”We were squeezed tight, I donʼt know if we will survive until tomorrow.” “Babel” publishes excerpts from the diary of the probably dead occupier — Russian sergeant Vladimir Bakharev, who looted and captured Mariupol

Kamila Hrabchuk
Yuliana Skibitska, Tetyana Lohvynenko
”We were squeezed tight, I donʼt know if we will survive until tomorrow.” “Babel” publishes excerpts from the diary of the probably dead occupier — Russian sergeant Vladimir Bakharev, who looted and captured Mariupol

A Russian soldier stands next to the burning body of a tank crew member killed earlier in the fighting around the "Azovstal" plant in Mariupol.

Getty Images / «Babel'»

At the end of June, the 53rd brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine liberated Pavlivka village in Volnovakha district, Donetsk region. In a dugout there they found a diary of one of the occupiers. Most likely, its author is Sergeant Vladimir Bakharev, and itʼs very likely that he is already dead. In the diary, the Russian described how he and the other occupiers captured Mariupol, how they were fired upon by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and how the Russians looted the city. Bakharev still didnʼt have time to send his wife a letter where he complained that they were "tightly squeezed" by the Ukrainian army and doubted whether he would live to see the next day. The diary was handed over to journalist Kamila Hrabchuk by UAF officer Andriy Mykheichenko. We publish it without editing as a testimony of the war crimes of the Russians.


Unsuccessful assault on the city of Mariupol

We drove for two days, crossed the border with ukropia at night. When we got up, we were already not far from the city of Mariupol. The command to get ready came. My heart began to beat faster, excitement surged through. I calmed myself down as well as I could. I saw the same emotions on the faces of the boys. And so it began...

We jumped out, took up positions, and began to move. At first, everything was fine until the first greeting from the Armed Forces of Ukraine arrived. An armored personnel carrier was blown up with a mortar, since “Volk” and “Ibr” managed to jump out. They also hit our 23rd, the ammo repository was targeted, but it was fine this time. Bullets flew, a couple of them flew overhead, I heard their whistle. I was taken aback a little, but got myself together. Shrapnel wounded “Keld” in the legs. Bullets hit Alexander Dmitrievich. Brother “Alan” was wounded, but not heavily. We clung to the hillock, didnʼt let our heads stick out. And then had to retreat.


Mariupol. Entering the city and first emotions

We got up early, it was still dark. We got inside our vehicles, they said there would be a second assault, in fact we didn’t really want it to happen, but what could we do.

Russian servicemen load ammunition into armored vehicles during battles in Mariupol

reuters.com / «Бабель»

We got ready [for the attack]. It was snowing, we turned a little to the right from the place where we were yesterday. Then walked for a long time, moving deeper. The first houses appeared, we approached the fence, and were about to move deeper when a mortar began to work precisely at us. Mumin and Savitsky were harmed. I cut Muminʼs pant, saw 2 fragments, called the doc, bandaged him. I wish health to the boys.

The time to enter the city has come. We went after the armored personnel carriers. The mortar bombs, itʼs scary to be targeted my it. I felt agitation.


Storming the hospital

We got up early. The weather gave nothing to be happy about. Mortars began to bomb at 6 in the morning, and after each time you shudder.

The first time we met with SPN from Prokhladnyi and with their commander “Agronom”.

Closer to noon, I was put on a position to cover our boys and SPNs together with sniper “Amir”. We chatted and drank tea, heʼs a good guy. Ours took over the hospital, captured a hohol, and took him for interrogation. Vlad found a room with intact windows and electricity. They found an air heater, made the place warmer. For the first time in a long period we slept in a warm place. It was hard with provision, we were looking for at least something [edible] in the hospital. Found a jar of jam, biscuits and raisins. Then rested a little. We also sat on the post. People arrived in the basement from the burning house in front of the hospital. I saw despair in their eyes.

At that moment, I wondered what would happen next with these people. Their own people, their own army bombed their peaceful city. But we are also involved in this, albeit indirectly. There are many thoughts, the head cannot formulate them clearly enough. But all this looks like a terrible dream. Itʼs time to rest.



In the morning, the command to move forward came. We were divided into groups. “Kaskad” sent us with “Vlad” to the corner of the building, to cover others. And here began something that could put an end to my life. They [Ukrainians] began to bombard us with a mortar. I counted 12 [mines], they threw 8 of them in a diameter of 20 meters, it was “right behind the collar”. We were covered with shrapnel, the whistle was hellish, I thought that every explosion would be the last. “Vlad”ʼs clothes was pierced through, but thankfully no debris reached the body. Ours were also almost got hit by this attack.

The shelling passed, we were taken back. We went to the clinic, got settled there. There was a pharmacy inside.

I didnʼt think that I would do it, but I had to break into it, because it was also difficult with medicine. I didnʼt take anything extra, I only took what I needed. (The first aid kit fell off, and I lost everything that was there).

There were 2 men and women with a little girl in the basement. I gave her puree and jam, let her be happy.

The night was quiet, we found a warm place in the basement, set the duty. Itʼs hard to walk in the dark without flashlights. I went to rest, I miss home a lot.


First houses

The morning was the usual one under the mortar fire. All our men gathered, we were going to move on. “Kaskad” took “Vlad” and me to cover the rest, we worked well together.

A man walks by a destroyed T72 tank in the ruins of the center of Mariupol.

reuters.com / «Бабель»

[I saw] completely emptied stores and shopping centers, blown up ATMs. It was a terrible picture.

They said that the Ukropsʼ 80 was riding nearby, we were waiting for it to hit with an RPG.

We entered the first residential area, behind it was a school where up to 30 soldiers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces remained. We worked carefully.

While ours checked the entrances, inspecting people, we decided to try our luck and walk through the grocery stores. It was a good idea.



We went to demine and fortify the school. There was an old [APC BTR-]80, it turned out to be on the move — we took it.

We sat in the school, watched the movement of the special forces, covered the guys. In the basement of the school we found a lot of interesting Ukrainian civilian belongings. A dark fleece jacket, a gas mask, good gloves.

The guys went around the apartments and took out large sums, it was looting in all its glory. Someone takes only what is necessary, and someone takes everything, starting from old non-working telephones, ending with plasma TVs and computers. The commander gave the order to settle in the apartment. I started its inspection, found two phones, but didnʼt take them, there was no reason for that. I took only the heart rate monitor, because I wanted one for a long time.

Getty Images / «Babel'»

We covered up the windows, found a jar of pickles and a bottle of liquor. We decided to have a drink, talked, laughed, distracted ourselves from all this. I gradually got used to the explosions, but itʼs much better without them.

I went to sleep, it would be so good to hug my little girl and lie in a warm bed, not in a cold Ukrainian apartment. But thanks for this too. I love and miss everyone.

We found everything what we needed, even the candies, and were happy like children. Ours were going to school. We tricked the khokhly into fleeing, saying that there were 150 of us here and they couldnʼt get out.

We took civilians from the basements. Decided to organize a small humanitarian aid giveaway, distributed sweets to children. It was very nice to hear words of gratitude from people, although we understood that we were partly to blame for this too.

I found thermoses and thermal mugs for the whole platoon, Also I found socks, which are now very valuable.

The body of a civilian near the Azovstal plant in Mariupol.

Getty Images / «Babel'»

We settled in an apartment in a partly inhabited residential building. We changed into clean clothes, showered with wet napkins. Found a radio, listened to what was happening in the world, listened to music and went to bed. Itʼs hard to fall asleep with all these thoughts.

A letter to wife

My dear wife. I am writing you this letter, not knowing how the next time will pass. We got squeezed tight, I donʼt know if we will live until tomorrow and see tomorrowʼs dawn.

Just know, always remember and donʼt forget that I love you with all my heart. I understand and know that sometimes I behave like an animal and it always torments my soul. I keep thinking that I missed something, that I didnʼt have time for something. I understand that I may not be your best choice, but I can tell you with full confidence that for a second I didnʼt think that I was wrong with this choice. You are the brightest thing in my life. Only thoughts about you warm my soul, fill my heart, and donʼt let my spirit fall. I wake up thinking about you, remember the best moments and smile, and it gets easier.

I promise you that very soon I will hear the familiar "I want to be in your arms" and feel your kisses.

Wait for me and Iʼll come back, I will definitely come back. Your beloved husband.

Chief Sergeant Bakharev Vladimir Sergeevich, Ukraine, Mariupol.

Translated from Russian and Ukrainian by Anton Semyzhenko.

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