Translated by Tatzhit Mihailovich / Edited by @GBabeuf
Subtitles by Tatzhit Mihailovich & O.C.
Reporter: Hold on. Start with your story.
Ex-Berkut fighter: February 18, when it all started, when, you know, they started shooting at us, we didn’t know what was happening. There were Molotov cocktails, everything. I was burned more times that I can count. I came back home without eyebrows or eyelashes. My ribs were broken.
Well, we had, as I’ve said, some people shot too. Rest in peace—our former deputy commander, Major Zakharchenko. He was thirty-one years old; took three bullets to the chest, held on till the 20th, then died. Left a little child behind.
When we kicked them off the “Zovtnevy Palace” we were glad. They were down the street, we were positioned above. That was all on the 18th. We stood like that for two days, and on the 20th, the shooting started.
We were given the order: “Shields to the windows.” And when we put them up, holes started appearing in our shields; and we had no weapons, nothing—just arm- and shin-guards, light aluminium body armour against baseball bats, and shields.
We were given the order: “Drop your shields and retreat.” So we threw down our shields, and there was Alpha [SWAT -ed.] there, I don’t know whose Alpha though—they were wearing yellow armbands. The whole thing was later called “Black Thursday”… They were shooting back, covering us, while we were retreating. I had to break a window—with my head, I was wearing a helmet—and drag the soldiers out.
We retreated, we thought that in the Kiev Institute of the Interior Ministry we would receive weapons and would then go back. But it didn’t work out like that. There we were given… cut a long story short, we weren’t issued any weapons. A little bit later, we got surrounded.
We had no weapons—nothing—and they were already around us, and we could see they had machine guns: RPK, Kalashnikov sub-machine guns. I saw that with my own eyes. They had assault rifles, Makarov pistols. What could we do? We went quietly…
They didn’t start shooting us because they knew people behind that fence were the same as them. Their children were attending this Institute, that’s why they didn’t start shooting us.
Three hundred men of the Kharkov patrol battalion were in there, and two hundred men of the Interior Troops from Lugansk, 3035 regiment. We agreed, more or less, that when they let us out they would take everything off us: body armour, arm- and shin-guards, rubber batons, pepper sprays, helmets—everything. We would come out in just our uniforms and with our IDs. So we showed them, career soldiers showed their MOD ID, conscripts their military papers—to show we really served in our units. And we would come out through a living corridor. We were loaded on buses, and we left. We were lucky we were going in a big column, Kharkov and Lugansk men. If the column hadn’t been so large, we wouldn’t have made it.
When we entered the Borispol highway, there was a little triangle there, a highway exit. A bus was there, an Ikarus for fifty men. Berkut from Sumy were trying to leave in it—it was all shot up and burned out. They fled across the fields, so to speak, when it started. That’s how they survived.
What else can I say? This isn’t a real war, at least for them. They don’t engage in close-quarters combat. In Solnechnoe there are Poles, there are black [mercenaries -ed.] further back. We know this because they talk Polish to each other on the radio. And here [at the front -ed.] there are conscripts, sent to the slaughter.
Let those soldiers see this—boys, if you want to live, lay down your arms and surrender. You’ll live. We won’t lay a finger on you. We’ll send you back home to your parents. Mum and dad can come to pick you up—we release you. Otherwise, in the heat of battle—sorry, but things happen…