By Andrey Stanovov and Victor Zvantsev
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
cross posted with http://www.stalkerzone.org/how-the-12th-russian-border-post-heroically-repelled-the-mujahideen-in-1993/
“Border post, center! Border post, attention! Line up! The staff of the surviving 12th border post is before you” — the footage of the chronicle with the short report of the contused Lieutenant Andrey Merzlikin flew around the whole world. The handful of bandaged fighters who miraculously escaped in one piece can barely stand on their feet, many have tears in their eyes. Someone loudly demands a doctor over the handheld transceiver. The video recording only shows the finale of the bloody drama that unfolded on the Russian border post in Tajikistan in July 1993. Its culmination remained behind the scenes. The material of RIA Novosti shows how 48 border guards repelled hundreds of Mujahideen militants and selected militants of the 55th infantry division of the Afghan field commander Qazi Kabir.
Fight at sunrise
Several groups of the Tajik and Afghan militants totalling up to 250 people attacked the 12th border post of the Moscow border unit at about 4am on July 13th. This border post, located in the strategic Kulob direction, acted as a bone in the throat of the so-called “government of Tajikistan in exile”, which was preparing a large-scale invasion of the republic and to overthrow the legitimate authorities.
Merzlikin, holding the position of the deputy chief of the border post, doesn’t like to remember those events. Even now, 25 years later, he reluctantly speaks about combat and considers that he simply found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Among the armored machinery we had just one BMP, which was burned during the first few minutes,” he said to RIA Novosti. “Among heavy arms — 1 SPG and 1 AGS-17, which immediately jammed. The chief of the border post, my friend Misha Mayboroda, rushed to the SPG and started shooting – the Mujahideen militants were already 20 meters away – and ran out from behind the building of the border post. There he was severely wounded by shrapnel in his back, I think that it was a shell from the recoilless gun. I applied bandaging, and tasked Misha Kulikov and Vitya Barbashov to look for the commander, and I left to command on the other flank. Grenades were flying into the trench, in some places it reached hand-to-hand combat — the guys grabbed stones”.
Owing to a strange combination of circumstances, one day prior to the attack the leadership of the commandant’s office ordered Mayboroda to remove ammunition from the joint strong point of the border post and to remove the so-called “secrets” — a firing point with a lookout squad that were moved outside the perimeter. As a result, the militants received one more important advantage in addition to their numerical superiority — suddenness.
The 12th border post of the Moscow border group of the Group of Border troops of Russia in the Republic of Tajikistan. 2012
“They weren’t badly prepared — they started equipping positions at the dominating heights the week prior,” noted Andrey Merzlikin. “They studied our system of defence, firing points, and internal arrangement. All of us saw it, but couldn’t go anything about it — the leadership ordered not to touch it. Moreover, negotiators came from the Afghans, who assured that they will protect us. As far as I can judge, it is the militants from the 55th Afghan infantry division that directly participated in the attack on the border post, and Mujahideen militants only covered them”.
Sergeant Sergey Evlanov and his fellow countryman Sergey Sushchenko in July, 1993 still had to wait two more months until demobilisation. “On that morning we had returned from Shurabad, where we went to call home, and we wanted to go to sleep, but didn’t have the time — automatic gunfire rang out on the street,” described Evlanov to RIA Novosti. “The exit from the barracks was completely exposed to gunfire, that’s why we had to leave through the windows, coming to the other side. Together with the younger brother of the chief of the border post Ivan Mayboroda, we reached the strong point and occupied a perimeter defense. At some point there was the feeling that it was like a children’s game of war: a grenade landed in the trench, and the blast wave threw me upwards. Moreover, I didn’t feel pain at all and continued to defend”.
In the top row in the middle — the Hero of Russia Vladimir Elizarov, who battled five militants hand-to-hand by himself
The 12th border post, surrounded from three sides by mountains, was attacked by everything that shoots: mortars, RPG, machine guns, tripod-mounted grenade launchers, and NURS blocks – unguided rockets – removed from helicopters. The buildings of the barracks, the house of officers, and the outbuildings caught fire due to numerous explosions.
At the very beginning of the battle the Afghans cut off the defenders of the border post who survived from weapons warehouses, but they weren’t able to drive them out from the last improvised citadel — a half-ruined trench on the edge of a plateau — for several hours. The entire territory was exposed to cross fire, the soldiers who took cover in the trench didn’t have the slightest chance of reaching the wounded commander who remained lying at the SPG position.
Chief of the 12th border post Senior Lieutenant Mikhail Mayboroda
“When the shooting subsided a little, we tried to pull out our commander, but it was unsuccessful — mujahideen militants didn’t allow us to even raise our heads, snipers were working,” remembers Merzlikin. “The guys shouted to Barbashov and Kulikov who remained with him, but they didn’t answer. After a while I heard how Kulikov shouted to some militants: ‘What are you looking at? Shoot me!’ I understood: that’s all, it is the end for them”.
On the left – Private Mirbako Dodokalonov, and in the middle – Sergeant Sergey Evlanov
Some desperate attempts to breakthrough from the trench to the ammunition warehouse weren’t crowned with success. Private Dodokalonov rushed to the blazing officer’s house where under the bed there was a box of bullets for a machine gun. “At the border post we called him Dodik,” smiles Andrey. “When he rushed there we thought that it was the end, that this is the last time he will ever run: the militants attacked the building using all weapon barrels. Several guys died before my eyes. And suddenly Dodik jumps out with a box with 200 bullets inside. If it wasn’t for him we would’ve been toast. We divided everything up equally. Later, when we had already left, I calculated that we all had 7 bullets left”.
The commander admits that he delayed the order for withdrawal to the last minute: “If to be honest, I was afraid to make this decision and I wasn’t going to leave this border post. After Misha was wounded I had to put my neck on the line to defend this post. Besides this, it isn’t known whether or not people were still there. But the battle had lasted for already several hours, there wasn’t any communication, and there were no more bullets. I had a magazine, maybe slightly more, while others had nothing in general”.
The 12th border post of the Moscow border group of the Group of Border troops of Russia in the Republic of Tajikistan
At about 11 o’clock in the afternoon two Russian helicopters appeared in the sky and conducted airstrikes on the militants who took cover in the mountains. The pilots didn’t risk going lower near the border post — a few months ago in this area a plane was down by a SAM system. Seeing that ammunition is low, that there is no communication, and that there is no place to wait for help, the commander understood: it is time to leave — or they will be simply finished off unarmed. Including him, 17 people remained alive, and two of them were seriously wounded: one with a bullet wound in the stomach, and the second — in the hand.
We decided to breakthrough along the gorge next to the stream, towards the nearby kishlak Sari Gor — according to the calculations of the Lieutenant, only in this direction was there was a chance to meet ours. He organised a withdrawal in accordance with all norms: in the front there was the vanguard from among the strongest fighters, then the main forces and wounded, and after them — the tail of the column. He gave Sergeant Sergey Evlanov the task of covering the column.
Near the kishlak the unit came across an ambush of Mujahideen militants that were left behind to cut off the route of the support group. After a short firefight, border guards tried to bypass Sari Gor at a higher level. There they were met by intense machine-gun fire again. While transitioning Evlanov received a perforated thorax wound.
“As a result we stopped to care — shoot where you want [speaking to the militants – ed] — and climbed ahead, practically up a steep ascent,” described Merzlikin, who received two contusions and a tangential wound to the head in that battle. “A height of 90 meters, not less. I remember that we then made our way through a nut garden: pistachios and walnut… We came across ours on the so-called third plateau, near the overlapping point of the zones of responsibility of the 12th and 13th border posts. I didn’t feel pleasure, I remember feeling only injustice and a complete emotional void. It was very painful to realise that we remained alive, but our friends did not”.
We left encirclement directly towards the vanguard of the reserve of the Moscow border group strengthened by armored machinery, which was on the move to offer help from the 13th border post. The Lieutenant-Colonel Masyuk commanded this group. Help didn’t arrive in time, because the Mujahideen militants providently mined the only road leading to the 12th border post and kept it under dense fire, without allowing sappers to remove a mine. It was succeeded to clear the road and breakthrough to the captured border post only by the evening.
Border guards on the 12th border post of the Moscow border group of the Group of Border troops of Russia in the Republic of Tajikistan
In total 25 Russian servicemen died at the 12th border post during clashes, and according to estimates about 70 militants died. Merzlikin and Evlanov received the ranks of Hero of Russia. 4 more were awarded posthumously. All staff of the border post and also the crew of the BMP of the 201st motor-rifle division was recommended for state decorations.
Andrey Merzlikin became the Major-General of FSB, now he is in reserve and holds the position of an adviser to the chairman of the Russian Union of Martial Arts. Sergey Evlanov, who after conscription service worked as a bodyguard for a long time, now heads the interregional public patriotic organisation “Podvig”.
In the bottom row – two future Heroes of Russia: Sergey Sushchenko and Sergey Evlanov