Valeriy, with the call sign “Kazemyr,” hails from Donetsk. He attended the local Maidan and, after the brutal crackdown on protesters, realized that resistance would be pointless without weapons, so he took his family to Dnipro and decided to join the Donbas volunteer battalion. He and his brothers-in-arms fought in Ilovaysk. Part of the unit managed to leave the besieged town. Valeriy, along with another group of fighters, was taken prisoner, where he spent 119 days. A few months after his return, the defender and his family went to live and work in Germany. However, after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he decided to return and join the Defense Forces. Now he is serving in the 93rd Separate Mechanized Brigade “Kholodnyi Yar” as a mortar operator.

Slidstvo.Info journalists talked to soldier Valeriy with the call sign “Kazemyr” at the position of his team near the town of Chasiv Yar in Donetsk Oblast.

Valeriy with the call sign “Kazemyr”


I was in Donetsk. I remember how a bunch of misfits were seizing the regional administration, and how there were a lot of buses from the 46th Russian region. They were hiding in the yards gingerly – as if we couldn’t see them. There were a lot of people with bats and pieces of rebar. I attended the first rallies, but once I stood there, watched, and realized that resistance without weapons would no longer make sense. And in principle, I was not mistaken. In fact, after people started getting beaten, I realized that I had to do something and started looking for volunteer battalions. That’s how I ended up in the Donbas battalion.

Were you held captive in the occupied territories?

Yes, initially, I was in the Donetsk SBU [building] until October 16, and then from October 16 to December 26, 2014, I was in Ilovaysk. We were taken “to rebuild what you destroyed”, as they (the occupiers – ed.) said. They ordered us to line the roof with asbestos roof tiles, fit some double-glazed windows, and rebuild the walls. Sometimes we even argued with the guards there. We showed them the holes in the wall and said: “Look, do you know how cardinal points work? How was this Ukraine, the border is on the other side.”

And did you manage to convince anyone?

No, of course not, but it’s not like we were trying very hard, because it could have had ramifications. Such an argument could have ended in nothing, or we could have been beaten. Depending on the mood. Well, they would beat us even if didn’t argue.

However, it was easier in Ilovaysk in this regard, because in Donetsk, when we were sitting in the basement of the SBU, it was, of course, like nothing else. There, literally every few hours, someone would run in, shout for everyone to line up, pick people, and take them away to be beaten. They would simply trample on people.

Valeriy with the call sign “Kazemyr”


Were you taken for “interrogation”?

Yes, we were interrogated by Russian counterintelligence, the FSB. The interrogation was recorded. Some of us were even fingerprinted. There were also locals there, but they didn’t do much. Back then, Russians were in charge of everything.

I remember the constant feeling of hunger the most. After being taken prisoner, we were not fed at all for the first three days. Then they started feeding us once a day, then twice. The food was pretty bad: plain pearl barley porridge, just a piece of bread, some kind of soup with a couple of potato chunks. On top of that, they humiliated us. They would spit in that soup, and pour diesel fuel or gasoline in it.

But the worst part of it all, besides the hunger, of course, is that you don’t know when it will end, that is, whether you will be exchanged or not. Well, the Russians themselves were also putting a lot of psychological pressure. They kept telling us: “No one is looking for you. No one cares about you. Everyone has forgotten about you. Come over to our side.”

Were you exchanged at the same time as those with whom you were in captivity?

Yes, most of us did, and we became very good friends with many of them, and we are still in touch. Many went back to fight, though many are no longer alive.

We were very supportive of each other in captivity. We talked a lot about civilian life, remembered some good things, how we all used to live, and what plans we had.

How did you return to civilian life after captivity? What did you do?

After my return, I lived in Dnipro for about two or three months, and then I was invited to work abroad. So I went abroad. In 2015, I took my family and moved to Germany to work for a pharmaceutical company. I lived and worked there from 2015 to 2022.

Do you remember how February 24, 2022, started for you?

Of course, I was taking my child to school. I was driving, the radio was on in the car, and my hands were shaking. And then I thought about it for about a month and went to Ukraine because I already knew a thing or two. I thought I would help in any way I could. I arrived and went to the military registration and enlistment office. Somehow, I felt uncomfortable staying abroad, knowing that many of the guys I was with back in 2014 had rejoined the army.

The mortar operators have already changed their positions, Slidstvo.Info does not disclose any information about their deployment


The Russians are now actively trying to advance, perhaps along the entire line in Donetsk Oblast. How are things here, what changes do you feel?

The intensity of artillery shelling has increased dramatically. Everything is much more serious than it was a couple of months ago. There is more artillery of rather hefty calibers, we can hear the Pions flying, more aircraft. [Plus] the Uragan and Smerch multiple rocket launchers.

What do you think the Russians’ goal is now, what do they want?

Chasiv Yar. It has a very favorable strategic position. Of course, I am not a military leader, I have a completely different education. This is just my subjective opinion. If they take Chasiv Yar, things will get very difficult for Kostiantynivka, Druzhkivka, and Kramatorsk. And then we can pretty much say goodbye to Donetsk Oblast.

How realistic is it that the Russians will be able to capture Chasiv Yar?

Of course, they can. They have accumulated a lot of forces here. We have much fewer people and now less patriotic fervor. And not just me, but many other fighters, I think. The fact that no one wants to replace us is very taxing. And no one can tell us how much longer we will be here in the trenches.


What do you think about the “mobilization” bill? Would it change the situation? In the first version, at least, they discussed this limit of 36 months of service.

Well, again, 36 months… It really depends on where you served. Somewhere in the rear, you can serve these 36 months. But try to spend 36 months at point zero or on the first line, where artillerymen are, for example. It’s unrealistic. These are some kind of draconian conditions.

Of course, I understand everything. The authorities are not ready to make unpopular decisions, because they will have to drive their electorate to war, so we are left holding the bag.

In your opinion, how realistic is it to recruit enough people this year to replace you and the rest of the soldiers who are already fighting?

Not only do we need to recruit them, we also need to train them. And time is playing against us. Because even as we speak, the number of us is getting smaller. I don’t even know where this is going… To some sad ending.

Perhaps you have thought about how events might unfold?

Well, sometimes I read online about plans to “pop to the 1991 borders”. Guys, let’s be more realistic about what is happening. As things stand, we cannot even reach the borders of 2022. We have neither the strength nor the resources. We simply have no one. Of course, you can rattle sabers online while sitting on a couch, but you have to face the truth.


Do you believe that you will ever be able to return to Donetsk?

To be honest, I don’t even want to go back there now. Even if a miracle happens and we liberate Donetsk, it will not be the Donetsk I knew, the one I lived in, the one I loved. It will be a completely different city. Yes, it will probably be called Donetsk, but it will not be Donetsk.

I am surprised that they are constantly trying to sell the population some kind of “miracle weapon”, a game changer. This was the case with HIMARS, for example. Yes, it’s a cool thing, but it has to be combined with something else. Yes, they can destroy targets in the rear, but they also need to be backed up by aviation, a sufficient number of artillery shells, artillery systems, and manpower. And then something might work out. Now they are praying for these F-16s. Well, yes, we will have the planes, and they will probably solve some of our highly specialized tasks. But what’s next? F-16s don’t take back cities, they are taken back by infantry, and there are fewer and fewer of them every day.

Can’t you be demobilized because you were a prisoner of war?

No, they haven’t passed the bill yet. But it is written in such an ambiguous way there that I’m not counting on it too much. In addition, I don’t really understand what status I was in at that time – whether I was a serviceman or not. It was the very beginning, we were considered “Makhnovists.” I don’t remember what it says on my certificate anymore. Perhaps that captivity “doesn’t count”.

Would you like to be demobilized now?

Of course, I would. I’m not even physically tired, but psychologically…

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