R H Auslander has woven an interesting tale of Sevastopol in late February 2014. The author’s extensive knowledge of the tactics and protocol of both the Russian and NATO side of the event becomes clear as the story unfolds, as does his knowledge of Russian culture.
The fate in early March of the NATO forces stationed in Fiodosya on the south coast of Krimea is known, but what happened to the NATO enclave in Sevastopol in February? The US Marines in the enclave, located on Ulitsya Simonka in Rahdio Gorka Region on north side of the harbor, had been ordered at dawn on 23 February by the Sevastopol government to leave the city in two days, which they refused to do. They were gone from Sevastopol and Krimea by sunrise of 24 February.
In Soviet times, readers of the news were adept at reading the news and finding the nuggets of truth. That skill is useful when reading this tale. Is this story true? Only the author, and those who may or may not have been involved in an event that may or may not have happened, know for sure.
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Original publish date 24 April 2016. Page count 118.
We waited until the sun set, at this time of year that was shortly after 16:00. We had hurriedly planned and rehearsed the action three times, using the basement of an abandoned factory in Ternivka that vaguely resembled the Church basement. We divided into three teams, one for outer security, two teams to do the actual assault and take down. The Madame Polkovnik had arranged for a bus to take whatever prisoners we obtained to the Krim border with two Ural transports for us as guards, and we would have ten of us in the bus to make sure they did not make more trouble. The bus was the common yellow marshrutka, no markings on him as usual.
After we had our prisoners, the driver would put his Sevastopol flags in the brackets on each windshield pillar, this mostly for ID as we traveled north to the border, we did not know at this time how many of the block posts were up and running. Our Ural transport trucks would have both Sevastopol and Krimea flags on them, the number tags turned around and the shiny aluminium back side quickly sprayed with flat black as I had ordered. I found later that the local citizens, some of whom had noticed the sudden appearance of numerous heavily armed Spetznaz at the traffic ring near Simonka Street, had filled the local internet social systems with advisories to all to stay away from that ring and the general area. Not a word was leaked to the outside world, and we learned after the fact that the warnings were in a distinctly local slang that few, if any, outsiders would understand.
I listened to the hand held radio as my group crouched silently in the underbrush just south of the Church, volume turned as far down as possible, as we counted the arriving officers. We knew from the cleaning lady inside that 19 of them were in the basement offices, so we patiently waited for the other seven. It was not long, they arrived in two groups, laughing and joking as they exited their vehicles and entered the building. The cleaning lady knew she would be treated unkindly, this to protect her in future, we had to make sure the NATO officers suspected nothing about her.
I counted them and I noticed that all of them were now in uniform, combat uniforms with armored vests visible under their open field coats, and all of the late arrivals had black weapons cases that they carried by the handles, not slung over their shoulders. I could see the magazine pouches made in to the sides of the cases were all full, so these Marines were now officially armed, and my hope was this would not turn in to a fire fight. The officers in charge of the Fleet guards at the Russian base across Simonka Street had been told that no matter what happened at the Church no one was to cross the street, we would handle this operation ourselves.
I turned to Annushka. “Tell them to start. Get Bogdan’s unit in place and block the street. Get the Medical Sisters ready to move to us, but wait for us to clear the building.”