The celebration of real men

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Photo: Sgt. Toni McDowell

Maj. Valery Kovalenko
Sgt. Artem Bezborodov
Sgt. Maxim Zakharov

First published in
SFOR Informer#159, March 6, 2003

The Russian military contingent in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has a rather rich seven-year history. Their story began in 1996, Jan. 5, when the 1st Russian Separate Airborne Brigade, 1,500 soldiers strong, deployed in BiH. In the year 2000, the national flag replaced the banner of the unit. That's why every Russian soldier here assumes the responsibilities of a deserved representative of his country. It was the case on Feb. 23, the Day of the Motherland’s Defenders.

Ugljevik - Originally, Russian forces were located in five camps (Ugljevik, Priboj, Simin Han, Vukocavci and Spasoevici). One year later, the area of responsibility was given to the command of infantry troops from Saint Petersburg's military region in Russia. Nowadays, the Russian Military Contingent (RMC) is comprised of 350 individuals. The Headquarters are currently stationed in camp Ugljevik. A few observers are also located in Simin Han. The Area of Responsibility of the Russians includes mainly the central and northeastern part of Republika Srpska (RS), with some parts of the Federation. The total area is 1,750 sq. kilometres. The slogan of the RMC is 'Honor for oneself, Glory for our Motherland'.

An original tradition
During the accomplishment of their mission, several Russian soldiers died for peace and for the Motherland. They stay in the hearts of their compatriots, friends and local citizens. All of those soldiers have been posthumously awarded the Medal of Honour.
The Russian army celebrates the Day of Motherland Defender on Feb. 23. This is the date of the foundation of the Soviet Army and the day of victory over the German troops in the battles of Pskov and Narva in 1942.
The celebration of this date is dear to every soldier. Cadet Andrei Lubimov underlined: "I'm proud to be of service in the Russian Armed Forces. I'm proud to be a defender and to represent interests of my country for the peacekeeping mission in BiH." Sgt. Artem Bezborodov agrees: "For me, the Day of Defender is my professional holiday, the day when I feel a strong unity with my nation, my unit, my friends. I'm really proud to be here and to serve my Homeland."
The celebration began with the guard of honor carrying the national flag of the Russian Federation. After the national anthem and in reply to the speech of Col. Sergey Shakurin, RMC commander, all the lined-up staff thrice cried out "Hooray!" This exclamation made all the guests attending the ceremony feel the solemnity of this celebration. There were representatives from multinational contingents of SFOR, International Organisations and members of the Armed Forces in BiH.

The show
The traditional interest of the spectators then focused on the show of the reconnaissance platoon, commanded by 1st Lt. Alexey Smelov. The aim of this demonstration was to show that highly trained military specialists could play a great role in combat. "Russian contingent in BiH is hardly over three hundred, that is less by ten of Americans and half the quantity of Poles. Nevertheless, every Russian soldier can demonstrate wonders of strength, courage, decisiveness and self-sacrifice," emphasised Col. Yury Yurov.
The Reconnaissance platoon, led by 1st Sgt. Yury Derbenev, conducted an ostensible capture of a truck, so that further anti-terrorist operation could be executed. The most effective method of the capture is the attack.
It happened in a flash: the sentry was disarmed, Pvt. Stanislav Ryabinin took away the barrier and with its help reached the roof, where he destroyed the weapon emplacement.
While the firing continued, Capt. Denis Denisov and Derbenev climbed down along the wall of the three-storied building: another weapon emplacement departed its life.
First Sgt. Talai Abadanov, Sgt. Arthur Agriyanc and Sgt. Bladimir Volnukhin assaulted the terrorists, and at the very same moment the cover group destroyed the Armoured Personel Carrier vehicle. Their bravery is the result of several years of intense, complicated training and not to be taken lightly.

The team
For instance, Abadanov has been fighting for almost ten years, in Tadzhikistan and Abkhazia among others. He said: "I'm the third in my family, who was awarded with 'the Medal of Honour'. The first one belonged to my grandfather, who got it during the Great Patriotic war [Russian appellation for WW II]; the second belonged to my father - for participating in the Afghanistan war. I received the third in the Army sniper's competition in 2001. Now I'm eager to teach shooting. Actually, my lessons have already saved many soldiers' lives."
Abadanov has also been rewarded with 'the medal of Suvorov' and 'the medal of Service for Motherland'. First Sgt. Denis Krilov has been rewarded with the same medal.
Pvt. Vitaly Dolgopolov, from the Special Forces, who has passed the war from Buinaks to Itum-Kale in Chechnya, is also rewarded with 'the Order for Courage'. Ryabinin was at the same place and was awarded with 'the medal of Zhukov'.
'The Medal of Suvorov' was awarded to Sgt Alexander Naumenko. Just like his comrade Adrei Gundorin, he has served in the intelligence units of the Special Forces in Transcaucasia.
Both Derbenev and Volnukhin served in the airborne troops for more than one year. Three other RMC soldiers served in Special Forces and Airborne - Sgt Alexander Kuzmin, Agriyanc and Pvt. Sergey Zadunaysky.

With and without weapons
After the actions of the whole unit, the soldiers showed their individual skills in the fight with weapons and without. Capt. Yusi Viinemyaki, from the Finnish CIMIC (Civil-Military Co-operation), and Col. Nedad Garich, commander of the 308th Infantry Brigade of the RS Army, were the first ones to burst into applause after the wonderful fight of Abadanov with an invisible opponent.
Admiring Americans seemed to be very much impressed when Agriyanc, a fellow from St.Petersburg who was born in the former Republic of Uzbekistan, made the split after the jump, leaning on the ground just with the help of two bayonets' tips.
Then followed the digging tools, pole, num-chucks, man to man fighting and two versus five. The crowd stood motionless, listening to the gun shoots. One versus three! Five seconds later Dolgopolov bent, as he won.
The crowd shouted for the first time when the scene 'Num-chucks versus Kalashnikov Machine-gun' was held. The graceful attack of the soldier has been broken with the sudden burst of fire…blank. Of course!
"No one but Us" - the Airborne motto has carefully been kept in RMC. The demonstration of the strength of the mind of Russian soldiers, always ready to perform the mission, rounded up the show. Burning bricks, tiles, bottles and planks were smashed by strong punches.
The strongest head of RMC' was Kuzmin, who broke eight tiles at a time; thereby he has improved the last year's record of six tiles. A pack of tiles was broken on Kuzmin's and Gundorin's heads - and after that they did feel all right. Sgt. Denis Krilov laid down on broken bottles and his comrades throws bayonets into his stomach. When he stood up, everybody could see: there were no scratches on his back.
The next morning, the front page of 'Stars and Stripes' showed a picture: the bottle, filled with water, is smashed to pieces by a strong kick of Abadanov. In the adjacent column the photo of Mike Tyson appeared; they have much in common indeed.
Russians did not want to scare anyone by demonstrating their abilities. They just did their best to show what a Russian soldier can do. A professional one, the one, which is the spirit of the Army.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Russia

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Photo: Courtesy of Russian Military Contingent (RMC)

Trust in his comrades is vital in this type of units.


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Photo: Sgt. Toni McDowell

Reconnaissance platoons developed diverse unarmed fighting and martial skills.


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Photo: Sgt. Toni McDowell

Setting the bricks on fire enhances the challenge for this Russian warrior.


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Photo: Courtesy of RMC

Ambushing and capturing of moving vehicles is a part of the normal training.


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Photo: Sgt. Toni McDowell

Ignoring the pain, one soldier firmly stood as some mates smashed stout pieces of wood against his body.


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Photo: Sgt. Toni McDowell

This soldier endures the weight of his mate, and under him there is a lot of broken bottles and glasses.


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Photo: Courtesy of RMC

Some members of the Russian platoon stood without flinching, as blocks were broken above their heads.


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Photo: Sgt. Toni McDowell

Under smoky detonations and blank fire Russian soldiers displayed their skills.


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Photo: Courtesy of RMC

With coordination and precision, Russian soldiers smash up bricks.


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Photo: Courtesy of RMC

The show included some hand to hand combat.