Volunteers who defend Mykolaiv share their stories of the battlefield

Mykolaiv volunteer fighters
Mykolaiv volunteer fighters

These volunteers share their stories of the battlefield, and their opinions on the behavior of the Russian army: explaining Russian tactics in the southern region and why the Russians keep shelling residential districts of Mykolaiv, another major southern city, with artillery.

As of today, Kherson and its neighboring localities are the location of some of the most intensive combat happening in Ukraine, matched only by the intensity of hostilities in the areas of Donetsk and Luhansk.

The Russian invaders who established control over Kherson are now trying to move further, pressuring Ukrainian servicemembers defending the territory near Mykolaiv. Meanwhile, the Russians are constantly using artillery against the city, damaging residential structures and killing civilians.

Read also: Ukraine’s counter-offensive in Kherson Oblast. What will Russia do?

Along with the regular army, volunteers are making their own contribution to the safety and security of the country’s south.

“At that moment I was living in Czech Republic,” says Artem, a volunteer with the nom-de-guerre Riko.

"In September, I retired from the military service and went abroad to work. On February 24, when the war started, I came back home immediately.”

Artem was born in Mykolaiv, and his parents and his extended family still live here. For four years he served with the 36th Marine Brigade of the Ukrainian army. When his contract expired in September 2021, he made the decision to go back to life as a civilian. However, the Russian invasion five months later made him change his plans.

“I came back because I have parents living here, also relatives,” he said.

"That’s my main motivation – I have to protect them. Why did I choose to become a volunteer? Because all of us here are fighting not for money, but for our land and our loved ones.”

It took two days for Artem to get to Mykolaiv from Czechia. When he read the news about beginning of the war in the morning on February 24, he hitchhiked all the way to the Ukrainian border. His Czech employer was trying to convince Artem to stay and continue working.

“But I went crazy and started my journey,” Artem adds.

Mykolaiv volunteers enjoy rest <span class="copyright">courtesy</span>
Mykolaiv volunteers enjoy rest courtesy

He had to cross the border on foot. A woman picked him up, who was heading back from Poland to help her family with relocation. After she reached the Polish border, she dropped Artem off immediately, picked up her relatives, and went back to Poland. This is how Artem found himself between the Polish and Ukrainian borders.

“What are you doing here?” Ukrainian border guards asked Artem.

“What? I’m going home to fight,” he replied.

Then the border guards helped Artem to cross the Ukrainian border, where he had to walk another 15 kilometers until he was picked up by some volunteers who helped him reach Lviv, a major western Ukrainian city. From Lviv, Artem went to Mykolaiv and joined a local group of volunteers.

This group is led by Volodymyr, whom his fellow volunteers call Scythian. He’s a former Ukrainian marine. Along with other veterans, Volodymyr began training civilians in Mykolaiv, mostly local farmers who wanted to take part in defending the city and the region. After learning basic military skills, those people are now fighting the war closer to Kherson Oblast.

“Our task is preserving the defense line closer to Kherson, conducting counter-attacks in those frontline areas where this is possible, entering villages or any other places that we want to keep safe and then moving forward,” Volodymyr explains.

Read also: NV interviews Mykolaiv's charismatic governor Vitaliy Kim

“Our business also includes intelligence activities, destroying the enemy’s military equipment, breaking stalemates in certain areas, clearing territories, helping and Ukrainian troops to get out of encirclements.”

These Mykolaiv volunteers, according to their stories, have two special features that make them different from those Ukrainian soldiers who have their contracts signed with the Ministry of Defense.

Firstly, they are much more mobile and flexible in their operational activity.

“Regular troops have a very important principle for their actions – that’s hierarchy and the chain of command,” says Volodymyr.

“Regular troops can't do much outside what is mentioned in a given order. Breaking orders during the war is unwelcome, while as volunteers, we can act differently. When we have 200s [killed] or 300s [wounded], we don’t have to do all the regular military paperwork.

So we have wider rights, and wider opportunities in combat. That’s why our efforts can be put into more dangerous areas. Our hands are much more free for specific work, targeting particular goals.”

Secondly, volunteers don’t depend on regular army supplies, and rely on own sources. They have their own vehicles, while their arsenal mostly includes weapons which were taken from Russian soldiers.

“All our people are motivated, ready to fight and move on,” Volodymyr insists.

“During war, motivation is an extremely important factor. I’ve rarely met, during my 7-year-long military service, people who would follow their hearts and risk their own lives – not for a paycheck, not for medals, but for protecting their homes, families, cities, country. That has an enormous price.”

Who are Mykolaiv’s volunteers fighting against?

On the battlefields in southern Ukraine, a group of Mykolaiv volunteers are directing their operational activities against the 5th Mechanized Infantry Battalion of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic”, Russian paratroopers, and the 242th Special Forces Division, which has combat experience in Georgia.

“They came here for looting, really,” Volodymyr points out.

“When a person lives in a crappy barrack, then comes here, sees electricity on the streets, asphalted roads, home equipment in private houses [he gets mad]… That was happening in the Donbas in 2014-2015, and now – not much has changed.

They come here to earn their living during the war. All these jokes about stolen carpets and laundry machines – those are not really jokes. There are a lot of places in Ukraine that experienced similar things as Bucha and Irpin. Same as here. In the villages, Russians took civilians as prisoners and raped people.”

Read also: Russia plans to hold “referendum” in Kherson on annexation by the fall

What’s happening now?

“What we have right now is not something where soldiers sit in the trenches. Rather, we have artillery duels, aviation working, Russian intelligence and sabotage groups operating. The Russians have amassed a large amount of weapons,” one of the other volunteers explains.

“In principle, they are able to get closer to Mykolaiv in order to invade the city, but I don’t really think they want to do this, to capture the city. On some directions they’re trying to advance. They’re prepared for this. But whether there are going to move forward – no one can tell. But even if they start another offensive, they will be stopped immediately. We’ve terribly exhausted their infantry.

That’s why the Russians are avoiding more infantry battles, the kind that were held here in the beginning. On the other hand, artillery is more active, Russians have lots of artillery nearby and it’s used regularly against us.”

Now the situation is 50-50: either the Russians will get even more exhausted and retreat all the way to their trenches near Kherson, or they will keep advancing and more fighting will occur on the outskirts of Mykolaiv.

How is the Donbas 2014-2015 war different from the 2022 war?

The weapons that are being used are much different. Of course, during the anti-terrorist operation [that’s what Ukraine used to call its defense operation in the Donbas in 2014-2015], the role of aircraft was insignificant.

There was some action in the air, but very few cases. Now artillery is playing a much more important role – like multiple launch rocket systems.

Additionally, many more troops are involved in combat. Right now, the Russian army has deployed to Ukraine every type of weapons it has, excluding only nuclear bombs.

Why are the Russians continuing their chaotic shelling of Mykolaiv?

“The Russian army wants Mykolaiv to experience as much tension as possible,” Volodymyr believes.

“They need this to break the morale of the local civilians. With each shelling, they want people to think: Russia will invade the city soon. This is a psychological pressure that is focused mostly on those residents who are active in the city, on families of military servicemen who dwell in Mykolaiv. But in terms of military tactics, this shelling doesn’t provide the Russian army with any tactical advantages.”

“Instead, they just keep shooting because they are able to do so. We have less artillery, that’s why we are concerned with precision. The Russians have more artillery, so they do this chaotic shelling, targeting our positions deeper in the southern region.

For instance, for each Ukrainian mortar, Russians have 10 mortars. Same with other weapons. If they have a chance to demonstrate own operational advantage, which might be illusory – they do it. They launch rockets and missiles which hit old village barns, but sometimes they target residential districts of Mykolaiv.”

Read also: Massive attack on Severodonetsk continues, as Ukraine achieves successes in the south — UK MoD

The Russian war plan contains multiple ways of putting civilians under psychological pressure. They just want civilians to get out of the area. They do understand that civilians are not just sitting there, but are actively helping the Ukrainian army. For Russians, it’s important to break people’s morale, so that they would stop providing Ukrainian servicemen with information about moves of the Russian army.

Even a granny that brings a pack of buckwheat to Ukrainian troops is considered by Russians to be a risk.

Of course, the Russians are really scared of civilian volunteers who do fundraising to provide, say, drones for the Ukrainian military. So they want to break people’s patriotism and willingness to help their own army.

What kind of help is needed for Mykolaiv’s volunteers?

This Mykolaiv group of combat volunteers is a self-reliant unit that does not receive ny financial support from the Ministry of Defense. They’re trying to use their own funds for all the spending they need to do.

“But the war has been going for too long and we’re out of money,” the volunteers say. Now they need a new drone and a van.

“Then we would be even more mobile and more flexible,” Volodymyr says.

“We have weapons that we could install on a van and use.”

You can donate to Volodymyr and his unit of volunteers via the following accounts:

Paypal: pmc.predators@gmail.com

Binance Pay: pmc-predators. Pay ID: 226195672

PrivatBank: 4731219647507874
Monobank: 4441114456318847