Volodymyr Parasyuk is one of the recognizable figures of the Revolution of Dignity. After he bacame a member of the Verkhovna Rada, he was remembered for several bold actions: for example, he kicked in the face General of the SSU Vasyl Pisny for insulting Euromaidan.
In June, a hromadske correspondent accidentally met Parasyuk at one of the gas stations on the Pokrovsk-Dnipro highway. Parasyuk was on crutches and was driving to Dnipro for examination: during the shelling near Hirske, Luhansk region, he tried to hide in a shelter and ran into rebar. The iron entered 2 cm into the knee, tore the ligaments and meniscus. Despite this, the man refused to be hospitalized and returned to his unit in the Lysychansk area.
During that conversation at the gas station, it turned out that since the beginning of the large-scale invasion, Volodymyr has been a Special Operations Forces fighter. This was an occasion to listen to his story as a Special Operations Forces fighter. Direct speech below.
“I already had everything with me, weapons too”
The story is banal, but real, as they say. That night, when Russia entered our territory, I sent my wife and child to my parents in the Carpathians, I packed up and went to Kyiv.
I was going from Lviv with Oleh Sentsov. He was also in Lviv, also relocating his family, so we met there. It was a very tiring journey, because everyone was driving to the West. We were driving on the side of the road. During the trip, we were thinking about which units we could go to fight in.
I was supposed to be conscripted into the 24th brigade (24th separate Mechanized Brigade named after King Danylo, permanent deployment point — Yavoriv, Lviv region — ed.) because I’m from the west of Ukraine. I thought: “They’ll call; then I’ll decide, I don’t want to waste time now”. So I went to enlist myself in some territorial defense unit. I understood that various formalities could be skipped, the main thing was to go and fight.
I had friends in territorial defense, with whom we had been together in Dnipro-1 (volunteer battalion — ed.) in 2014. When I came to Kyiv, I immediately called these friends and met them. They were being armed at that moment while I already had everything with me, weapons too. Together with them, I went to a position in the Hostomel area. It was on the night between February 24th and 25th.
“They asked again and again if I would handle it, because they were in special forces”
My first battle since the beginning of a large scale invasion was on the bridge near Kyiv (the bridge over the Irpin River on Hostomel Highway, — ed.). The russians have broken through: half of the bridge collapsed, and they used another half to pass. And that’s where I met our Special Operations Forces fighters.
By the way, I chose between the 72nd brigade and the 8th Regiment of the Special Operations Forces. The commander of the 72nd brigade was near Hostomel, too, and I talked to him about the possibility of joining the brigade. But I had to go to Bila Tserkva (permanent deployment point of the 72nd Separate Mechanized Brigade named after the Black Zaporozhians — ed.) to do it.
But then I met the guys from the Special Operations Forces, they recognized me, and I said I wanted to join them. They asked again and again if I would handle it, because they were in special forces. I knew that it would be difficult, these people are true professionals. But I talked to them, I said: “You will teach me, I have no pretensions to any posts, I do not want managerial roles, I want to be an ordinary soldier.”
In the end, I chose the Special Operations Forces — because of the people I met. A battle group is like a family. For some reason, it so happened that they accepted me from the first days, and I accepted them, and we were comfortable with each other. We were like-minded, too. And our commander is very cool, “Lukas.” He is very smart as a military man and he’s simply a wonderful person.
After I chose the Special Operations Forces I called the military enlistment office and asked: can I join this military unit? I got the go-ahead. They wrote the letters and prepared all the necessary documents very quickly, and I was seconded to this group. Three days later, I was officially in the unit.
“We captured 5 pieces of equipment”
During the defense of Kyiv, the most memorable battle was the one in the area of Irpin. Our 80th Lviv brigade was there, and we went to strengthen them. There was a “Giraffe” position in Irpin — the supermarket “Giraffe” was located there. We had to either cover the withdrawal of the commandos, or in case of an offensive, reinforce them. And so we went to this position, completed the task, and the enemy left the positions near Stoyanka village, we had the hardest battle there. But we have something to brag about: we destroyed the total of five pieces of equipment, these were both airborne assault vehicles and tanks.
Then we got an order: to maneuver, withdraw to the bridge, take up positions there and cover the withdrawal of units that were on the other flank. If you look right at the Irpin Bridge, the one that was blown up, the village would be on the other side and we were shooting at the enemy across the road. And when everyone left, we were shelled with Grad rockets. We had five wounded and one killed there.
We were at these positions for another week or so, the most intense shelling was on the last day. Aviation was used against us, as well as their artillery that was very close. But we survived. We survived and completed the task that had been set: to contain the enemy’s offensive to avoid being encircled, and to cover the withdrawal of other units from the other flank.
“It’s a different war, if you compare 2014 and 2022”
If we compare these battles with my experience in the ATO, there were more positional battles back then, and more sabotage activities in Kyiv now. It means that we had to get into some territory, ambush and break up the column. Although we also had positional battles, very difficult battles. But the main difference is in the scale.
Dnipro-1 was a volunteer battalion back then and people in it didn’t have any specific information. Everything is completely different now: everything is clear, no confusion, everyone is responsible for their work. If you are a sniper, then you are a sniper, if you are a driver, you are a driver, if you are in reconnaissance, you are in reconnaissance.
There were a lot of tasks in the Kyiv region, but I can’t really tell you anything. We were even in Pripyat, in the exclusion zone — we also had some tasks there. There were battles there, too, but of a smaller scale. You see, our work is a little different from what others do: we are more like reinforcement, we perform sabotage activities, make ambushes, perform counter-sabotage activities, that’s what we were doing.
Then we were sent to Kharkiv. We were there for a short time, but we took two prisoners in one of the battles. One of them was seriously injured, and we took him out. It was an officer, and later it turned out that he gave a lot of useful information.
And after Kharkiv we went to Donbass, straight to Severodonetsk. I couldn’t even compare it with what was going on in the Kyiv region. This is a different scale, and the enemy has superior firepower. We were even saying that, if they had fired artillery like it was in the Kyiv region, we would have kicked them out of Severodonetsk long ago. But they wouldn’t stop, they could fire at one square for 20 hours in a row with everything they have. In Kyiv, you just didn’t know what phosphorous shells were, they weren’t fired, but here it happens very often. Plus aviation: near Kyiv, the plane could fly over us and we would think: “Oh…like, wow, the plane is firing at us.” And here, they are flying over us all the time.
Leaving Severodonetsk, was it the right thing to do?
It was right, no doubts. People with extensive professional experience work in those areas. Actually, this “appendicitis” has no strategic goal at all, there is nothing to hold on to. But there is a question of whether Ukraine should waste a really professional army on this “appendicitis”. Very professional, there are different units fighting there, and they are very motivated, strong people that we need. And, like it or not, every day there are losses among these people.
Could we have kept Severodonetsk? We could, but not with the artillery that we had. It’s not even a matter of someone not giving weapons, such weapons simply don’t exist physically. If they don’t exist, you need to choose the best positions and hold them.
In these areas, russia was doing everything to deplete our units. At the same time, we are inflicting them much more harm there, but these are very risky areas. We’ve already escaped from one encirclement (the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Zolote and Hirske — ed.), we’ve already been there. Here’s the question: who would feel better if, for example, this encirclement had been successful and the people, our units, hadn’t got out of there? Some would probably have been captured, and some would have died. But these people have withdrawn to more advantageous lines and continue to inflict huge losses on the enemy.
“The goal in this war is to completely destroy the russian army”
This is not a war for cities and villages, this is a war for complete destruction of the russian army, you have to understand it. Until we destroy the last piece of it, we will have no order, peace and tranquillity. You have to understand it. They will continue coming here. So, we have to choose more advantageous positions to make them suffer as many losses as possible. The weaker they are, the easier it will be for us to move forward.
Therefore, I fully support the decision to evacuate our troops from Severodonetsk. How can you fight when there is a rear on their side, and we simply do not have the geographical features of the territory that would allow us to fight properly? There are three blown up bridges (the bridges across the Siversky Donets River, which connected Severodonetsk with Lysychansk — ed.), so ammunition is delivered by boat and evacuation of the wounded takes place by boat. Are you going to send a tank by boat? And without tanks, it is very difficult there.
Therefore, this is not a loss, not a betrayal, on the contrary — a victory if we think logically, in terms of strategic planning. Because now, the main thing is to save the lives of soldiers so that they can continue to serve and protect the state. And the overall picture will not change because of two or three kilometers of retreat or maneuvers.
People who perform tasks in the Luhansk direction are performing a feat. This is beyond human capabilities. It’s not just our regiment, but all the units. And Ukrainians should be inspired by what our army is doing and support the army.
Our group, for example, repelled the offensive in Lysychansk, and we also took an expensive armored personnel carrier from the Russians. There are also guys from our regiment at other positions who destroyed five tanks in four days — and there are fewer than 20 of them. And when we took the armored personnel carrier away, there were only five of us, not 20. I am just saying it for you to understand how much the guys show heroism and dedication.
Someone may think: “Well, there is battling, fighting in the Luhansk region, same as everywhere”. Not everywhere. This is such a difficult direction in the entire history of this invasion, that you just wonder where those people get the strength to continue resisting.
After a conversation with Volodymyr, we learned that Ukrainian troops also left Lysychansk. On his Facebook page, he wrote that all the tasks in the area of Severodonetsk-Lysychansk were completed, and it no longer made sense to keep this “appendicitis”, which was at risk of being encircled.
“Sometimes you have to take a step back to take two steps forward later” Parasyuk summed up.