The leader of a reconnaissance unit has been fighting in Donbas since the first days of the war. The destruction of enemy equipment, liberation of Ukrainian captives, as well as raids into enemy rear area - are all familiar to the commander. The Officer has been awarded three orders.
Shortly before the “hot events” in Donbas broke out, Viktor Skaternyi was assigned the post of leader of a reconnaissance unit. He was then sent to the East of Ukraine as part of a battalion tactical group of 72nd Brigade. The mission which should have lasted several weeks, as it seemed at the time, has been dragging on for several years.
Hunters for “Grad” MLRS
In the summer of 2014, Viktor Skaternyi and his reconnaissance men had to perform a lot of different tasks, such as to block access for militants to the borders, escort columns, etc. That was when the Russian Federation resorted to the tactics of shelling Ukrainian units from Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRSs). The shellings were mainly conducted from the territory of the Russian Federation, so fire in retaliation could have provoked a full-scale war. However, Russian “MLRS” units repeatedly crossed the border and shelled our troops from Ukrainian territory as well.
The search missions for such adversary mobile fire groups were carried out by “Skat’s” unit.
– Once, in mid-July we moved out into the area of Pobieda settlement to patrol the area, – the officer recalls. – Our team had been driving the whole night at a low speed and without any lights along the border. Finally, we spotted enemy “Grads”. The combat vehicles had just been placed in combat formations and were preparing for salvo fire.
The sudden fire from an APC and an anti-aircraft mount directed at the adversary frightened the enemy. The Russians still carried out salvo fire, but it was off target. As it turned out, not a single of the fired missiles had inflicted damage. Whereas, the reconnaissance men succeeded in destroying one of the enemy combat vehicles (BM-21 “Grad”) while another one was set on fire.
That night, “Skat’s” group managed to avoid casualties. In the course of battle with Russian Special Forces servicemen, who protected the vehicles with rocket systems, only one of the warriors received a shell fragment wound and two others sustained contusions.
In the morning, after arriving at site of the crime committed by Russian servicemen, Ukrainian warriors found a lot of interesting items that were left by the “night visitors” - in particular, documents of a Russian cadet-gunman. Moreover, traces were left on the ground from the fire and tracks were seen from the evacuation of the burnt “Grad”.
After several other “hunts” for Russian “Grads”, a local man approached Major Skaternyi and offered the officer three millions hryvnias for his group not to patrol the area on a certain day.
Major Skaternyi reported about the generous offer of the “activist” to the brigade commander. He listened to his subordinate carefully and ordered him to “lay low” in the nearest future and not to go anywhere without guards… The next day, the minibus, which the company commander was riding in, was assaulted by a group of militants. However, fortune was on the side of the commander and his subordinates. Only the machine gunner Kostiantyn received a light wound.
– I had never thrown an bulletproof vest on the door of a vehicle before, - the officer recollects. - But on that day, it did it subconsciously. Later, I found three bullets in the vest…
On the whole, the patrol missions that were carried out by our reconnaissance men along the Ukrainian-Russian border were full of events. One of them is especially interesting.
… In July of 2014, a prisoner exchange took place at the “Uspenka” check point. Once the formal procedure was over, our servicemen got into the buses and rode in the direction of home. But that event was not over without traditional Russian intrigues! The column fell into an ambush arranged by Russian Special Forces servicemen.
– That day we were conducting our usual “hunt” for “Grads”, - the Major tells us. – Suddenly, several explosion and submachine gun bursts were heard not far away. I gave the order to move towards the shooting site.
“Skat’s” team arrived in the battle area within a few minutes. Once on location, the commander spotted several dozens of Russian servicemen, two armored KAMAZs and several antitank missile systems positioned along the forest belt. All hell had broken lose around them: the first bus in the column had been “hit” and it was blocking the way for the rest; former unarmed prisoners were pouring out of the buses and scattering through the field, while “Russians-brothers” were shooting at them, as if on a hunting spree.
The reconnaissance men engaged in battlefield at once. Major Skaternyi had two BTR-80 (APCs) and one GAZ-66 with ZU-23-2 mounted on the vehicle in his command.
– It did not take long for paratroopers from the 79th Brigade to join in. Together, we chased the enemy all the way to the border with the Russian Federation. We managed to exterminate most of the Russian subversives, but one KAMAZ managed to escape. Once it crossed the border, we were covered by artillery fire, - the officer recollects.
As it turned out, via the quick arrival of Skaternyi’s reconnaissance men and paratroopers from the 79th brigade we were able to avoid significant casualties. Fortunately, not a single of our warriors was killed during that shooting.
– There were many contused and wounded servicemen, some were critically injured,- the officer remembers, – we got all of them into buses that were not damaged, into other vehicles and took them to safety.
Behind the Front Line
Viktor Skaternyi and his reconnaissance men conduct raids into enemy rear areas more than once. One of those cases is special… It was in October of 2014. One day, an acquaintance phoned the officer from the occupied Telmanove (now Boikivske) and told him that “DNR” militants had arrested her husband and returned for her brother and father. The men were not at home, therefore some guards were left near the house. The woman begged Viktor to help her get her family to the controlled territory.
To help the woman meant that he would have to go deep into enemy territory (almost 20 kilometers), penetrate a house which was carefully guarded and smuggle people. The task seemed impossible and extremely dangerous. The officer only took one other person - driver Yevhen Kuhitkov, with him for this mission.
– We started the mission in the morning. Our off-road vehicle was without a license number, we had civilian clothes on and we had a minimum number of weapons – AKS-74U submachine gun and guns fitted with silencers. We moved as far from the enemy as possible, through fields and forest belts. However, we had to cross a checkpoint just before Telmanove. There was not another way, - Viktor Skaternyi recollects.
A half-asleep militant approached our vehicle.
– Why are you so sluggish, are you asleep? – Viktor asked sternly.
– No, sir, no! – the “DNR” inhabitant was taken aback by such an unexpected “attack”. He thought the officer was from among the local authority and not a Ukrainian officer.
He did not dare ask for any documents. In the town the officer left the vehicle with the driver not far from the house of his acquaintance and continues on foot… He took the first guard down by a blow to the head on the staircase landing. He took the woman along with her child and moved towards the exit. Another militant was in the street. Skaternyi exited the house and, pretending to be a drunkard, walked slowly in the direction of the armed man. In a heartbeat, he pointed a submachine gun at the militant. The latter froze. The same “approach” – and the second guard lay on the ground. On their way to the vehicle they took the woman’s mother, father and brother with them. All that was needed to be done now, was to cross the enemy checkpoint and - the long awaited liberty…
Upon seeing the familiar car, the sentry stood up straight.
– Is everything all right? – the reconnaissance man asked him again.
– Yes, yes! Everyhting is OK! – the militant reported with a stutter. – Have a good trip!...
The officer was awarded with three orders for his courage and heroism – the order of Bohdan Khmelnytskyi 3rd and 2nd degrees and the order “For Courage” 3rd degree. He is still serving in a reconnaissance unit of a mechanized brigade with good faith and integrity.