The Shaman Battalion is the Secret Service’s assault force. Since day one they have been fighting the invaders and paying a heavy price. Two NCOs talked about their missions.

The war in Ukraine is unequal. It is typical for him that poorly trained reserve units meet special commands. The men from Ukraine’s “shaman battalion” are among the best in the world – they even fly over the border in helicopters and carry out sabotage attacks there. The Times of London was able to speak to NCOs “Handsome” and “Twenty Two”. Of course, the soldiers can’t reveal any telltale details, but the conversation gives an authentic impression of the fight of the elite soldiers. Because contrary to what one might expect, they are very open when it comes to their own problems.

Battle for the airport

The Shaman Battalion is the attack and reconnaissance unit of the Ukrainian military intelligence service, only the best of the best serve here. From the very beginning of the invasion, soldiers were thrown into battle. In a first chaotic four-hour battle, they prevented the Russian parachutists from occupying Hostomel Airport near Kyiv. “We were told every day that the invasion would start tomorrow and then it didn’t come,” said Handsome. “When it finally started, I could hardly believe it.”

They describe the battle for the village of Moshchun at the beginning of the war and describe their tactics. The Ukrainians waited until the Russian troops advanced to the center of the village before ambushing them from both flanks.

Fight at close range

“We shot from 5-10 meters away,” said Twenty Two. “We always try to stay close and grab the enemy by the belt because then they can’t use their artillery anymore. They have a lot more artillery than us but their morale is very low, they can’t count on a fight man get involved with man.” In close combat, units of short-term soldiers and conscripts don’t stand a chance against the shamans. At night, another Russian unit tried to storm the village again. They made the same mistake as their predecessors. They met no resistance until they reached the village square. “That’s where we killed them all.”

The unit’s commandos take them across the Russian border by helicopter. Handsome: “The Russians don’t know what happened, they often can’t believe we were there.” But more and more often they have to serve as corset stays. A handful of experienced super-soldiers then have to provide structure and support to a barely trained force. “Then we special forces come and organize the war on this section of the front line. We take care of the communication, the evacuation, we go before the infantry and after the infantry, we coordinate all the elements in this area”.

50 percent loss

But the losses are appalling. The two told The Times that half of their comrades have been killed in the fighting over the Donbass region in recent weeks. Even the secret service officer who accompanies the conversation as a “watchdog” does not contradict. Air raids and artillery strikes also hit the shamans, who can hardly be defeated in hand-to-hand combat. Their unit also gets material from the West, but they both say it should be a lot more. Their missions devour more gear than descendants. When deployed behind enemy lines, even the old tires on their vehicles burst because they couldn’t organize anything better. “People just use anything with wheels, even their own cars,” says Twenty Two. “I have to cover my eyes with my night vision goggles because the helmet attachment broke off and I can’t find a replacement.”

Last Sunday they stormed a Russian trench. This is also a sign of how desperate the situation is when units like the shamans are used for “normal” combat operations. Twenty Two still has shrapnel in its forearm. “We tried to sneak up, to camouflage and to get close. It’s very difficult, you have a lot of equipment, you need a lot of ammo, it’s all very heavy and when you try to crawl it gets very noisy.”

craft of killing

“But we managed the surprise. The first guy who saw me got lost, he didn’t expect us there, he was scared, and I just shot him from about seven meters away, under the plate of the body armor . You always shoot at the balls, there’s not enough protection.”

A hit in the abdomen is always fatal. “You’re destroying his arteries and breaking his pelvis. He can’t escape, he can’t run, he can’t crawl, he can’t do anything. It’s impossible to administer first aid to a wounded person in that area. You can’t apply a pressure bandage put another bandage on.”

Everyone has their own motivation, he reveals to the Times. “One has a wife, the other has no wife yet, some have family in occupied Cherson or under Russian artillery in Mykolaiv. My motivation is to fight to see something different, to see civilian life. So the next one generation does not have to fight in a Russian war.” Since he was 18, Twenty Two has been at war. “I’ll be 26 soon,” he says. “At least that’s what I hope.”

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