At the beginning of the war the commander of the 503rd Marine Infantry battalion Vadym Sukharevskyi (callsign Borsuk (Badger)) headed the Third company of the 80th Brigade who used to fight at the hottest spots of this war. In particular, this unit participated in the defense of Luhansk airport and the operation on de-blocking it when LAP happened to get totally encircled. Today the 503rd battalion has been successfully holding their segment of the frontline in Mariupol sector.
The legendary commander told us about the current course of the war, about heroes and traitors; about both tragic and comical moments that often go hand in hand, in his interview.
– Vadym, could you describe the current situation in your battalion’s responsibility zone? How close your positions are to the opponent’s lines?
– We have moved to our present positions just a few weeks ago. The situation can be described as constantly intense, and the distance to the enemy’s lines at the defense area makes about three or four hundred meters. Still, there are positions where the distance to the opponent makes just about 60 meters.
– But this is too close!
– Yes. There are lots of powerful sniper and counter-sniper fighting taking place within our responsibility zone. The good news is that we have already got used to this zone quite well. Actually, since we have been fighting in this sector since 2015 without any breaks. So we just returned to the place that we had learnt perfectly, so to say, from A to Z. Where literally everything that had been done, was done by us.
However, I must also thank our predecessors whom we replaced under rotation here. They fought properly. And hold the positions that we had taken over at great cost. Before the rotation, there were over seventy wounded in our battalion, and almost ten irreparable losses.
The bad thing was that the opponent caused lots of damage in terms of engineering.
– Did they dig even deeper into the ground? When did they manage to?
– Just recently. They have been working on fortifications, and are now proceeding with that. Still we are going to prevent this! At least, we do our best to stop them doing this.
The opponent is armed with all kinds of weapons. Starting from small arms to tanks and missile systems. Nevertheless, there are no fierce artillery duels there. At the short distance, we are actively exchanging with small arms fire.
– Do snipers work often from their side?
– Yes, sometimes.
– Do you know who holds positions across the line?
– The so called 9th Regiment. It is the Mechanized Naval Infantry Regiment – the short name that tells everything.
Still our battalion is quite a tough nut to crack. Our permanent location place is Mariupol. In November of 2017 we gained the status of a separate unit. Before we used to be a line battalion with the 36th Brigade. We are armed with BMP-1 and BMP-2 APCs, plus with our own artillery, so we feel quite confident. We have all the possibilities for effective work.
The battalion’s backbone are the guys who have been fighting a lot. We are known as an active combat unit, so quite often the guys who used to fight in 2014–2015 and later had a break in their military career, chose our unit for further contract service.
Likewise, the spine of our battalion has been formed – from those guys who used to fight here, who learnt about their opponent much and who have been showing good results. More than 90% of the guys possess combat experience, and about a half of them went through the war’s hottest stages in 2014–2015.
Hence, Mariupol remains pretty well-protected city.
– It is quite a significant power.
– In our battalion, the overwhelming majority of personnel (not to mention the officers!) are decorated with lots of state awards. In our collection, we have A Bohdan Khmelnytskyi order and more than 40 Orders for Courage as well as other awards handed to our fighters by General Staff, President, Defense Minister…
– Have you been with the 503rd Battalion from the very beginning?
– Not exactly. I took command of the battalion in 2016, when it had turned to be about a year since formation.
– Is there any difference between the battalion as of 2016 and its present condition?
– Definitely, I’m not the one to judge. But, generally, yes. As an officer, now I‘m quite satisfied with the work completed. In contrast to the previous years.
At that time, I just graduated from the Ivan Chernyakhovsky National Defense University of Ukraine, and was assigned to the Naval Infantry where I took up this battalion. The commander of the brigade warned me then that the battalion was quite a challenge to head.
– Why, exactly?
– Let us just mention that there were people mobilized within the 4th, 5th and 6th waves. Lots of alcohol addicts, lots of non-operational equipment, and total deficiency of senior staff…
And now we possess everything we need. Our own snipers, artillery, UAVs…
– Do you realize in which direction you are going to grow?
– In fact, I don’t…
– Why so?
– I’m a father. These guys are my kids, my family. I wouldn’t like to move to any other post, since I haven’t finished the things I previously planned yet. When I’m through with all these, then I will start to think about the future.
– Actually, it doesn’t make any secret that across the front line, Russians are fighting side-by-side with local separatists. How many of them are there, do you have any information on this?
– I will not disclose any military secret if I say that those rotting in their dugouts and cause mass shooting are just a sort of consumables for them. The senior staff, the officers who command their units, battalions, regiments, are exclusively Russians.
– Does this role of a “second sort” manpower affect the attitude of local militants anyhow?
– From what we know, there are cases of desertion, mass defection, refusal to obey military orders there. On the other hand, even the salary the militants are paid, make the society’s lower strata go to the war.
– So there are no those committed there? Do they fight for money only?
– I used to meet different people while serving here. What is the attitude of those who called the war ii there, in Ukraine? They are not what you’d called smart. As a friend of mine’s wife said, all the people possessing the IQ above average, are on our side. All who are not that smart, all of them are on their side.
– Do the enemy’s saboteur groups approach you?
– Last year, there have been incidents. As I already mentioned, we have a position in the shortest possible distance from the opponents’ lines, – the distance makes just 60 meters. And in a foggy weather, their saboteur group entered our territory. We happened to injure three of them, and kill one. After this, they would never approach us again.
Once, there was an incident for which six of my subordinates got awarded state decorations: one of them was awarded a Bohdan Khmelnytskyi order, and the rest of guys got Orders For Courage (two of them posthumously).
While counter attacking, my guys jumped into the opponent’s dugouts and started a hand-to-hand combat. As a result, they killed 9 enemies and wounded 16. Also, they stopped two tank attacks (tank approached them to 200 meters) and the opponent’s BMP flank attacks.
These were the results of the four marines’ fighting, as two other guys were killed earlier, while approaching, with the enemy machine gun fire…
– Did you happen to take any prisoners?
– In 2014, we captured the RF army major, some separs, and two their logistics officers, – one from the “DPR” and the other from the “LPR”… There were lots of stories. Near Sloviansk, for example, on the 2nd of May, 2014, we took over the 3rd checkpoint in the Izum direction. There was a fierce battle… The separatists then downed two our Mi–24s. Still we managed to capture their checkpoint anyway.
And, correspondingly, the permit system was launched there. General Kulchytskyi was still alive then, – he brought us reinforcement, his first company that later was named after him and constituted the base for future National Guard: at that time, it just began to get formed. So my unit and general Kulchytskyi’s company fought head to head.
Well, back to the permit system. We are stopping a jeep. And suddenly, purely incidentally, a soldier finds out a grenade near the transmission, under the covering. Naturally, we started to check the vehicle with even more accuracy. Found a uniform, a pump weapon, a gun, several knives, and – almost unbelievable – a big black dildo.
My guys called me in and showed me the stuff. The driver told he was delivering it to his son. Still he could not name neither the number of his military unit, nor branch of forces or the city where his son was serving. That is, we got he was cheating on us, immediately.
– But why did his son need the dildo, did he specify?
– Similarly, I couldn’t resist asking him the same thing. He thought for a while, and then said that if I could live to his own age, I would have learnt the reason behind. Still when we asked whether this had anything to do with the prostate massage, he kept silent and did not reply as if he got ashamed.
But when we started to examine his documents, we found another ID within his driver license covering, and this was the certificate of the “DPR” deputy army commander on logistics.
Another guy possessing the alike ID of the “LPR” deputy army commander on logistics was captured by us, together with the Aidar battalion patrol, near Luhansk airport. He offered us a bribe worth a million Russian rubles, for his release.
Near Sloviansk, we also happened to catch a priest armed with an AKSU. He belonged to the Moscow Patriarchate. We were checking vehicles. The traffic was limited, so, accordingly, there was a long line at the checkpoint. He started to incite the crowd using curse words, was outraged. In the end, we lost patience and pressed him against his vehicle. And while turning him with his face towards the car, we heard the sound of metal striking the body of the vehicle. We lifted his clothes up and saw an AK, magazine holder and so on.
– It has been repeatedly said there were aimers in the Moscow Patriarchate churches, and well as militants who used to hide out there…
– You see, I never concealed my attitude toward the Moscow Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and I will always say that this structure is a cancer in our country’s body. It must be eradicated surgically as a phenomenon.
Near Sloviansk, we knew for sure that separatists got blessed and baptized at Moscow Patriarchate churches. Also, the militants stored their ammo inside, and their sniper groups found shelter and spent nights there as well…
Logically, nobody can guarantee that today this is not happening again, right?
I’m sure it happens. That is why I say that the Moscow Patriarchate for me is an absolutely inimical thing for Ukraine.
And I’m very glad that the public interest towards this topic has been increasingly growing. I think it should be paid even more attention on the part of the society. Honestly, I’m an advocate of the more forceful option of solution to this problem.
– What do you mean? Should we come up, arrest and deport them?
– That’s right. To throw their doorplate away and replace it with another one declaring that their churches from now on belong to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate or any other confession. That’s all. This will allow to entirely solve the problem.
Because excuse me, but it is an absolutely abnormal situation when In Ivano-Frankivsk or Lviv region they bless Nicholas II and curse Mazepa!
– What is surprising about it? In Kharkiv, they are promoting a Russian soldier who had been killed in a Russian-Chechen war, as a martyr… Still he’s just an invader, in fact.
– And what do you think about the incident that took place in Zaporizhzhia when their priest refused to conduct a funeral service for a late child? Or Kyiv Pechersk Lavra? My sister is a journalist. Once she happened to meet one of their high-rank monks who just arrived in a Lexus, and asked him how he managed to buy such an expensive car. He just yelled at her swearing, outraged…
– Yes, they can do all this. Let us leave them alone. Our fighters, that’s what really matters. The heart bleeds when you get news about our new losses…
– And there are lots of them, unfortunately… To say, we are “lucky” to get into the hottest spots in the frontline. Since 2014 there were no easy tasks for us.
Still, we manage to stay quite competitive as regards intensity of fire in the Avdiivka industrial zone. That is why the situation can be called neither quiet nor relaxed here, yet it remains stable.
– Have there ever been actual ceasefires in the forefront?
– Do you mean that “school” or “bread” ones? The opposite party always ignores them! They use this time for reinforcement of their positions, engineering works, provocative actions and so on. But we cannot allow them succeed in their attempts.
– There was an information that in your sector the contact line has been slightly altered and our troops advanced a bit. Can you say something about this?
– I can only tell that we have made certain advances. We have really improved our positions, though it is not about liberation of any localities. It has still been so far.
To be continued.
Text: Lilia Rahutska, Obozrevatel
Let us remind that the fundraising we carry out within the Mariupol Defenders project is aimed to support the battalion of the Marines headed by Vadym Sukharevskyi. Please be sure that your contributions are treated with due responsibility and allocated to the aims exceptionally helpful in making our joint Victory closer.