Note from WarTranslated
The following story was published on the Russian livejournal social media, it was posted by the acquaintance of a DPR spetsntaz fighter who took part in the Siege of Mariupol in March – May 2022. The fighter narrated (in text) the story, while the writer edited and published the text on their page. Understandably, we cannot guarantee the legitimacy of the text so we have to trust the author, especially since they made sure to hide their identity, though we trust some OSINT experts could attempt to point to the specific fighter and his unit using data in the link above.
We must warn you that the story is censored. We removed about 5% of the total text, avoiding certain propaganda claimed by the author – this does not affect the story in general. We replaced any mentions of “nazis” and did not include any photos, which can be found in the original text.
Thus, the story below is a succinct description of the battle for Mariupol told from a position of a DPR spetsnaz fighter and his unit specifically. This is not exactly one of the stories of Russian failures we are used to reading. But despite leaning heavily to the Russian side it still demonstrates acts of heroism and solid professionalism by the defenders who ended up in a life and death situation.
The following text is more of a story than an interview, however it came about as a result of fragmentary conversations between the real battles of the narrator in Mariupol and virtual battles of the writer. Modern technologies allow creation of a cozy atmosphere where in the evening, after work, you cross each other in a chat and rejoice for an unknown person that they are well and alive and today took part in capture of another factory building or a house.
Note: since taking part in the battle for Mariupol were the marines of the Russian Fleet against marines of the Naval Forces of Ukraine, in the text I call our own “Russian marines”, and them – “Ukrainian marines”, so that the difference is immediately noticeable.
And also, a disclaimer for the vigilant citizens. DPR is a different (at the same time, an allied) state. That’s one. Secondly, myself and the narrator filtered the information so there wouldn’t be any details about our units: no personal data, no call signs, no specific weapon models, no communication systems, nothing. All the tactics described in the text is a long-time standard from the combat manuals of the RF Armed Forces, the republics and NATO countries – such as the fire-and-manoeuvre tactics, sniper terror, etc. All photos from the narrator are screenshots taken by myself, therefore the metadata is changed which where possible complicates the work of open source intelligence. The story itself is published purely due to the current military situation: a) Mariupol is in the deep rears of our troops, b) the majority of surviving P.O.W. are in our capture which eliminates a quick reaction from the other side as propaganda; c) fights in the city have finished quite a while ago. Of course, if I had material about fights for a settlement located 45 km away from the frontline (within reach of cannon artillery), then I would have published it AFTER the frontline moved to a safe distance and more time had passed.
Reason for the publication: to create a source of a true information about the assault of Mariupol as part of the promotion of this victory by Allied forces.
Beginning of the assault
Our segment for moving into the city was from Sartana locality into Volontyorovka micro-district in the north-east of Mariupol. This micro-district is located to the north-east from the Ilyich Iron and Steel Works, and the Kalmius river flows to the south. The micro-district consists of low-rise private buildings, in our direction there were no nine-storey and other high-rise buildings, unlike for instance in the Levoberezhniy/Ordzhonikidze district to the east of Mariupol, or Zhovtnevy district to the west.
We only managed to enter after we gradually located and knocked out the enemy’s fire positions. Fighting against us were marines of the 36th Separate Marine Brigade of the Ukrainian Naval Forces. They really did not have the first line of defence – no trenches, much less a system of trenches or basements in residential buildings. The enemy concentrated between 10 and 15 people in a group of 2-3 buildings and created defence points with ATGMs, snipers and machine guns. In addition, they were supported by vehicles, artillery and mortars, but only in the early stages.
Practically, the enemy abandoned the outskirts as soon as buildings with fire positions became unusable due to significant damage.
As soon as we managed to enter the residential area, the mobile warfare in the city has begun. There was about one company of Ukrainian marines with two tanks *against us*, an automatic anti-aircraft gun in the back of a truck (“ZUshka”), a few armoured cars – we saw a Hummer, a Ukrainian “Varta” and a “Cossack”. And a BTR appeared occasionally, evacuating the wounded and covering the retreat.
We had to practically defend every building, running around the streets with mutual covering fire. The turning point happened when their tank attempted to drive into our rear… or did we ended up in his rear? It was unclear. It was attacked with RPG-7, partially immobilised, so it had fled. We also burned down a “Varta”. After this they no longer used their vehicles so brazenly, withdrew them behind the infantry lines, which *the infantry* in turn sometimes walked into our clutches. They had to revise their tactics and avoid getting into manoeuvrable combat.
From then they started holding the defence, firing across the street since in Volontyorovka the roads run in parallel. They also created several reinforced positions in the buildings along the street. We adapted as well – as soon as we managed to destroy it with artillery, our tank, or push out the enemy out of this “strongpoint” in a line, the rest had to retreat to the next chain of such positions in buildings to avoid getting encircled. It came to simply pushing out the enemy under a threat of a breakthrough or encirclement, with destruction of some parts of their positions and manpower.
Fights for a block of high-rises
This way, we gradually pushed out Ukrainian marines to the block with taller, five- and nine-storey buildings, and since they were located at a dominant height, the most interesting things have begun.
The enemy acted quite typically for Mariupol – on floors 7, 8 and 9 they placed positions of snipers, machine gunners and ATGMs, also operators of MANPADS could come to the roofs. But they kept to small groups, around one detachment per each position. They kept caches with ammunition, water, canned food and dry rations, scattering around civilian and military clothing.
We were supported by a tank and a BMP. These guys worked great not letting the enemy raise their heads. One nine-storey building was simply destroyed and collapsed with a tank. With this fire pressure the enemy started retreating, but we partially encircled these buildings and were able to see through the exists of the outer row of houses.
Something funny happened with one of the nine-storey buildings. We discovered a cache in one group of flats, three flats across three floors. By an order of the senior I fired at them from a “Shmel” rocket-propelled flamethrower. The location with cache burned down completely and upon inspection we found it was abandoned with everything inside of it. Three flats with valuable equipment, uniforms, provisions and ammunitions were wasted. The guys remembered me this mistake for a while. But what can you do, an order is an order.
Anyway, the enemy withdrew from this quarter and we took it.
What the dominant height allows you to do?
Now, we were located at the dominant height. We chose positions for all the heavy weapons that we’ve had – ATGMs, 12.7mm machine guns “Utyos”, 7,62mm machine guns, sniper rifles, SPG-9 heavy grenade launchers. The tank and the BMP also picked their positions. And instead of moving forward we started using the height for terrorising and harassing the enemy.
The next few blocks of the residential area were in full view, while the road which they *Ukrainians* were using just a few days ago was now under our fire control. It was a shooting range.
We struck their “ZUshka” with an ATGM, hit a lot of manpower in the residential area, made them hide. Destroyed their checkpoint which they used to transport wounded to a hospital. Our SPG operators smashed a Ukrainian car right at its exit, and set on fire adjacent buses using “Utyos”.
We worked like that for a week, made their life unbearable, forcing them to withdraw deeper into the city. The residential area beneath us was cleared fairly quickly, it had a little infantry hanging out there. For instance, they either forgot, or deliberately left in our rears a few groups in civilian clothing. Perhaps for sabotage, or for reconnaissance. But by that time we had trophied a decent number of Ukrainian radios, we listened to their channels which they did not have time to change. Sort of a radio-reconnaissance. One group was destroyed while attempting to infiltrate through our area, they couldn’t leave.
– Which radios were Ukrainian marines using?
– Mainly “Motorola”s. Good radios.
Moving on. After taking the residential area behind the block with high-rises we reached the railway or tramways, and established there. A few days later the Russian marines arrived, we gave them that territory. We moved to another residential area but there was no enemy there from the start, most houses were intact, a lot of civilians were moving around almost freely. So we did the job quickly and were transferred to the Ilyicha plant area.
After us, by the way, the Chechen Rosgvardians arrived. They filmed some videos pretending to be clearing buildings even though there was no enemy there for a long time.
Assault of the Ilyicha plant and capture of Ukrainian marines
– What can you say about Ukrainian marines as an enemy?
Their training is in accordance with NATO standards. Basic training course, then advanced training courses for each of the military specialties, with a reward system for passing them and improving the personal career dossier. They fought professionally.
They were superbly supplied by their own Ukrainian as well as foreign curators, and by their rear service. Armoured vests, equipment, uniform, rucksacks, quality helmets. Digital radios were encrypted and there were enough of them at platoon level and above. Medicine was all American or decent Ukrainian analogues, medkits fully equipped with various homeostatic and tourniquets. .338 caliber sniper rifles, foreign or Ukrainian produced, quality. Foreign and Ukrainian optics – also excellent, quite a lot of thermal and night visors, binoculars and sights. Many regular riflemen had reflector sights. We spoke to their captured praporshik, he said when signing the contract it takes the serviceman two days to get home and to the service room everything from their equipment allowance.
Ideological, bastards. Before surrendering into capture they smashed all thermal and night visors, collimators, radios. Left nothing valuable intact. Everything we took as trophies was from killed, or from caches in the city.
At the moment I kept thinking – if the marines have all this equipment, what do the Ukrainians in the Levoberezhnyi district and Azovstal have?
Assault of Ilyicha plant
There is a video from DPR police showing the process of the assault. In that video we were crossing the railways under cover from BMP and BTR. This is where the first entrance point to the factory was located. A sniper and a machine gunner kept trying to shoot at us, but they were either very unskilled or something else, but we didn’t even have anyone wounded and successfully infiltrated the territory. Yes, we shot at Ukrainian marines, they shot at us, we took the first line in the workshops and established there.
By that time, as we later found out from the captives, Ukrainian marines ran out of medical supplies so every wounded was turning into seriously wounded, many died from basic lack of antibiotics. Ammunitions were running out, but they still had food and water. And generally their infantry was running out, their support units were engaged in combat.
Of course, it was not just us who took part in the assault of the Ilyicha plant.
Russians blocked the factory from the west, but they had heavy fights. There were many more high-rises in Zhovtnevy district so a lot of artillery, aviation and tanks had to be used. Russian commanders planned frontal attacks, had large losses, which pisses me off – what’s the point of attacking like that all the time? Besides, they were fighting with Ukrainian marines so it was impossible to enter the factory from the west.
Russian marines were entering the plant from the part of Volontyorovka which we cleared, east of us. The “Somalia” battalion also was taking part, in addition to all kinds of spetsnaz and internal troops of DPR, and of course reservists – big thanks to them, they were holding the second line. Sometimes we worked with them – other times without – they were missed when we had to entrench, since otherwise we had to leave the cleared territory and buildings.
In general, way more forces were allowed to storm the Ilyicha plant than Azovstal later. And the plant itself is larger than Azovstal, it’s longer, reaches out of the city.
– What about the notorious shelters?
– It wasn’t as bad as portrayed by journalists. Bomb shelters were located separately from each other. Locals were giving us hints, giving us information on how many and where, huge thanks to them from us. While searching the plant we found that the largest shelter was flooded and Ukrainian marines were sitting in the smaller ones.
Ukrainian marines started surrendering in small groups, but the main group quite soon after we took the first line of workshops attempted a breakthrough towards Volnovakha. As we found later, also towards Azovstal. They decided to break out of Mariupol as a large column, they were noticed by UAVs and attacked with artillery and aviation. We were transferred to cordon off the area of the breakthrough in the morning. The largest part of them returned to the plant.
Later they raised the white flag. After the surrender of Ukrainian marines we rested for about a week, had layoffs and so on. Then we moved to assault Azovstal.
Assault of Azovstal
Things got way harder here.
First we had to clear the industrial zone to the north-east of the territory of Azovstal. There were battles for every building and workshop. Azov, national guard and others were acting in small groups, between 8 and 15 people, so between 1-2 detachments. On foot, without vehicles, relying on machine gunners and snipers.
There were again fewer of us than the enemy… I would say, far less, which affected our capabilities and timing of advancement.
Important to note that by this time they completely ran out of artillery and mortars. Or rather, after capturing the Azovstal garrison we found they had four more mortars, a few howitzers, a couple Grad MLRS, but they had no ammunitions.
Big thanks to the Russian and our DPR artillery and the Russian aviation. They knocked out the Ukrainian artillery in the first phase of the assault, which allowed the advance to go faster. They helped us fight later though most of the time we were numerically inferior to the enemy, if said in general.
In the high-rises and industrial zones the effectiveness of artillery and aviation reduced, but they were blocking movement of the enemy infantry in open areas, and with proper adjustment collapsing necessary buildings with strongpoints in them.
In the next stage, from our eastern side of Azovstal we infiltrated into the plant’s territory, captured the slag mountain and a few workshops. By “us” I mean the team of Russians and republicans.
As to the intensity of battles. I’ll give an example of how we were taking one workshop. It had 8 Azovites defending it. We were fighting with them until the end – they had 4 killed, 3 wounded, 1 ran off. We also had losses – 1 killed, 3 wounded. We had to retreat just like them, since we had no energy, and ammunitions had to be replenished, while there was no one to replace us and gain foothold.
The next day we were taking this empty workshop, moved forward and faced another group of Azovtsi in an administration building. We exchanged fire with them room by room, throwing grenades. At this moment, in the buildings left and right of us our forces retreated, or rather mixed forces – Russians and DPR, due to lack of cohesion. These buildings were taken by Azov who squeezed our unit with a *Russian* P-letter (П).
Thankfully, they didn’t have good visibility so they harassed us into our flanks.
With those in front of us, we started a dialogue. We yelled to them:
– Surrender, bitches!
Them to us:
– Who are you? Where are you from?
– From Donetsk!
– F*ck no, we do not surrender to separs *separatists*!
Frankly, we weren’t that upset. But we had to retreat. We killed two of their fighters in that fight, wounded one, a part of them fell back, but a few stayed for cover.
Another interesting thing. One day we hit a foreign mercenary, though we only managed to get his documents a day later.
When a few civilians left via the humanitarian corridor from the nearby houses, they told us about the Azov fighters who spoke to them and announced grandiosely that they “Had a one way out”.
Further we got stuck for a while, the artillery and aviation was working for us. Perhaps the fire support wasn’t dealing much damage to their manpower, at least I can’t say that for sure, but it forced them to retreat. Against us there were up to two platoons dispersed in each building. They were being shelled for a long time, in the end they couldn’t stand it and retreated back.
Final stage of the battle for Azovstal
The mess with humanitarian corridors also intervened in the battles. But that’s understandable – it turned out that in the shelters of the plant there were civilians who were kept as hostages by Azov. Russians exchanged them for a ton of provisions, while the Red Cross handed over medical supplies to the enemy.
Russians did it the smart way – they gave cereals, butter, canned meat, pasta and tea. Source products that need to be prepared, which requires water which Ukrainians by that time had problems with.
We have done our best here in the eastern part of the plant. For a week we were making our way in with the help of artillery and aviation, and finally made it to the building from which all the underground communications were diverging. Azov and other national guard, police, territorial defence, border guards and marines dispersed through these corridors. In the building itself we found from them a note “Russians are f***ots!”, and water tanks. Laughing vengefully we shot the tanks with armour-piercing incendiary ammo and exhausted all water supplies in this sector.
Later, after searching the same area when the enemy had already surrendered, we found stockpiles with Russian food, barely touched, and medicines from the Red Cross, also barely touched. So they made no use of these supplies.
About a day after we took the building with water supplies from Azov, they started surrendering.
I later read your *the writer’s* post, and generally I agree that they were finished off with combines forces: Russians, DPR; infantry, spetsnaz, reservists, tankmen, artillery, aviation, security services. In the end we managed to separate them into sectors of defence, each of them was missing something. They only had ammunitions for small arms, and minimum fuel. There was little water in our sector, but plenty of food and medicines. In other sectors, as they say, there was water, but no food or medicines. The wounded were dying from the lack of everything, there were more and more of them. Informational fighters then crushed them.
Still, until the end Azov had communications and internet – they had Starlink terminals, and marines at Ilyicha plant also had them.
For several days we were taking in the captives and clearing workshops of the plant. I’ll repeat, we found that cache with food and medicines. Searched a few shelters but Russians took the most “tasty” ones for themselves. Found those mortars, a couple of howitzers, a couple of Grad MLRS, two tanks. One was damaged, and one untouched T-80BV from the Ukrainian marines tank battalion, though the Azov blew them up before surrendering. Just like at Ilyicha plant they smashed all the optics, radios, phones, cameras, blew up rest of the vehicles. Someone even got injured by explosion of weapon and ammunitions stockpiles.
I would argue against that Azov ran out of fighting spirit. They were holding till the end, fought well, but we broke them with military means. Destroyed all their toys (vehicles), killed infantry, where possible, wounded many, squeezed them and separated them into pockets of resistance, and then also destroyed each one of them. So they didn’t have much choice – either surrender, or die.
– Would you like to wish anything to the Russian allies?
– Yes, of course. First of all – our victory! But now, the specifics.
Firstly, I want to tell Russian commanders – stop storming the enemy defence with frontal attacks! Stop! There are other ways. Preserve the personnel!
Secondly, to the brothers in general – learn, master modern communications and battle control means, and use tactics based off the terrain and enemy numbers. What do I mean by this?
Notice how we were not engaging in close quarter combat when we entered Mariupol. We were destroying firing positions, and only then we entered. Then, we had to play catch-up with the enemy and spin with them in manoeuvrable fight – this is the second tactic, of fire and manoeuvre. Next – again fire pressure on the key positions at heights, with an idea to take these high-rises. Next – enveloping, squeezing them out by endangering with encirclement and flank fire. Next – taking the heights. Next we again saved our lives by harassing the enemy from heights – they retreated with losses. Next – clearing. In total there are 3 or 4 ways for action which we switch around depending on the situation. In addition, rest periods during the day, pulling up ammo, conducting aerial reconnaissance from drones, surveillance and listening to enemy radios. Using artillery and aviation as much as possible.
Same applies to equipment and management of the battlefield. How many times have we been warned before the assault that the Ukrainian electronic warfare will not let our drones fly, and will suppress communications and internet? So learn how to work with a compass and a map, the old way. But only if everyone did their job, and the commanders consistently solved the tasks of destroying the most important targets (artillery, electronic warfare, mortars, etc.), then by the time we entered Mariupol, we had radio and mobile communications. And so it turned out that it was better to have a smartphone with satellite maps, an additional phone battery (power bank) with apps for adjusting mortars. It was quicker.
The trick is that we are ready for any situation. If the EW of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is deployed, we will adjust using the compass and the map. In the meantime, a laptop and smartphones help to act more efficiently.
In short, every tactic and every tool comes out of the stash as needed, but everyone needs to be skilled with them.