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Scouts of the 74th separate reconnaissance battalion. From Mariinka to Donetsk airport

December 30, 2015 / Internet-portal "Tyzhden.ua"

The main principle of defeating the enemy in the modern conditions of conducting warfare is an abrupt deep concentrated blow at the weakest point of the adversary.

Scouts of the 74<sup>th</sup> separate reconnaissance battalion. From Mariinka to Donetsk airport

The data necessary to arrange and control such an attack can be provided by the air reconnaissance and a well organized ground reconnaissance.

Reconnaissance units are distinguished by high maneuverability, that's why they can act at long distances from main forces. And it is not always a covert observation of the enemy. Often, the data can be received only after a fire contact with an adversary and provocation of him for a fight. Such tasks are mostly carried out by reconnaissance battalions. Their main aim is to find strong and weak points of the enemy.

Warriors of the 74th separate reconnaissance battalion participate in the anti-terrorist operation in the East of Ukraine since the very beginning. This unit faced very tough challenges, which they overcame with dignity. They had to go through the hell of battles in Ilovaisk, Mariinka, Donetsk Airport, Avdiivka, Pisky etc.

The specificity of this military unit is that its warriors are mostly unknown for the public, because the majority of their operations are conducted "on the other side of the frontline", and their work demands total silence and secrecy. The society knows virtually nothing about the "bats", which carry out very complicated combat tasks. If Hollywood film directors heard, at least, a tenth part of their feats, they would have filmed numerous blockbusters.

MARIINKA

In September 2014, 74th sep recon bn had to carry out infantry tasks in Mariinka, because one of the units has willfully left its positions. That's why, the General Staff decided to close the hole in the defense by the scouts, because there were no other forces in reserve.

Scouts of the 74<sup>th</sup> separate reconnaissance battalion. From Mariinka to Donetsk airport

This happened exactly after Ilovaisk tragedy. It is important to admit that the scouts have only small arms weapons, due to the specificity of their assigned tasks. If separatists found out that there were only scouts with assault rifles, machine guns and one "beha" (BMP) opposing them, without tanks and artillery augmentation, they would have tried to break the defenses by significant forces. The front line held by "bats" was 25 km long. It started from Mariinka through Novomykhailivka and Slavne and ended in a small town of Taramchuk. Such a line should have been protected by a full mechanized brigade.

Combatants shelled Mariinka from SAU, howitzers and mortars every day. Adversary's subversive reconnaissance groups tried to break through their positions. But, as they say, you've caught the wrong birds – the scouts repelled the attacks professionally and severely, making the separatists retreat with losses.

Several times, separatists intended to go on the full-scale offensive from Oleksandrivka side, but they postponed it every time they found out that their subversive reconnaissance groups were totally destroyed.

Some check points of the scouts were on a flat surface and were not covered, that's why shellfire exhausted there the most. During the day, the fellows bit into the ground, and at night, they shot back.

The "bats" BMP has frequently moved from place to place, in order to make the impression that there were a lot of them on the positions. The reconnaissance men have also used it to find adversary's firing points. "Beha's" driver mechanic was a real professional. He skillfully called fire upon himself, while the warriors destroyed militants, which couldn't shoot down the machine. Every time they saw it, they directed all the fire at it, but the BMP continued to puzzle them, as if it were bewitched. The scouts tapped the wire of the militants and heard how they vehemently had quarreled with each other because they could have done nothing with the vehicle.

There was a check point of the 74th sep recon bn between Mariinka and Oleksandrivka. It arranged passage from the temporarily occupied territories, as well as to the territory of Ukraine. But it meant nothing for combatants – they shot at it, despite the peaceful citizens present there. The "bats" haven't received the order to close the check point, and had to fight in such unusual conditions further.

Scouts of the 74<sup>th</sup> separate reconnaissance battalion. From Mariinka to Donetsk airport

The BMP stood near the checkpoint; separatists shot from antitank missile launcher, the missile hit the engine compartment. If the ammo blew up, there would have been numerous casualties, particularly, of the peaceful citizens present at the checkpoint. The crew drove the BMP from the casualty area; other warriors ran up to the vehicle and, finally, put it out. "Beha" received insignificant damage, it was quickly repaired, and the hole from the missile was stuck by a wooden plug.

On October 10, 2014, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko came to Kurakhove to see the readiness of ATO warriors for defense. He has also come to a meeting with the 74th recon bn.

By the way, the scouts had to meet the President at the same BMP. The President noticed the plug and surprisingly asked what that was. The reconnaissance men answered that the war still continued, and sometimes, such things happened.

Donetsk Airport (DAP)

After the meeting with Poroshenko, the command started to enroll volunteer warriors to the defense of Donetsk Airport. All the warriors without any exclusions expressed desire to go to the DAP.

They arrived to the airport in the mid-October and immediately took up positions in the New Terminal. At first sight, the task was simple – to defend the airport, but, in fact, it was a very difficult task.

Then, nobody has yet called the warriors at the airport – "cyborgs". As it has already become traditional at this war, the servicemen didn't have the appropriate optics, thermal imaging cameras, generators, that's why at the beginning they worked using only their personal abilities. Only later, volunteers delivered everything necessary.

Scouts of the 74<sup>th</sup> separate reconnaissance battalion. From Mariinka to Donetsk airport

The warriors were rotated every 10-15 days. The fighters arrived and left the airport on APCs (armored personal carriers), which was very dangerous. Warriors remember "taxi drivers", as they jokingly called the APCs crews which delivered them provision and ammunition, with great gratitude. In the Terminal, there was at least a weak protection from the adversary's artillery, but during the trip on the armored carriers, the fighters were in the most vulnerable positions.

Combatants have permanently sent their groups to find out fire positions of the Ukrainian fighters during the battles. They tried to sneak to their positions through the drain or during the artillery bombardments.

The number of separatists varied. Sometimes, hundreds of militants participated in assaults. Sometimes, there were only small groups of them. Because of the steady artillery bombardments, the terminal's construction started to crack at the seams.

Russian tank drivers were very dangerous, as they rolled out in pairs and started to shell the terminals.

The territory of the airport was rather huge. Ukrainian warriors didn't have physical opportunity to control every corner of it and, after all, there was no such great need in that.

The scouts adjusted the fire of the "gods of war", which inflicted heavy damage to the combatants by their precision strikes. But, still, they didn't have the opportunity to totally control the road from the Old Terminal.

The defeat of the combatants was evident. They didn't receive any easy victory they've expected for in the beginning of October. The defense of the airport has become legendary for the whole Ukraine, and the defenders of the airport were called "cyborgs".

Separatists destroyed the DAP's buildings on purpose, in order to reduce the opportunities of the defenders to repel the assaults. Eliminating the constructions, they decreased the number of places where it was possible to hide, make a fire pint or an ambush.

Fighters of the 74th sep recon bn defended the airfield till the last moment. Together with warriors from other units they heroically defended it till the very end.

In January 2015, reconnaissance men together with fighters of the 25th sep AbB were going to capture the tower, but militants destroyed it, and the command cancelled the operation. In several days, separatists blew up the Terminal, then, everybody had to retreat.

One of the battalion's fighters covered the retreat of his comrades, but, unfortunately, he didn't manage to withdraw hinself and died. At the moment, there was nothing to defend. Everything that could serve as a cover was destroyed. Some warriors, who could stand up, tried to build something like barricades, but it didn't really work. They helped everyone they could to move from the rubbles. Many heroes have fallen there…

The militant's artillery shelled from Spartak and Donetsk sides without any stop. They used all the artillery systems they had. That was the end of the epic battle for Donetsk Airport.

After the battle for the DAP, warriors of the 74th sep recon bn began to do their traditional work. They conducted reconnaissance and caught the enemy's subversive reconnaissance groups near Avdiivka, Krasnohorivka, Mariinka, Horlivka.

Now, the unit carries out other combat missions of the command and, as always, makes it at the high professional level.

Anatoliy Shara