Three Russian prisoners of war report on anxious moments before the shelling

How are soldiers doing just before the big attack of enemy troops? How do you feel when you realize that the enemy has the upper hand? Three Russian soldiers from a unit who were taken prisoner after a Ukrainian attack near the small town of Welyka Novosilka spoke to the Wall Street Journal about the battles at the front and the moments before they were defeated.

Russian soldier recalls haunted atmosphere before Ukrainian attack

One of them is Anatoly. He still remembers the calm before the storm shortly before the Ukrainians attacked. The Russian stayed in the defensive positions with his comrades. The mood was spooky. “Everyone was silent and wondered from which side they might be advancing,” reports Anatoly. Everyone would have been afraid – of the attack and for their lives. “We just hoped that the Ukrainian counter-offensive would not come,” said the soldier. It had been quiet for two days. But then the Ukrainian troops launched their “violent attack” last week.

Then: complete chaos. In the midst of the shelling, Anatoly, originally assigned as driver and mechanic, could not have seen the Ukrainian soldiers on the battlefield. Suddenly, a few minutes later, they reached his position and threw hand grenades into the trenches. Anatoli’s friend Georgi and other comrades lost their lives. He then surrendered himself, reports the soldier.

Unit behind the fighting soldiers should prevent retreat – if necessary by force

Anton also laid down his arms as a result of the advance. His arm and leg were injured in the attack. Together with other wounded comrades, the ex-prisoner shouted to the Ukrainian soldiers that he was surrendering. There was no other option for him, says Anton, who was previously in prison for a drug offense.

After all, a Russian block force behind his unit would have ensured that the soldiers at the front held their positions. “If we withdraw, they will shoot us,” says the soldier, who was recruited by the paramilitary group “Storm Z”.

When Ukrainian army attacks, Russian soldier panics

That’s why the soldiers’ morale is “pretty low,” Dmitri, another soldier in the unit, told the Wall Street Journal. He would not have received any real basic military training anyway, but only completed gunnery training and a first aid course. Then he was sent directly to a settlement near Welyka Nowosilka.

When the Ukrainian army opened fire there, Dmitri panicked at the shelling from tanks and artillery. Together with another comrade, it ran out of the trenches and surrendered. Although he is now in captivity, he is reluctant to be sent back to Russia in a prisoner exchange for fear of how Russia’s FSB might react. “If I have the opportunity, I want to refuse to be exchanged,” says Dmitri.

Jean Harris

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