The “super sniper” who goes by the nom-de-guerre Wali rather boastfully went to Ukraine in March to fight on the Ukrainian side “because they want to be European and not Russian”. The “world’s deadliest sniper”, a former Canadian soldier with experience in Afghanistan, he was capable of killing up to 40 men a day. Well, he’s back home now and glad to be. Things didn’t go as he expected – not a fun holiday plinking lots of Russians and running up his score. Quite the opposite in fact. “Hell” says his mate “Shadow”. And no sniping either, just incoming huge explosions. “Shadow” won’t be returning to the front either – “I’ll just stay here in Lviv and be as useful as I can be.” “Wali” tells the same stories and the final experience described by “Shadow” seems to have been enough for him too.
Their stories mimic testimonies from many other foreign fighters who rushed into Ukraine following Zelinsky’s invitation. Chaos and disorganization are common complaints; many say that they have to equip and feed themselves; others that the Ukrainian high command treats them as expendable. The foreign groups themselves often suffer from internal confusions. The Russian strike on the Yavoriv training base on 14 March killed quite a few of them and many lost their taste for fighting and left afterwards. The British Sun newspaper goes over the top on one surrendered British “hero” but also reports no food, no ammunition and endless artillery bombardment. For many the message now is don’t go, it’s a trap.
Not the expected fun safari.
So what’s going on here? Many of the foreign volunteers weren’t couch potatoes who fancied their skills on computer games but had never seen actual fighting; they’d had experience in NATO’s wars and thought they knew what they were getting into. So what happened?
Watch this video. Afghanistan, US infantry take small arms fire from the building in front of them, call in an airstrike, a bullet appears to strike the ground in the camera field at 2:26, bomb hits at 2:32, Now watch this video. Afghanistan, US infantry in a hollow, some gunfire but pretty relaxed, call in the air force, A-10s arrive at 3:34 and make several passes, loud cheers. There are plenty more videos like this from NATO’s recent wars. Take fire, sit still, call in the air force to blast whoever is shooting at you. (Collateral damage? Who cares? Blow up the whole building and everybody in it.)
No doubt “Shadow” and “Wali” and the rest of them, remembering their experience in a NATO war, expected to be on the giving end. Instead they found themselves on the receiving end. In their interviews, they describe two front-line experiences in Ukraine. In the first they are setting up a sniper position in an apartment building (not using civilians as a shield, I hope) when they’re knocked out by a tank round. Never saw it coming. In the next story “Wali” learns how to use a Javelin anti-tank missile and the two set off to go tank-hunting. They find two Ukrainian soldiers in a trench and “Shadow” gets in the trench while “Wali” goes off to look at the Russian tank. The two Ukrainians get out to have a smoke – BANG! – when “Shadow” recovers consciousness, one of the Ukrainians is dead and the other dying. The two Canadians apparently decide that that’s enough for them. They never actually saw a Russian through their sniper scope.
What’s going on in Eastern Ukraine right now is something like the two Afghanistan videos but the other way around and on a much larger scale. The Russians inch forward, if they meet resistance, they plaster it with artillery. Inch forward, repeat. It’s slow but it’s destroying the Ukrainian Armed Forces (it’s destruction of the enemy’s fighting power, not territorial gain, that wins wars. Just ask NATO – capture Kabul in six weeks, leave twenty years later in defeat.) The daily briefings given by the Russian Defense Ministry mention hundreds of artillery fire missions every day. Ukrainian prisoners speak of continuous artillery fire. “The god of war” Stalin (or was it Suvorov?) called it. Here is the result of this relentless shelling.
The Western volunteers have no idea and neither do the cable TV “experts”. No one in NATO knows what it’s like to be on the receiving end. (“Shadow” and “Wali” and some others know now, however, but it doesn’t look as if they want to re-live the experience).
And that’s one of the reasons why Western coverage of the war is so off-track – the TV “experts” can only process what’s happening through their NATO-made spectacles.