Volunteer sniper embodies Ukraine’s versatile military


KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Before taking a shot, Ukrainian sniper Andriy buries his face in a folding mat, breathing slowly and deliberately.

“I have to be completely relaxed to find a place where I can’t move the gun when I pull the trigger,” he says. “I don’t think about anything. It’s kind of a vacuum.”

In a semicircle around his head are boxes of bullets, printouts of graphs, a heavy stapler and a roll of tape.

On his wrist is a monitor, in the form of a jewelry box. It is a ballistic calculator to take into account the wind and other environmental conditions. Bees constantly circling its head and scope are ignored.

After a long pause, he says the word “shot” in Ukrainian.

Tear! A sound similar to a starting gun used at sporting events causes a reflexive shock to people unaccustomed to war.

Six months agothe noise might have startled Andriy, who had moved to Western Europe to pursue a career in engineering.

His experience resembles that of many Ukrainians who returned to warabruptly pulled from civilian life to embrace combat methods ‒ modern but also improvised who held back the much larger Russian army.

Andriy is from Bucha, a neighborhood near Kiev airport that was bombed during the Russian advance. Hundreds of civilian murders took place there, the bodies were found in mass graves or left where they were shot in what the United Nations describes as potential war crimes.

Tall and with a good command of English, the sniper spoke to The Associated Press while practicing alone at an informal firing range near Kiev, hoping to solve some problems with his weapon through hours of trial and error. for his next bet.

He only asked to be identified by his first name and that some details of his civilian life remain private.

Andriy clambered home, took a flight to Budapest and arranged a 1,200-kilometer (750 mi) overland route, including paying “a large sum” to a driver willing to take a risky journey east. Within days, he had joined the ferocious fighting around Kiev and had adopted the wartime nickname of ‘Samurai’.

He bought his own equipment and a US-made sniper rifle and began to receive training from a special instructor, joined by friends in the military.

“On February 24, early in the morning, I received a call from my mother. She lives in Bucha and told me that the war had started. She heard helicopters, planes, bombing and explosions. I decided to return,” he said.

While not allowed to discuss details of his operational activities, Andriy describes the Ukrainian military as a force that prides itself on flexibility and uses a wide range of skills of its personnel to become more versatile in combat.

Snipers, he said, are often used to spot Russian military positions for artillery shelling.

“I also gained experience in tactical medicine, with drones and shooting with guns,” he said.

Military specialists are encouraged to learn new skills and even find their own equipment, while Western suppliers still supply Ukraine in a private market controlled by the military.

To protect his hearing, Andriy bought hunting headphones that suppress the sound of his gun and amplify voices. “You really need this one,” he says.

Russia has more than doubled the territory it controls in Ukraine to about 20% of the country since launching the invasion in February, but Andriy shares the optimism of many fellow Ukrainians that victory may be possible after the winter.

“I think with the help of our friends in Europe and the United States we can drive them out of our territory,” he said.

His desire to become a sniper came from a familiarity with shotguns, common in Ukraine, and playing the role of a ranged shooter in video games.

But his goal in the war: “It is to return to my house, to my family,” he says.

“None of us wanted to be a warrior, a gunner, or a sniper. It’s just a necessity to be here now and do what we’re doing here.”

After a pause, he adds: “I don’t know how to explain this: I don’t like killing people. It’s not something you want to do, but it’s something you have to do.”


Follow AP coverage of the war in Ukraine

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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