“There was a terrible stench all the way”: National Guardsmen remember how they chased the invaders from Kharkiv Oblast |


A year ago, the Slobozhan offensive of Ukrainian troops began under conditions of increased secrecy. After months of bloody positional confrontation, the pace and suddenness of the offensive actions shocked the participants. Within a few days, the Defense Forces of Ukraine knocked out the Russians from their positions along the Siversky Dinets, pushed them to the borders in the north and east of the Kharkiv region, cleared the Lyman direction in the Donetsk region, and entrenched themselves in the Kremin forests in the Luhansk region. Those who took part in these historical events remember today how it was.

The big spring breakthrough is still remembered by its participants as a kind of miracle. The puzzles of the offensive finally began to come together into a single picture only after September 12. Although the first videos of Ukrainian defenders raising the national flag over the liberated villages began to appear on the Internet on September 4, 2022. Then the fighters of the 15th Slavic Regiment and the 103rd Terrodefense Brigade liberated the village of Ozerne in the Liman region. The positions of the Russian invaders began to fall like dominoes. On September 6, the Slavic Guardsmen were already occupying positions in Volokhov Yar in Kharkiv Oblast, and at night they suffered painful losses due to an enemy airstrike. Official sources struggled with confirmations about the de-occupied settlements, because the information was sensitive for the further deployment of the offensive operation, moreover, it required verification.

Kogot, platoon commander of the special purpose battalion “Donbas” of the 15th Slavic Regiment of NSU

We bypassed Balaklia and began storming Volokhiv Yar. The enemy did not expect and did not resist. On the first day, they knocked it out to the road from Kharkiv to Izyum, held it all night, and from dawn to noon already took complete control of the settlement. On the night of September 9, they received an order to move to Kupyansk. The headquarters of the Russians were located there. They were located on the street of elite two- and three-story buildings. We met resistance at first, but then they ran away very quickly, throwing away personal belongings and weapons. During the filtration measures, they found a warehouse with humanitarian aid, distributed it to the locals all day, barely had time, because the very next day there was an “arrival” and that room burned down. Local residents were very happy, many began to leave for safer places, many shared information about the enemy.

The officer’s unit of the 5th Slobozhan brigade of Klyuch fought for several months in a row in the direction of Balaklia, and later took part in the September offensive. On September 8, the Defense Forces of Ukraine liberated Balaklia.

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Klyuch, officer of the 5th Slobozhan Brigade

The counteroffensive began completely unexpectedly at the beginning of September. We divided into three groups and went to Balaklia. They passed a certain distance, then dug in, took up the defense again, and the ZSU advanced all the way to Izyum. The city was very broken. You see a nine-story building cut in half by a Russian aerial bomb so that the entrances have collapsed. Like two houses with a hole in the middle.

What he saw saddened him, but did not surprise him: he understood everything about the attitude of the Russians to the occupied territories even at the positions near Balaklia.

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Klyuch, officer of the 5th Slobozhan Brigade

We stood in the village of Pryshibi, at “ground zero”. When the Russian “Grad” went out to shoot at neighboring units, these fireworks were very clearly visible at night. And this time, “Grad” appeared two kilometers in front of us, but started shooting not at us, but at Balaklia. It was the “Grad” of the Russians, who worked on the peaceful population of the city for the sake of a good image on their television. They don’t care, it’s not theirs.

An officer of the 5th Slobojan Brigade, Bona, got into the Balakliya direction near Yavirske in May 2022. He worked as part of a sabotage and intelligence group.

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Bona, officer of the 5th Slobozhan Brigade

The Russians have been shooting for four months in a row [Π°Ρ€Ρ‚ΠΈΠ»Π΅Ρ€Ρ–Ρ”ΡŽ], and we sit and think, what is the counterattack? Although some hangars were broken, BCs were blown up, we ourselves often adjusted the artillery. But when the offensive began, we really felt how we could work: we went and for 4 hours in a row the ground shook from the exits: we entered the “squares” on which the 125-120 mm artillery had already worked. First, they attacked Verbivka and were among the first to enter there. Further, stabilization measures were carried out in Balaklea. Adjacent units engaged in battle. On September 10, we got to Izyum. There were mass burials of people. There we also found a warehouse of trophy automatic weapons, armored personnel carriers and tanks, a bunch of “ksiv”. We then called it “Lend-Lease” from the Russian Federation. Our fourth battalion went further to Liman and Pidlyman, there were clashes, they broke up the columns.

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Bona explains for himself the escape of the Russians, the need to “put out the fire” as soon as possible with human resources near Bakhmut and in the Kherson region, and the fact that the movement of Ukrainian forces in the Luhansk region was extinguished by huge minefields.

Bona, officer of the 5th Slobozhan Brigade

No one went to the grass – there were many “petals” [Ρ€ΠΎΡΡ–ΠΉΡΡŒΠΊΡ– ΠΏΡ€ΠΎΡ‚ΠΈΠΏΡ–Ρ…ΠΎΡ‚Π½Ρ– ΠΌΡ–Π½ΠΈ], they were shot with machine guns. The guys walked 14-15 kilometers during the day until the minefields stopped, and then we started to dig in. They could have taken the entire Serebryan Forest, but there were not enough resources and equipment to move on.

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There is something to remember about the first days in the released Balaklia and Izyum and the former entrepreneur Ari.

Ara, a fighter of the 5th Slobozhan Brigade

We stood in the so-called “camps”, then the private sector of Balaklia began. Many units went on the offensive: National Guard, SSO, KORD, brigades of the ZSU. We checked houses and non-residential premises. It lasted two days. Then we moved to Izyum. Some of the collaborators surrendered themselves, and surrendered others, because their “train left”, as well as Russian soldiers who did not have time to escape, or tried to “lie down”.

The Ukrainian defenders managed to simultaneously develop an offensive in the north of the Kharkiv region, where units of the 3rd operational brigade “Spartan” operated. Until September 9, the enemy’s artillery bombarded Kharkiv and its surroundings daily from Tsupivka, Kozachoa Lopan, and Tsyrkuny. And already on September 10, the Russians abandoned well-equipped positions, equipment, and ammunition. The front line moves to the state border line.

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Marker, platoon commander of the 3rd operational brigade “Spartan”

We entered Udy and saw that the enemy had abandoned everything: his “two hundred”, property, ammunition, weapons. It became clear that this trend will continue. Then they moved to Kupyansk, from there to Kupyansk Vuzlovoy. I was still a Javelin operator back then. They entered on their heels, cars were on fire, there were many corpses of the occupiers. They went to Stelmakhivka. The enemy was already on the other side of the river. They passed through Novoosynove, Glushkivka, Bohuslavka and established themselves in Novoselivskyi. There, the enemy tried to storm us, but we did not surrender any position.

In Novoselivka, in the Luhansk region, Marker’s unit fought until the end of 2022.

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Ranok, commander of the department of the 3rd brigade of operational assignment “Spartan”

After Dementiivka, they reconciled. They received an order to move to Kupyansk for the Kraken attack aircraft and the 93rd brigade on the “Varty” and armored personnel carriers. The large-scale destruction outside Kupyansk was impressive. There were many corpses of Muscovites in broken positions, in puddles, in the mud. There was a terrible stench all the way. They reached Stelmakhivka. There, the enemy destroyed our equipment, we cut off their counterattack. They tried to regain their positions. Tanks, artillery, and aviation were used. That’s how we got to Novoselivskyi.

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After the liberation of Izyum, Balaklia, Kupyansk, Kozachoa Lopan and other settlements of Kharkiv Oblast, the Defense Forces of Ukraine, state institutions and international organizations documented a huge number of war crimes committed by the Russian invaders. It is not only about destroyed bridges, houses, enterprises. Hundreds of bodies of murdered Ukrainian citizens – our compatriots, neighbors, friends and loved ones – were exhumed everywhere – many of them with traces of torture. In Izyum alone, more than 400 bodies were raised in the first months. Not every occupied city and village found torture chambers. The perceived consequences of the rule of the “Russian world” force Ukrainian defenders to go forward, not counting on anything. As of September 12, 2022, about 6,000 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory were liberated.

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Source: Eastern operational-territorial unit of the National Guard of Ukraine.

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