The Cold War – Redux (Duplicity). Ukraine – Part 5.


The Cold War – Redux (Duplicity). Ukraine Part 5.

I have recently written the first of two novels in my latest Apocalyptic series, ‘Force Majeure – Purgatory’ and ‘Force Majeure – Paralysis’. The third in the series will be out mid next year. Prior to these two books, I wrote a Cold War trilogy, The Red Effect, The Black Effect and The Blue Effect, portraying what I believe could have happened in the 1980’s, had the Soviets, and the Warsaw Pact, taken the decision to attack West Germany and plunged the world into a third world war.

I now ask myself the question, are we heading down that very route now? To answer that, I am in the process of writing the first book in a new Cold War trilogy, or the ‘Cool War’ as it is sometimes referred to. The first draft title is ‘The Cold War – Redux (Duplicity)’.

Where does my story start? I felt the only way to find the answer to that was to go to the very melting pot that could turn the Cool War, into a Hot War, the Ukraine. I have made two trips so far, and the next few Posts will relate my experiences while there.

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The flag of Ukraine.

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Now it was time to head south. This photo of Kiev Railway station was taken during daylight hours, but i needed to get to the station for 0600.

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Although the building was constructed between 1868-1870, inside is very modern.

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Information regarding train times was ready available. I actually booked my ticket for the Express Train online. Then with a printed copy, I could just board the train where it would be scanned by the conductor.

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There was a kiosk specifically for the use by servicemen and women of the Ukrainian Army/Military.

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My train, the one on the left, was the Express, and would take me from Kiev to Zaporizhia (550km – 7 hours), then by car to Mariupol (250km – 3-4 hours). The alternative was a train, like the one on the right, to Mariupol. A direct route was not possible as the direct line ran through the Occupied territories of Donetsk, Donbass. So, the alternative route would take in the region of 22 hours. Tightly packed, no air-conditioning and facilities that are character building.

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When researching the history of WW2 and the Invasion of the Soviet Union, coverage often referred to the flat open ground the armoured forces had to cross. This type of open ground was clearly evident during my 7 hour journey.

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We stopped at a half a dozen stations on the way and it was common place to see troops going on, or returning from, Leave.

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After a 7 hour trip, I eventually arrive at Zaporizhia. This city is located in south-eastern Ukraine and lies along the banks of the Dnieper River.

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I was met by my new found friend, Pavlo, second from the right. As the captain of a merchant ship, he is currently sailing somewhere in the region of Trinidad. I met the rest of the group, members of a political party wanting to move away from the Soviet style of government to one more suitable for a modern Ukraine, once in Mariupol. Afina, the one holding the poster, has also become a good friend.

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My chariot to take me from Zaporizhia to Mariupol.

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We had to pass through four checkpoints on the way.

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Security was very tight, particularly around the region of Donetsk Donbass, which was occupied by the DPR, Donetsk Peoples Republic, Pro-Russian Separatists, and Russian soldiers/mercenaries.

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The checkpoints are manned by a mixture of the Ukrainian Army, Volunteers and the Border Guard force. The soldier on the right with the green beret is from a Border Guard Regiment. On my next trip, I met the Colonel in command of the Border Guard Regiment stationed in Mariupol.

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They checked ID cards, passports and often searched the inside or boot of the vehicle.

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Bunkers and slalom system was in place to control traffic.

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They were particularly interested in my British Passport. I also had a stamp in my passport from my trip to Crimea a few years ago.

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Most of the soldiers were armed with AK-74s.

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This picture was from a later trip, when temperatures dropped to between -14 and -30 degrees.

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Heavier firepower, as seen with this BTR-80 and its 14.5mm KPVT machine gun, was never far away.

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I wasn’t able to meet my other newfound friend, Jarick, as he was on his honeymoon. That was a tug-of-war I was never going to win. 🙂 But, I was well looked after by his father, Igor.

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We first took a trip to where the volunteer battalion get some of their equipment. I purchased the battalion pairs of boots and various items of uniform. On my next two trips, I brought the items from the UK, in bulging suitcases.

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Any British MTP kit was always a favourite. Although Ukrainian combat trousers, shirts and jackets were slowly being distributed, the quality was far inferior to that of the kit from the UK/US.

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Igor then took me to meet up with a policeman from a SWAT team, so I could ask questions about the role he fulfilled in Mariupol. The policeman on the door was far from happy with me being there, but a quick word from Igor, who appeared to be a very influential person in Mariupol, and he quickly disappeared.

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So, I got my photo-shoot.

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The police station was also guarded by Ukrainian Army volunteers. The reason why will become more apparent when I cover the next trip I made.

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I finally get to meet Egor, yes, another Egor. He not only fought in the initial conflict during the uprising and Invasion in eastern Ukraine, but he is also a member of an elite SWAT team.

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The following day, it was time to meet up with the Volunteer battalion, who were on the front line protecting the eastern area of Mariupol.

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A Russian Ural 375 and a Gaz 66, some of the transport they used to move around the front line.

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They were incredibly receptive to my visit and welcomed me with open arms.

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As you can see, they wore an eclectic mix of uniforms. I had brought them some boots and additional British Army desert camouflaged shirts and combat trousers.

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They were very dependant on support from the local Ukrainian population for most of their supplies. At this time, July 2015, the Ukrainian Army was still recovering from what was in some circumstances a Russian supported civil war. The Ukrainian Army were still consolidating their forces and their associated logistics, so resupply was still in short supply.

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Even though they were dependant on external supplies to support their operation, the volunteer soldiers still found the resources to collect for the local orphaned children. These, if my memory serves me right, were tins of powdered milk. I am sure a Ukrainian speaker can read what’s on the box and put me right.

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This is Pavel, ‘The Bear’. On my next trip, I brought him a full set of MTP combats. Trousers, shirt and combat jacket.

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This was Pavel’s favourite toy, a ZPU-1, 14.5mm ant-aircraft single gun.

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It was great to spend some time with them and listen to their stories. They were on the front line to defend their city and their country and the majority had not been away from the front line for at least 6 months.

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Next week I will cover my second trip to Mariupol.

It was, and is still, a very complicated situation in Ukraine. So, if some of my information is incorrect, then please flag it to me and I can amend the content. Thank you for reading this first Post.

Site and content, including photographs, is copyrighted to Harvey Black.

 

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