The Da Vinci Wolves battalion is one of the units currently holding the frontline in the Kupyansk sector. Every day, the soldiers hold back Russian assault attempts and compare the intensity of the fighting there to the situation near Bakhmut.

Slidstvo.Info journalists spoke to Serhiy “Filya” Filimonov, commander of the Honor Company, about the situation in the Kupyansk sector, the tactics of Russian assaults and his fallen comrades. The video has English subtitles.

Serhiy Filimonov is the leader of the nationalist youth movement Honor. Previously, he headed the Kyiv branch of the National Corps party and fought in the Azov volunteer battalion. In 2014, he took part in the liberation of Mariupol and Maryinka, in the battles for Ilovaisk and near Hranitne. He is an organiser and participant in activist initiatives against construction in Kyiv.

Filimonov was also served with a notice of suspicion of hooliganism for a rally near the Presidential Office in March 2021 in support of activist Serhiy Sternenko. Sergiy Filimonov is also the lead actor in the crime drama Rhino by Ukrainian director Oleh Sentsov. Since 2022, he has been the commander of the Honor Company of the 1st Separate Mechanised Battalion Da Vinci Wolves.

The Ministry of Defence said that the situation in the Kupyansk sector is the most difficult. What do the Russians want to achieve here?

The Ukrainian Armed Forces have focused their main efforts on the Zaporizhzhia direction, and have amassed a lot of troops and a large number of units in the Bakhmut area. And the enemy decided to take advantage of this and amassed a fairly large group of troops in the Kupyansk direction, in the Borova direction. They are trying to launch a counterattack here. In my opinion, this is a fairly large operation, involving a large number of units and personnel, and, in principle, where they have partial tactical success.

They (the Russians — ed.) have adopted the tactics we saw in Bakhmut, during the assault operations of the Wagner PMC. They involve a lot of ‘convicts’, let’s call it ‘disposable infantry’ or ‘one-day infantry’, meaning they storm with people they don’t feel sorry for at all.

I talked to prisoners in the Bakhmut direction and prisoners we took in the forests near Kupyansk. Basically, these are more or less the same people who were in prison, offered amnesty, and sent to fight without being properly trained.

This has a psychological effect on our infantry and the Defence Forces when you are attacked 5-6 times a day, when you kill a lot of people in a day, you get tired. And this happens day after day. In addition, in this particular area, if we are talking about the Russian regular army, they are making progress: they have learned to use aerial reconnaissance properly, we see the constant use of kamikaze drones, a large number of artillery and “drops”, mortars of various calibres, so the density of fire is very high.

You are currently holding the line at your positions, but at a very high cost. Recently, you reported 4 battalion soldiers killed. Can you tell us more about this loss?

Unfortunately, this is war and people will always die during war. And unfortunately, the best ones die. We have suffered a heavy loss, both in terms of the Honor and the Da Vinci Wolves battalion, because very good fighters were killed. But it is worth noting that the guys held back the enemy’s advance with their lives. This battle took place on 19 July. The situation was very tense in a certain section of the frontline, here, in the Kupyansk sector. The guys fought back and stopped the enemy’s advance completely. 20 days have passed, and the front line there remains the same as it was, and the enemy has given up trying to advance there, the guys really did their job 100%.

Tell us more about that battle, when there were many casualties?

It was an assault operation to regain our positions. The enemy had amassed a very large force — hundreds of soldiers. The guys went, completed their primary tasks and took up positions, knocked the Russians out of the front line, but due to the large number of reserves and artillery that the Russians had brought in, unfortunately, we suffered losses. For us, these are very heavy losses, but, I repeat, we have fulfilled the task that we had before us. Specifically, I can say for my men “Zheka” and “Tykhyi” that they were ambushed. They had a small arms battle. And, unfortunately, they were killed in it.

What would you like people to remember about Zheka and Tykhyi?

These guys always had their hands up, were always ready for any task, and in all their missions they showed the highest level of skill. And so, for example, at the end of August, almost a year ago, we had our first loss in the Honor company — “Vitakha” was killed. He was also ambushed by Wagner. This is a very long and emotionally difficult story. We decided that we had to take away and bury “Vitakha’s” body – it was a matter of honour for us. Then we started planning this operation, and I asked the guys: “Who wants to go?”. “Zheka” (Yevhen Svitlychnyi — ed.) and “Tykhyi” (Oleksiy Naida — ed.) were the first to go. Our Da Vinci commander (Dmytro Kotsiubailo — ed.) decided that he would go to retrieve the body. It was a very difficult operation: the body was mined and there was an ambush. We first cleared the ambush with artillery, and then we had a very difficult task, because if we had been spotted, no one would have come out alive. Then Zheka just carried the Vitakha on his back. It was hard enough with just a machine gun, but he managed to carry the body to the safe zone. And now, out of the four people who went to retrieve the body, I am the only one who is still alive.

What is the difference between the situation near Bakhmut and now in the Kupyansk sector? You also have frequent close combat. But what are the Russians doing differently?

They use the same Wagner tactics here. What was different for us in the situation with “Zheka” and “Tykhyi” was that the guys were ambushed. They completed the first stage of the mission, moved on to the second stage — they started moving through unfamiliar wooded areas and fell for the machine gunner.

You work like a “fire battalion”, each time you cover the most difficult parts of the frontline. Why do you think this is so?

I believe that the battalion has a very high level of training and a very high level of motivation. We never give up on a task. Of course, we try to plan them in as much detail as possible, and we always perform them very effectively. The command counts on us as the battalion that can come and solve any difficult situation. But we pay a very high and heavy price for this.

The Russians are now trying to recapture the territories of the Kharkiv region that were liberated last autumn. What do you think is their next target?

They will not 100% abandon the idea of an offensive, they have a goal of taking Kupyansk. At least, that’s what the prisoners say they have set for themselves. I think the Ukrainian army has everything it needs to hold back the Russians and push them back even to the small area where the enemy has managed to advance.

What is the morale of you and the guys, given that at least the Honor Company has been together for years?

Each of the soldiers could have been killed many times. There have been many operations, many days when we gathered together and discussed that it was a miracle we survived. Everyone knows about the specifics of our work. So everyone was ready to die. Of course, it’s hard for the guys, but I guarantee you that for us the death of our comrades is an additional motivation, additional anger at the enemy and a desire to win.

READ ALSO: “The number of amputees is increasing due to the long evacuation”: Alina Mykhailova on her work on the Kupyansk sector