flourish there, especially there will be a lot of “grubs”. Even the announcer didn’t seem to believe it. One of the battalion commanders with the call sign “Russia” came to the sounds of the nightingale language. He joked about “enemy voices.” Just had a reason to ask him how the enemy feels? What “Russia” said somewhat contradicted Internet messages:

We haven’t seen anything in our area yet. Information comes all the time that THEY come in or import something. In general, it seems that our enemy has calmed down in the last week. The shelling, however, goes on in the same mode.

A photo: Dmitry STESHIN

How are the fighters feeling?

– It’s cold in the forest plantations, the fighters get sick. Everything from colds, powders, pills, worth their weight in gold. Chemical heaters or just gas burners are small. You turned it on in the trench, after ten minutes you warmed up, you can even dry yourself off.

– I wanted to ask everyone, but today is the most successful day: why such a call sign – “Russia”?

Russia laughs:

– So I am Russia. Born in the Far East, father is a military pilot. Moved here at the age of 12. Then it drifted to Moscow for five years, then back to the Donbass. The house is broken, I live in rented housing. I can’t even tell where I’m from. From Russia.

To my question, “what do you expect from entering Russia?”, “Russia” answered with deadly accuracy:

– So that our children do not walk near the basements.

The fighters gathered to listen to the radio in a house with a large shed.

The fighters gathered to listen to the radio in a house with a large shed.

A photo: Dmitry STESHIN

“Rejuvenating” mines and apples

Cats and dogs were the first to listen to Moscow. In such dead settlements, they always huddle close to people. Animals cannot live without people, and people cannot live without animals. A funny dog ​​with a formidable nickname Barmaley talked to me, but it was clear which of the fighters was his master. The dog was limping, his paw was broken by a fragment, even during the spring battles. He licked the wound, it itself overgrown and healed, like on a dog. Barmaley was picked up a long time ago, in a different place. He travels to positions with the soldiers, and after the war the owner will take him with him and Barmaley knows this very well. The dog feels calm and confident, he now has a bright streak in life.

A photo: Dmitry STESHIN

Gradually, the yard under a canopy is filled with people. Sapper Georgy arrives from the positions, brews noodles for himself in an iron mug and says:

– Guys! We found such an apple orchard! Those are apples! Mmm!

One of the fighters asks:

– Youth?

George sighs.

– If. Behind them on the armor you need to go, 120 mm mines are thrown there. But these apples are worth it…

One of the fighters remarks with knowledge of the matter, very seriously:

It’s probably a watchman.

Everyone collapses with laughter. At 2:30 p.m., and somewhere in the fields, a Ukrainian self-propelled gun starts to bark. Shells fall lazily on the edge of the village, far from us, it’s not scary, but Barmaley shakes the ground, stands on his hind legs between the legs of the sitting owner and puts his head on his knee. He closes his eyes, barely noticeably shudders during arrivals. And then a pleasant miracle happens. Low clouds are torn by some kind of black shadow, followed by the roar of afterburner engines. We hear our plane firing rockets, turning right over our house and adding more, in the same place. The enemy cannon shuts up. Quiet. And I turn on the receiver.

Dog Barmaley travels with the soldiers, after the war the owner will take him home.

Dog Barmaley travels with the soldiers, after the war the owner will take him home.

A photo: Dmitry STESHIN

Easier and more serious

Modern man, in peaceful life, is spoiled by information content. It is no longer an absolute value. But here at the front, things are different. As the Fox scout says – if you know exactly what day of the week it is, then you are not at war. Fox does not remember exactly when he took Azovstal – either in March, or in August. And he’s not joking, he’s out of time, between life and death. The state in which one attains enlightenment.

Only in old black-and-white films could one see SO being listened to by an ordinary radio receiver. And on purpose, the radio that I brought was stylized as an old tube one. They listened for forty minutes without speaking. The caretaker who suddenly appeared was shushed from all sides – “Give us Putin to listen, we will listen to you later.” Twice they got up, silently, somehow without saying a word, took off their caps and balaclavas: when they honored the memory of the dead and at the very last moment, during the signing of documents on the entry of the republics and liberated regions into Russia.

A photo: Dmitry STESHIN

Listened to the end. There was no holiday, the war remained, no matter where it went! I would very much like that immediately after the performance, by magic, everything was quiet around. And these men would have tore off their dirty and wet camouflage, changed into civilian clothes, took the crippled Barmaley in their arms and went home. And by morning or the next day, they would have walked to Donetsk, to their homes, wives and mothers. Get away from this war, forget it, as it never happened. But there will be no miracle, everyone understood that. They whispered: “we had 41 years, we will live to see 43, we will chase THEM.” Only one of the young fighters could not stand it and said to his commander, “Forest”:

– Commander, can I fire a burst into the sky?

The forest answered sternly and imperturbably:

– I’ll shoot you right on the head! I still find out who starts the generator in our house at night! (Quadcopters with thermal imagers calculate such targets and aim artillery at them – corr. note).

The soldiers listened to the radio seriously, there was no particular joy - military everyday life was ahead.

The soldiers listened to the radio seriously, there was no particular joy – military everyday life was ahead.

A photo: Dmitry STESHIN

I turned off the radio with the words:

– Guys, this is a gift from me to you, I won’t take you back, of course, take it, listen.

He looked at the scout “Fox”, expecting some kind of wise aphorism from him, a generalization of what he had heard, and “Fox” did not disappoint:

– Well, now the state border of the Russian Federation passes through my trench.

Today everything has become both simpler and more serious.

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