Yurii Brekharia, senior lieutenant of the 40th separate mechanized battalion of the 17th separate tank brigade was awarded with Order of Bohdan Khmelnytskyi of the 3rd degree. However, he was not made a Hero. Brekharia supported military's address that criticized the Army's General Staff. And his 40th Kryvbas battalion was falsely accused by the General Staff of positions backdown and was disbanded. This brilliant battle description was written exclusively for Censor.NET by the 'Zenit' commander himself, Yurii Brekharia.
Yurii Brekharia. Photo by Artem Ryzhykov.
Some details of 'Zenit' platoon strongpoint.
On Jan. 15, 2015 I became commander of the 'Zenit' strongpoint. I do not know how it operated before me.
The position was passed over by the 25th battalion. From engineering point of view, it was well equipped. I explored it, draw a scheme, and understood the engineering idea behind it. Lots of diggings, 11 dug-outs. The only bad thing about it was that dug-out entrances were facing the enemy.
We had to improve the position a little for all-round defense and to add a few American pits. The soil is terrible slate; excavator's scoop dug for around a meter deep and started to scratch against the formation.
We dug and equipped a new position in the northern part, just before the ravine.
The position turned out to be unfinished; the only excavator available in the sector broke down before reaching us. So we finished it with shovels. We lacked logs for a normal dug-out, and after defrostation, the soil started to crumble. But otherwise, the 'Dalniy' position was done well and hid the guys well during shelling.
In general, we have to say huge THANK YOU to the 25th Kyivska Rus separate brigade for the position. They did a lot of work, and we used all of it. Despite the need to improve it, it was good - nothing is perfect.
As a result, this position showed its maximum efficiency. Over the Debaltseve battle, 'Zenit' losses were as follows:
- One broken leg
- Two limb dislocations with band breakage
- One person lightly contused, refused to be treated in hospital and exited with everyone else
- Davydchuk 'Tachanka' - grave contusion with broken ribs, caused by hitting the dug-out entrance with subsequent collapse. (Guys, please construct entrances with turns; the old man was dashed against the wall along the dug-out by an explosive blast). On Feb. 16, 2015 he was evacuated by foot to 'Valera,' from where he was taken to Artemivsk along with wounded from the 128th brigade.
All breakages and dislocations were caused by falls into holes. So much had been dug to make it difficult for the enemy. But when shelling is underway, go wherever you can. Once we had two piles of dirt coming from 'Dalniy', who turned out to be our soldiers (Serioha 'Stomatoloh' one of them) after 'diving' into aircraft protecting shelter.
After this short introduction I will tell about the tank combat.
The Novohryhorivka combat started on Feb. 7 with a trial assault.
Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015.
Heavy artillery shelling since morning.
'Kopye' stronghold warns about 'guests.'
Butt to butt offensive between 'Zenit' and 'Zozo' stronpoints; four tanks, two infantry fighting vehicles, infantry. For masking purposes, one of the tanks had a Ukrainian flag on it.
This can only be seen in some Russian movies by Bondarchuk. Chain of submachine gunners follows, and more personnel gets out from the infantry combat vehicle.
We use all we have: AA mounts, anti-tank guided missiles, machineguns.
Return fire shows that the enemy does not understand where the fire comes from.
Infantry hits the ground under fire.
Tanks break off the infantry.
Our anti-tank guided missile hits an enemy's infantry combat vehicle directly. The car is in smoke, another one hurries to rescue it. Tanks turn on their headlights. Our anti-tank missiles hit wires and lose their trajectory.
The enemy reaches the road from 'Zozo', is it hit by strong fire there and starts retreating.
We repulsed them.
Close explosion damaged engine of 'Tachanka' infantry combat vehicle. Another artillery shelling and anti-tank missiles. Our 'Konkurs' infantry combat vehicle was destroyed by direct hit of an anti-tank guided missile.
We put out the fire.
OK, then we cover the hole with a piece of cardboard and direct combat vehicle's launching ramps with empty containers. They will buy this one more time.
The ramps with containers of the hit 'cardboard' 'Konkurs' are seen on this image under a post.
In the evening, battalion commander shared his optimism saying "It's Sunday tomorrow, it will be quiet, they are Orthodox Christians, so they will go to church." I said that "I heard they were Buryats, so they are Buddhists, so they don't need to go to church." So we had a laugh.
Sunday. Feb. 8, 2015.
Sunday, some are going to church.
At 6.40 a.m. an assault of Novohryhorivka started under cover of poor visibility. Company tactical team of seven tanks and two infantry combat vehicles gets through to Novohryhorivka covered by a forest, at a one-kilometer distance. Tanks with up to 40 paratroopers break through the village's outskirts. 'Zozo' accepts the battle. Enemy's tanks unload the infantry, give it temporary cover, and retreat to the north along the road to 'Zenit' position.
On a satellite image, 'Zenit' stretches from blue markers to road curve, where an old cemetery is seen as a black dot. Red markers are separatists' frozen scrap metal.
The first tank (Т-64 id 4288) was crashed by all we had: anti-tank guided missiles, 'Hrim' cannon shots, rocket anti-tank launchers, anti-aircraft mount. The tank climbed a hill, died out, and caught fire.
The guys are excited. Vasia wonders 'Am I a man, f*ck? I'm a monster…" At some point of time I realize that this is entertainment called "Who hasn't fired at a tank yet?" I calm them down, for 'Zozo' warns there are more tanks coming up.
We prevent infantry from coming closer with small arms and grenade machine guns.
Another tank appears (Т-64 id 5358), but if afraid to approach. Serioha 'Orhanist' hits it with an anti-tank guided missile, no? Have another one. Not enough? And the third one follows.
The tank is burning. A bit later its ammunition load detonates.
The third tank shows up (Т-72 id 5064), we know what to do. This is showtime for ZU-23-2 'Zorka.'
The anti-aircraft mount blasts the tank's active armor, debris fly in all directions. Serioha 'Orhanist' shots one anti-tank guided missile and the tank catches fire. Its ammunition load detonates later.
(This image shows a mercenary in deep thoughts. Obviously, the picture makes him think of eternity.)
The fourth one shows up, we repeat. The tank is in smoke. The crew jumps out. I report to battalion commander of capturing possibility. The fire is stopped.
We scare infantry away from the forest; grenade machine guns, machine guns and infantry fire non-stop. Anti-aircraft gunners of 'Zorka' mop up the field and the forest.
08:15 a.m. The peak is over for us, Vasia ack-acker records his video "to show my wife that I wasn't on a f*cking vacation."
The anti-aircraft gun is operating, it can be heard well, Vasia is with radioset.
An anchor stake of the power line, below is the road to Novohryhorivka. The first tank just appeared on it.
Vasia anti-aircraft gunner: Ded, take it to the left… Now to the right… Hit the forest, there are tankmen there
Chapai: 'Zorka', finish the fire and go under cover.
Chapai: Tachanka, try to finish them.
Tanks are in smoke, but there's no fire yet; some are active behind the tanks, so I conclude they are trying to extinguish it.
Ded anti-aircraft gunner: I have it in my sights.
The anti-aircraft gun used its ammunition establishment, servicemen are reloading.
Chapai: 'Zorka,' under cover.
Tachanka: I see nothing, 'Natakha' [cannon - ed.] can see.
The words are unclear due to the wind; a fire starts, so the infantry attempts to show up. There are flashes near the left post, this is id 4288 tank burning.
Anti-aircraft gunners: What's going on?
'Natakha' cannon fires.
Vasia anti-aircraft gunner: Can you see the tankman? He will now cross this oak post …
Ded anti-aircraft gunner: The tankman will do nothing, the tank will.
Vasia anti-aircraft gunner: So hit him, he's retreating. Higher, higher a bit.
Tachanka: At 5 o'clock, from the hollow.
Chapai: Tanks at the left, 'Zoria', tanks are at the left, retreat.
Vasia anti-aircraft gunner: Tanks are at the left, Kolia, let's retreat.
Vitalia anti-aircraft gunner: There are tankmen retreating across the field, with automatic weapon, I will hit them with automatic weapons, f*ck them.
Ded anti-aircraft gunner: There's a mortar operating from there, the tanks are coming here
'Hrim' cannon fires.
Anti-aircraft gun is firing, a tank nearby catches fire.
Ded anti-aircraft gunner: Sania, it is burning, burning!
Don't get what they say.
Vasia anti-aircraft gunner: Let me show my wife that I am not on a f*cking vacation.
Ded anti-aircraft gunner: Show her your c*ck, let's reload.
Tank Kalashnikov is firing.
Serioha 'Rusia' grenade machine gun operator: You see the explosions?
Roma 'Sever': Keep it further from the fork, and 25 m to the right.
They are correcting 'Dzhakhad' or 'Rusia' grenade machine guns.
Chapai: You must be kidding, keep it to the left.
Chapai: 'Rusia', keep it further, some 200 m.
Serioha 'Rusia': 200 m, to the side?
Chapai: Yes, fire, fire.
Vasia anti-aircraft gunner: Gave some bullets? It burns f*cking good! Four tanks hit since morning, damn it.
Vasia anti-aircraft gunner: Maybe anti-aircraft gunners should go on leave?
After this phrase, Vitia 'Starshyna' got out of a crater where temporary command post was organized, showed them the finger and shouted "F*ck you, we will all go on leave!"
Roma 'Sever': fire, fire.
Tank Kalashnikov is firing.
Vasia anti-aircraft gunner: Tanks, tanks, tanks.
Further, nothing is heard due to the wind.
While our guys are deciding who should be honored with the tank's seizure, an infantry combat vehicle of the enemy arrives and takes position behind the crashed tank.
They put up a smoke cover. The tank is gone.
We fire with an anti-aircraft mount at that direction. The tank's ammunition load explodes. The smoke clears away.
Vitia 'Muzykant' hits the infantry combat vehicle with an anti-tank guided missile, it gets smoky and stops. Another one shows up from behind the forest and attempts to tow it. We try to hit them but the landscape prevents.
Vitia 'Muzykant' fires another missile into the vehicle's butt. It stops again and smokes in black.
They didn't leave it behind but took to the forest. The black smoke changed into grey, than to white. Ammunition load explodes fantastically on the Т-64 id 5358. There was a tank there a moment ago, but now it's just a fire from the turret, a BOOM, and no more tank left, just the turret spinning in the air.
I can only make a photo with the nearest tank when the machine gun is taken off it. I photographed the other two in the field as I could.
My photos will later be edited at lostarmour.info.
During the battle, three tanks were destroyed with ammunition explosion, another tank was damaged, but they managed to extinguish the fire and drag it away. It's a pity, but ok, it will take some time to repair it. Two tanks in the field were damaged severely; a detached tank turret is visible to the left. Between the two, a damaged vehicle stood, which managed to retreat.
They informed us that another tank was destroyed near 'Zozo.' Everyone distinguished himself in the action: anti-aircraft gunners, anti-tank gunners, machine gunners of infantry combat vehicles, grenade machine gun operators, and infantry. Everyone had work to do, although no textbooks describe such use of anti-aircraft artillery.
Now it is especially amusing to see images of Motorola's group waving their hands from the destroyed Т-64 id 4288.
10:25 a.m. A tankman was noticed near the tank. He was obviously wounded and attempted crawling. I sent a group to capture him. They seized the tank pointer, and then 'Matvii' the doctor was sent to aid him.
No need to write this out, it's clearly seen and heard.
Let me comment regarding the grenade: he was captured with an F-1 grenade in his arm; the gun-layer did not want to die, so he gave the grenade away. He remained as a blood-covered souvenir at the battalion command post.
The guy was injected with painkillers, his wounds and burns dressed; he was bandaged and carried to the kitchen. We brought a bed, a mattress, blankets, covered him, turned a heater on to warm him up.
I came to talk to him and asked what was wrong.
He says: "My arm is injured, a toe is lost, and an ear is missing."
I ask: "Your eyes?"
He says: "The eyes are ok."
'Matvii' medical man assured that the injured is stable and ready to be taken to hospital.
So if you dismiss bawdry and threats (which did not prevent from wounds dressing), we treated him as a person who was in an accident. Answering questions, the captive disclosed the volume of the attack group and their goal - to consolidate in Novohryhorivka. In the night, he was taken by Pasha 'Cherpak' and transferred to the reconnaissance.
Right after Pasha 'Cherpak' left, they started to shell with Grads. The place where the wounded rested was hit by a missile.
This is how they say, "death is following you, not your fate."
Two jet-propelled aircrafts fly low to the west from us, in south-to-north direction. They were identified to be Su-24. I request the HQ; guys from 'Kopye' joke whether they are ours or those of fascists? The HQ says we have no aviation in this area. So they are fascist ones.
Monday. Feb. 9, 2015.
I benefit from the morning silence and go with a group to the nearest tank in order to screw off something useful. The guys are making fun of it.
They demounted a large-caliber NSVT machine gun, I took pictures of the equipment. Asked the HQ for Kalashnikovs for tanks and NSVTs. Of course, they don't have it, so the machine guns are given to the guys.
Using a log, wire, nails, and handles from empty Shmels, the guys construct a following mounting for a tank Kalashikov:
The machine gun turned out to be quite fine, with poor accuracy which can be however corrected when firing in serial with tracers.
NSVT is worse, with very strong recoil.
Thus we have additional machine guns.
The quiet time is over at around 10 a.m.
Artillery shelling and concentration of the enemy are underway. They attempt it in several spots.
As usual, the weather gets real bad; visibility falls to some 200 m, then to 100 m.
Rocket missiles roar, a boom sounds in the air, than many of claps.
In the dug-out, it sounds as if someone emptied a bag with basketball balls in a gym above.
We assume that those are Smerch clusters falling at Novohryhorivka and us.
I hear of air strike upon our neighbors. I cannot confirm, for there were many rocket missiles flying. But there is no need to attack with aviation in poor visibility, Smerch and clusters work as well.
Connection was lost. As it turned out later, an explosion damaged battalion relay station. Only 'Kremen' neighbor hears me at 'Zozo'.
At around 4 p.m. the enemy launched an offensive. Infantry, one tank, and several infantry combat vehicles.
Serioha 'Orhanist' hit the infantry combat vehicle with an anti-tank guided missile. It got covered with smoke and was dragged away.
Vitia 'Muzykant' conducted a salvo, but they were saved by branches in the forest.
Further, the IFV covered itself behind the bushes and shot through branches.
The tank decided to make fool of us and went through bushes to the north. It showed up some 200 m from the position and headed to us.
It was greeted through the position from the south by Sasha 'Skrypach' with an anti-tank guided missile into its turret.
The tank stopped, and the situation resembled that of our first yesterday's trophy. Their infantry is 800 m away in the bushes and afraid to show up, the tank is in front of us without cover.
It was then hit by rocket anti-tank launchers, they hit and missed.
Sasha 'Panda' grenade launcher firer hit its side.
Now, he's ours, I thought.
During the fight, Maks 'Konsul' gave Roma 'Sever' a rocket-propelled flame thrower; a huge BOOOM, the tank's turret covered in fire, spare parts flying all over.
But the mechanic recovered, started the tank and took it to heaven-sent bushes.
I can hear on the battalion radio how 'Zozo' cheers for us, like for a boxer at a ring.
'Zeniiiit! Go go go! Hit them!"
I say "You have scared the tank away with your shouts."
The tank climbs behind the hill and dies out. Their infantry is covered by grenade machine guns. We wanted to send a group with grenade launchers and get to the destroyed tank, but they opened fire.
We were not allowed to proceed further from the position until dusk. Then their tow truck arrived and took the tank away with loud roar.
In general, after these three days, all subsequent attacks were conducted by infantry only. The equipment did not dare to show up from behind the bushes.
Yurii BREKHARIA, commander of 'Zenit' platoon strongpoint, for Censor.NET