Sniper Denis Pylypets: “Even if there are a lot of Russian scum around us, it’s still our land”
|Denis Pylypets (nicknamed “Sarmat”), a sniper of the National Guard of Ukraine, who has been fighting in Donbass since 2014, told the Week about his own frontline adventures, the evolution of the Ukrainian army and the peculiarities of his current work.|
The reasons for secrecy around your work are clear. But, if possible, tell us about your first combat mission.
– I will say so. The beginning of the war for me began in the ranks of the reconnaissance platoon of one of the volunteer battalions. In June, we were told to go to the Bakhmut area and capture the enemy’s “fortified area.” Before that, our artillery worked on the object, but when we entered the enemy trenches, our surprise knew no bounds. Even then, Russian mercenaries were able to build huge dugouts and professionally cover them. However, these structures did not help them much: dozens of people were killed everywhere as a result of our artillery shelling, and the rest fled. When we found the documents of this object, it turned out that there were 160 people on duty in only one shift along the outer perimeter. And we were approached by 24 soldiers, half of whom were conscripts, although we were tasked with maintaining this area.
We knew it would be difficult, but when we looked at the syringes left behind by the terrorists, we realized that we were being fought by drug addicts, bandits, and former convicts who took up arms to feel like “real men.” They were reinforced by the Kadyrovites, who sent us greetings via communication channels: “Hello, checkpoint! Let’s come, we’ll cut everyone out. ” But the Kadyrovites fight when there are many of them and when they do not see serious resistance. Otherwise they run away without even thinking about the consequences. And if they are taken prisoner, they cry and ask: “Mother, please, don’t kill! My whole family will pray for you! ”
In general, in early 2014 there were many crazy and chaotic events, but at the same time serious actions. To achieve a certain goal, we sometimes acted quite radically. For example, to capture the prisoner we needed, they disguised themselves in Russian uniforms and entered the temporarily occupied territory. They came to the address and shouted: “You handed us over to dill!” took away the target in front of shocked neighbors and relatives. And while the separatists were looking for an unknown group that allegedly took theirs, we were already talking calmly with the prisoner.
As far as I know, you as a spy did not have professional training. Was it hard to get used to working and gaining knowledge literally in battle?
– As I said, we did not have stability. We were on duty for a few days, could hold certain positions with the infantry, and then returned to the base, where the commander could meet us and say, “I didn’t think you were alive.” We just wanted to win and did everything we could, although sometimes they even stuck their sticks in our wheels. In 2015, I saw ammunition being taken from the guys at the positions and locked so that they would not shoot at the enemy. Such actions of the command paralyzed any desire to fight, because it seemed that the enemy was everywhere. Once we were brought documents to sign, in which we had to prove that we would not open fire. After the mats and a heated conversation with the immediate commander, he took the documents and left. And I resigned and went home: I could no longer take part in this absurdity.
However, we are talking to you now, being at the front. Obviously, there was some reason to return.
– In 2016, my friends called me and said that there was a specific job and in addition we were given the opportunity to fight again. When I arrived at the front, I was immediately caught in a whirlpool of turbulent events that could be the last in my life, although the war mostly consists of such situations. My brothers and I were in “secret”, watching the enemy. To the left was a landing, in front of a deep ravine, fields. I went to bed first. I don’t know how much time has passed, but I woke up my brother with the words: “Get up, we are being bypassed.” At first I thought it was a joke, but when I listened, I heard monotonous footsteps from three sides. It was clear that these were several people, but they acted professionally. My brother got up to full height and, as if not noticing the enemies, began to make a karemat and lit a cigarette – all in front of the enemy DRG. I would like to see their puzzled faces, however, we threw a grenade on the road and immediately fired automatic weapons at the occupiers. We managed to fight back and go to our checkpoint.
The next day we went to the battlefield again to find two stores with ammunition that had been lost at night, and to reconnoiter everything on the spot. There we saw the paths they took to us, and a large pool of blood – so we still managed to kill someone. We miraculously survived then. We were saved by the unusual behavior of a friend, because otherwise we would all have been shot or, worse, taken prisoner.
You say that in 2016, interesting work began for you and it became freer to fight. What did it turn out to be?
– First, we were really given the opportunity to fight. Secondly, it was already a systemic war, not a chaotic one. In a certain part of Luhansk region we had our own system of speakers who shared interesting information with us. There was no previous guerrilla warfare, only concrete, professional and balanced work. There were, of course, bizarre cases. For example, a local informant once handed over a man to us, stating that he was cooperating with the separatists. But later it turned out that our informant simply owed him money and decided to use us not to give anything away. Or such a case. The poor family received help from a local businessman, the owner of the store: he gave them food so that they could survive in difficult times. And then the head of this family informed the occupiers that the owner of the store helps the soldiers of the Armed Forces … This has happened more than once, and in this one can see what kind of life Donbass inherited from the Soviet Union. And such cases forced us to carefully check the information and even go to the rear of the enemy at a distance of up to 15 km, if we needed to get certain data.
How did you feel during such operations in the rear?
– We knew and understood what we were doing. But such campaigns were treated in cold blood: even if there are a lot of Russian scum around, it is still our land. So let them be afraid, and we are at home.
And how did your sniper career begin?
– From a curious case. There was one sniper in our unit who had a rifle but was very lazy. After another low-quality work, he received beatings from us, the guys took the rifle from this grief-soldiers and gave it to me. I started reading on the Internet about the specifics of sniper shooting, turned to our masters of this business and began to study. The first one I had was the Fort 301, a pretty good rifle at the time. I was surprised by its accuracy: from 800 meters I hit the loophole. However, later, shooting month after month, I got a good experience, and then a better rifle.
I have been waiting for this question for a long time. Do you remember your first killed enemy? Is it possible to ask about this at all?
– The first is remembered forever. We sat in positions, on duty. At one point I saw my head protrude from the dugout: I well remember that the enemy’s face was clean-shaven. Since the distance to it was 740 meters, I had no right to miss. But I managed everything: even to see him fly back into the dugout.
What did you feel then?
– The level of adrenaline has risen, a pleasant tremor has passed all over the body – it is impossible to convey. As a scout, I saw enemies at a distance of a few meters, but my professional skills forced me not to touch the enemy, because we were going to reconnoiter, not kill. That’s why I was always depressed by the feeling that I was not working hard. And when he fired the first shot from a sniper rifle and aimed at the enemy, he realized that it was mine. The emptiness in my heart was filled, and I lovingly began to do my job.
A few days later, we spotted an enemy counter-sniper group at the spot where I had killed my first occupier. The two fighters were on duty day and night, they even had appropriate sights for night and day shooting. In order not to risk ourselves or our infantry, we drove out two BMPs and began to aim at the target. I don’t know about the fate of the enemy snipers, but we didn’t see anyone there anymore.
Properly pull the trigger, determine the distance, direction and speed of the wind, successfully choose the position, patiently observe – these are the components of a successful sniper. Can you add anything else?
– Of course. Killing an enemy is half the battle. First of all, you need to remember about the infantry that you can substitute. When you destroy the enemy, be prepared that the answer will come from artillery or machine gun. Therefore it is necessary to look for such place for shooting that will not create problems for fellows. The experience of a scout helped me in this, because a sniper is first and foremost a scout, and his skill depends on many factors.
We should also not forget about our own safety, because we are opposed by already trained Russian snipers who have been through more than one war. In addition, during the six years of the war, the separatists also learned to fight. Therefore, in order to stay alive, the enemy must be hated and at the same time respected in a certain sense.
When you return to base after the executed task, wear civilian clothes and try to live like a normal person, walking the city, eating ice cream, call your friends. How do you do that? Does your profession not cause discomfort?
– We destroy the enemy, not people. Russian occupiers who came to our land to kill ordinary citizens of Ukraine. It is the duty of everyone who considers himself a real man to defend the country and do so in various ways. Therefore, I do not have a drop of pity or remorse for my actions.
To what extent are our snipers now prepared to confront a trained and experienced enemy?
– I don’t know what the situation was like before, at the beginning of the war, but now our affairs are quite good. We are prepared, trained, mostly equipped, which gives us the opportunity to work even better than Russian mercenaries, because I repeat: we are on our own land. We would like to be given the opportunity to work always and that this so-called armistice does not prevent the liberation of Ukraine from the aggressor.
Because the Russian army, like their snipers, is artificially inflated by propaganda. Yes, they have tanks and guns, but who wants to fight in a foreign land? Especially when there is a real prospect of becoming disabled or dying.
By the way, how do our infantry treat snipers? Don’t envy you?
– The guys who once fought and understand the specifics of our work, rejoice and help. However, we often come to positions where “workers” happen, and it starts there: “Why did you come here? We had everything calm, and now it will start … “. But we are at war, so we need to get used to everything. It will not be easy, but we will definitely win.