Ukraine War Day #337: A Soldier’s Life On the Ugledar Front [continued]

Dear Readers:

Continuing (and concluding) my review of this piece by KP war correspondent Dmitry Steshin. We saw that Steshin’s old friend “Les” (“Forest”), once an ordinary soldier, now promoted to commander, drove the reporter to the rather luxurious underground bunker where his soldiers live. This is very close to the front line near Ugledar, possibly the most important battlefront in the war, currently. Or at least, this is what a lot of military analysts are saying.

In their Five-Star dugout, the soldiers have plenty of food and treats; they even have children’s water-color paintings to entertain them.

These Russian soldiers have it pretty good in their dugout. They are warm and toasty, they have a stove, a couch, lots of food; and now Steshin is bringing them “humanitarian packages” filled with even more goodies, including hand-knitted socks and tasty sausages. Steshin found himself encircled by a small herd of army cats, trying to get at the sausages. These stray cats live in the dugout, where their job is to take care of the rodent situation. Seems like they get enough food, as the place is over-run with mice. But no, these greedy-guts would like a piece of sausage as well.

Where we left off: While chatting with the ordinary soldiers, a delicate issue was broached: The relationship between the people of Donbass and those living in The Big Land, i.e., mainland Russia. It seems that Donbass people have occasionally experienced discrimination at the hands of “mainland” Russians.

Steshin: A young soldier dressed from head to toe in brand-new regulation uniform, relates how his evacuated family attempted, last summer, to rent a flat in Taganrog: “Some people said to them, You’re the reason why this whole thing happened, we have nothing to rent to you! And they could see with their own eyes that there were tons of empty flats available.”

Their “political Commissar” jumps into the discussion: “Back in 2020 a taxi driver was driving me from the border area, and he asks me, What is the [Ukrainian] hryvna worth now? And I tell him, We haven’t been using the hryvna since December 2014. You [Russians] have a war going on 100 kilometers from where you live, don’t you take any interest what goes on there? I don’t know why I let myself get so upset, people like him are in the minority. Most people take an interest and ask how things are going in the Donbass. But these others are so toxic, once you encounter them, you can’t get them out of your mind for half your life.”

[yalensis: If such a careless and seemingly harmless remark upsets the Commissar, then I hope he never has to encounter the true Fifth Columnists of Russia. Those people like Mark Feigin who cheer on Azov Battalion and can’t wait for the day when (they believe) they will see Donbass and Crimean Russians burned alive.]

The Prophecy

In the corner of the dugout, there is a radio communications station. The wall above it is covered with children’s drawings from the humanitarian aid packages.

The radio hisses: “Drone alert! North-East direction!” The radio operator turns up the volume so that everyone can hear. Our planned excursion to pull water from the well outside, has to be postponed for now.

Then a new communication from a different channel: “We are observing a very bright flash, looks to be a Sobol (sable).” The Ukrainians have begun their new rotation with a bang. Les and I go to have a smoke in the entry way, you can’t smoke in the dugout, everybody would choke to death. Les and I enter into an interesting conversation on the theme, Should one pray for one’s enemy? We come to the conclusion: Yes. We should pray that he comes to reason. Then I ask him: “What is the overall situation here? How are we actually doing?”

“The way I understand it, the enemy is petering out here, all of his forces have been sent to prop up the Artyomovsk-Soledar front. They themselves puffed up Artyomovsk in their P.R., and now they have to do whatever they can to keep it. That’s why they are sending all their reserves there. I believe they have left only a skeleton crew for us, just enough to put on a show sometimes. They will pretend to attack, for example, just to keep us on our toes.”

A soldier’s job is not an easy one. Since ancient times, soldiers were expected to be competent handymen and construction workers, as well as skilled fighters.

These words turned out to be prophetic, as we shall see.

“The enemy claims he will keep Artyomovsk-Bakhmut even if he has to hold it with his teeth, while awaiting Super-Weapons from the West. Is that how you see it?”

Les agrees: “For sure, they are just playing for time now, but all the same they are losing resources, equipment, and men.”

“Is there anything you are lacking in the trenches? Just close your eyes and imagine for a second, what if a helicopter were to arrive in an hour and bring you everything that you need.”

Les laughs: “Soldiers with good working hands! Soldiers who know how to build themselves a comfortable little nest on the front lines. Who don’t just sit there and wait for somebody to bring them stuff. The government supplies us with stoves and construction materials. What do we need soldiers for? A good set of hands.”

“What about the technology?”

“We had to deal with the fact that the enemy possesses certain breeds of quadrocopters which our air defenses cannot suppress. There are only a few of these, but they are unpleasant to deal with. We have anti-drone cannons, but unfortunately they were designed by civilian engineers.”

After midnight the soldiers bring water on a handcart, I help to unload it, and I am struck for the first time, just how totally dark it is out on the street. You don’t see this complete lack of illumination in any of the cities or towns. And under the cover of darkness, an automobile approaches. Les tells me: “Hang on to my unloading strap.” He leads me like a sherpa. I am completely blind, I can only feel with the soles of my boot: This is mud, this is crushed gravel, here is a tile from a torn-off roof, and there is the car. All the lights have been turned off, even the cabin illuminations. I switch on the infra-red setting on my camera, but the driver orders quickly: “Switch it off, they can detect night vision.”

When we reach the edge of the village, somebody waves a flashlight at us, from the shelter of a bush. It is a soldier, almost invisible in the darkness. He reports to Les: “They started to attack our position. No, it’s not a diversionary group, something bigger than that. Our guys are fighting back, we have one wounded, he needs to be evacuated.”

I listen, as the sound of battle gets louder, then softer, not that far away. You hear the barking of the grenade launcher, and the work of the heavy machine guns. I quickly whisper my goodbyes to Les, leaping from the car directly into the mud.

On the following day, in our morning briefing, we learned that his prophecy turned out to be true: The little skirmish in the night, our guys pushed them back, of course.

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7 Responses to Ukraine War Day #337: A Soldier’s Life On the Ugledar Front [continued]

  1. I would like your opinion on the movie Best In Hell.


    • To expound on what Fiendly said, because Yalensis can’t be aware of EVERY media bit, especially when there’s opera to listen to, ‘Best In Hell’ is a 1 hr 50-minute movie about waging war in Ukraine, filmed by the men behind the Wagner Group. The linked version is in Russian with English subtitles for people not as polylingual as Y. Watch it soon before Utoob censors it. Judging from the comments below the vid, tit’s been removed before. It got thumbs-up from commenters on some other site I read, maybe Naked Capitalism or Moon of Alabama. I go through a lot of news and I don’t always remember everything. I have just started watching it. Might take me a few days because I don’t have home Internet service (I’m cheap that way) so I catch snippets on my laptop at the library. Looks gritty!


    • yalensis says:

      I plan to watch it sometime this weekend, when I have more time.
      I’ll either do a review of it, or comment on it. Stay tuned!


  2. Liborio Guaso says:

    The fact is that the ordinary Russian cannot understand the racial superiority alleged by the West to impose their way of life for them. Even when Russia does not have the criminal record of the European white race.
    That same problem exists around with everyone.
    The worst thing is that racism has no cure and the only treatment is violence. The Russians know this and that is why they are preparing for the worst.
    The European white race had its chance to stop being the barbarians of Roman times and be normal human beings with Christianity and it has turned out worse.
    And you just have to look at Rome.


  3. Daniel Rich says:

    About soldiers being handymen, back in time:

    “London was also a Roman city later on, and the Romans are thought to have given it some of its earliest sewers. They certainly built sewers in other British towns, for instance Eboracum – today’s York – where some of the Roman sewer network was discovered intact in 1972. These Roman sewers in Britain, like the Cloaca Maxima, actually dealt mainly with used water from the communal baths that the Romans regarded as an essential element of civilization.”

    Real combat leaves an impression on the mind, very few civvies will ever phantom. One of the reasons I long for peace.


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