The Ukrainian Frontline: The Dying Colonel Who Inspired Soldiers


Colonel Valeriy Gudz was absolutely fearless and an inspiration to the soldiers of the Ukrainian 24th brigade. And not stupid, unlike other senior officers.

According to the soldiers, one commander took an unexploded tank to headquarters and detonated it there because it was too deep. Another, according to his unit, was similarly “not the smartest.”

The unit began to run into trouble, and news of it reached Guð — known to his army as “Father” — who took matters into his own hands. As a former commander of 24th Brigade, he refused to sit and watch the unit deteriorate. Without any orders, he ordered his old unit to take command.

“He came to control things. He came to save his people. says.

Gudz soon appeared, assessing the unit’s combat readiness and attempting to show himself to the troops. and boost his morale.

“At the time, we were only sleeping a few hours a day. We were ‘covering’ every possible hole in our defense.” But when I heard that Colonel Guz was coming, a new hope was born. We started laughing again. We said, ‘Dad is coming! ’,” says Miroslav. “I thought that if he took command, he would just fight back. This was a really fearless officer.”

But fearlessness comes at a price. After only a few days in the Donetsk region, Guz was severely injured by artillery fire. “I was beaten on the same day,” he says Myroslav. “I walked five miles from a nearly besieged village with shell fragments in my lap. And I felt so ashamed. It smelled like pigs and I was taken to a stabilization center where I had surgery.

“And while I was lying there, Colonel Guz, who was badly wounded, was also brought in. I heard him cry. I saw the doctors trying to save him. He was choking, the noise was terrible… I’m lying there with tears streaming down my eyes and I’m yelling at him—’Dad, Dad, wake up! Commander, get up! I tried to get to him, but I couldn’t. And he died.”

24 Combat Honorsth The brigade is very similar to that of the 93rd Brigades (See article 2 of this series.) Both are combat-hardened regular army units, and due to their qualities, have been used many times by Ukrainian commanders where the fighting was most intense.

It is absurd to pretend that this was done without sacrificing the psychological well-being of the soldiers. Alternatively, experienced regular army units have no trouble incorporating arriving newcomers in place of the dead and wounded.

They could be border guards, or territorial defense fighters, and, of course, conscripts.The quality, training, and moral values ​​of these people varied greatly. Some weren’t the best. “Sometimes they just refused to fight, some just walked away. Some might refuse to obey orders,” he says Myroslav. “And it’s not a problem with the ‘old’ regulars, it’s a problem with the new regulars.

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“There have been many losses, both human and territorial, that could have been avoided if people had not behaved that way.”

so he supports law 8271, which broadens the scope of punishment for servicemen guilty of desertion and disobedience. This law is highly controversial and many people are against it. Naturally, front-line fighters are not very sympathetic. “Russians cannot disobey. If they disobey, they will be killed — I hear intercepted communications from the other side, so I know that,” he says Myroslav.

In December, the Ukrainian parliament passed a resolution. of The law significantly increased penalties for serious violations of military discipline. The senior officer said the circumstances limited his deduction of 10% of the soldier’s salary for serious violations. Opponents argued that the new rules would prohibit soldiers from making common sense decisions on the battlefield.

Natalya Feshchyk is a lawyer, member of the board of directors of the Yuridichna Sotnia (The Legal Hundred) NGO and Vice-Chairman of the Military Law Commission of the National Association of Ukrainian Lawyers. Since her 2014, she has defended numerous soldiers accused of various charges.

She says there aren’t many cases of desertion these days, but there are many cases in which the military is accused of disobedience (she doesn’t know the total number and believes the information is probably classified). .

Lawyers say there are two types of disobedience in her experience. The first concerns people with health problems who are pushed to the front lines despite their limited ability to serve. The second category is what she calls “d’Artagnan”. These are people complaining that she “didn’t get a tank” or something to accomplish her mission. The latter, she said, should always be discussed between lawyers and military representatives to understand the details of each case.

The truth is that Ukraine is building a huge army, based on civilian volunteers and conscripts, quickly and during high-intensity and high-casualty conflicts, many of which have little or no military experience. Because there is no such thing, you have to do something that, by its very nature, can be fatal. Problems are inevitable.

Yet, so far, the Ukrainian army is growing and will not bend under the weight of relentless Russian aggression. Underlying that performance is a sense of a nation that understands that its freedom and even existence are under threat and must be defended.

Lera Burlakova is a Democracy Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). She is a journalist and ex-soldier from Ukraine. From 2014 she served in combat until 2017, after joining the Ukrainian army after Russia’s invasion of Crimea. Her war diary ‘Life PS’ won her the UN Women in Arts Award in 2021.

edge of europe is CEPA’s online journal covering key topics on European and North American foreign policy documents. All opinions are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the positions or views of the institutions they represent or the European Policy Analysis Center.

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