Taras Chemut is the head of the Come Back Alive foundation and a former Marine who participated in the war in Donbas. Previously he was popular mainly in the volunteer environment, but after February 24, he became a real discovery for people interested in the weaponry and supply of the AFU.
Translation kindly provided by Volodymyr: https://twitter.com/VolodyaTretyak
Original source in Ukrainian:
About the current situation on the front and a counteroffensive:
(I): Let’s start with the war. In recent weeks we have been anticipating a counteroffensive in the south. What do we need for this counteroffensive?
(C): Probably brains. Because it is impossible to conduct a counteroffensive and publicly warn the enemy about a month before. As for the practical component, nothing has changed in recent months.
The needs of the Armed Forces remain the same – artillery, armor, air defense equipment, drones, tanks, and so on. The list could go on endlessly.
(I): The Russians have responded by stepping up in the southern direction, pulling forces into Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. According to your analysis, what will be the counteroffensive then?
(C): This is a question for the military-political leadership implementing this plan. We said on television that we were preparing a counteroffensive against Kherson. The natural reaction of the Russians is to plant equipment and people there. Then they see that they have enough equipment and people for their offensive as well. So maybe they will go on the offensive against us? We are preparing not to defend but to attack.
(I): What is the current situation at the front, according to your information? What is the probability of a real turning point in the war by winter?
(C): The front is a dynamic story because something constantly changes there. As we all know, the battle for Donbas has begun. The enemy came out to the administrative border of the Luhansk region, regrouped, rested a bit, and left for the Donetsk region. By the beginning of frost, the enemy will likely try to reach the Donetsk region’s administrative border. Whether it succeeds will be shown directly by the front line, such things are pointless to predict. No one knows how it will go, but that is their plan. I think that the conflict will be dragged into a long one, which, in fact, is already happening. That is, a quick victory in certain areas has not worked out. So it’s possible to stretch it out, like in Syria.
About Zaluzhny and the beginning of the war:
(I): In one of your interviews, you said that you met with Zaluzhny in December.
(C): We had many meetings with Zaluzhny. In November, December, January, and February almost weekly.
(I): At these meetings, were you warned about a full-scale war?
(C): That’s a good question. Ukraine as a state has not believed there would be a full-scale war since 2015. Ukraine just didn’t believe for some reason. In 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022. Ukraine didn’t believe it until February 23.
(I): Did you believe it on February 23?
(C): I was warned on the evening of February 23 that there would be a full-scale invasion in the morning.
(I): I understand you won’t say who warned you, but which side?
(C): It doesn’t matter which side just warned me. The state was not prepared correctly for this war. The state’s military and political leadership didn’t believe in it either. Whether or not it was okay, I don’t know. What their vision was, I don’t know either. But that’s their vision. Were the Armed Forces prepared? For the last five months, they were as much as possible within the framework – temporary, political, budgetary, economic, geopolitical, personnel, bureaucratic, and so on. So December, January, and February, they launched a lot of good processes to transform the Army. We would have significantly transformed the security and defense sector if we had not been attacked on February 24, but conventionally, in August. Specifically in the context of procurement, in the context of territorial defense forces, and perhaps in the organizational structure of the Armed Forces. So we would have been much more combat-ready.
(I): So, what did you discuss in your meetings with Zaluzny?
(C): A lot of things. We dealt with the establishment, the accounting, and the Territorial Defense Force plan. We helped deploy the command. We created an information line and wrote some documents. Wrote the doctrine that the president approved. That’s a big chunk of work. We were very much integrated. We were part of the expert groups on directions. We went to companies, audited developmental work, checked which ones were promising for Ukraine, which ones were dead, and how to allocate limited funds to the suitable cells so that they would have a result.
(I): Analyzing the last six months of the war, is Valery Zaluzhny in his place now?
(C): I’ve known him since 2016, when he was still a colonel. He is in his place, a man who has absolute credibility in the Army. I don’t know a better officer in our Armed Forces to be in that position on February 24. We are incredibly fortunate. I want to end this conversation with where we started. Many people expect the counteroffensive’s success, which will allow us to strengthen our positions and get into a negotiation process with the Russians.
About the peace talks and the future:
(I): What do you think will happen with the peace talks?
(C): First, negotiating with Russia is already a so-so story. And I wouldn’t want Ukraine to enter any negotiations with Russia, except about capitulation or returning all occupied territories to us. Unfortunately, the stakes have risen so high that how much worse can it get? If everybody risked, let’s stand our ground to the end and either completely lose everything or completely win everything. Because there can be no half-win. If there is a truce now, as in 2014, there will be a new big war in a year, two, three, eight, or eighteen. And that war we are very likely to lose.