Fifteen years ago, on the night of 11 to 12 June 1999, the battalion of the Russian paratroopers for several hours made a dashing throw from Bosnia to Kosovo, capturing strategically important object — the Pristina airport "Slatina" and ahead of the armored columns of NATO troops.
The bold and the bold March of a separate airborne battalion into the heart of Kosovo, many in Russia then caused the sense of pride for our country and her army. Creeps up on the back: weeping Serbian woman in Pristina night kiss dusty armor Russian BTR...
The battalion commander of airborne forces Colonel Sergei Pavlov today teaches at the Ryazan higher airborne command school named for army General V. F. Margelov. Students often asked him to tell about the March from Bosnia to Kosovo. Therefore, not erased from memory, a few years ago, the Colonel wrote — "on the table" for yourself — short memories. With the permission of Sergei Sokolov published some of his memories in "Evening Moscow".
"In those days, when Kosovo was unfolding dramatic events, we are, soldiers of the Russian peacekeeping brigade in Bosnia and Herzegovina, closely followed what is happening in the neighborhood. Around the clock the bombers of NATO countries flew on the bombing of Serbia just over our base area. June 10, about 14 hours I was called to communicate the brigade commander Colonel Nikolay Ignatov and oriented about the possible March of the battalion over a long distance. He was ordered to 18 hours to arrive at the brigade headquarters for the formulation of the problem.
Arriving at headquarters, he received from the commander of military order: to the battalion as an advance guard have to make a 620-mile March and by the morning of June 12 to capture the airport "Slatina" in 12 kilometers southwest of Pristina. Time ready to March was determined to be 3.00 June 11.
Thus, at my disposal for training was 8 hours, including daylight hours — 3 hours. Sleep that night didn't happen to anyone. Call the SAAS apparatus (classified communications equipment) were distributed in the 5.00. Now is the time to act, and all the military mechanism to work. The battalion went. Confident, beautiful, powerful."
"The March started at low speeds. In the area of focus we waited for the senior operational group of General major V. Rybkin and the brigade commander Colonel N. Ignatov. After some discussion, decided to leave part of the equipment, to "relieve" column. We already had reliable data that advance elements of NATO troops crossed the border of Yugoslavia. We had to hurry, to overcome because we had a much longer way than them.
It was early morning. Quietly went Beeline, and... the start of the race. The convoy was travelling at speed of 80 kilometers per hour on a difficult track with 36-degree heat. Soon passed the river to the Drina and came to the territory of Yugoslavia. The news of our appearance instantly spread throughout the country. Began to appear the cameramen, the crowd of people applauded us on the streets. Men rejoiced, crying women. I thought that now about our arrival in Yugoslavia they know everything in the world. Presented, what is the panic going on in NATO headquarters, as the stretched face of our American commander in Bosnia, Kevin burns, when he from under the nose left the Russian battalion".
"We cross the administrative border of Kosovo province. We're almost there. The main front of the airport. To catch just to catch. Come to the capital of Kosovo — Pristina. Two o'clock, and on the streets — the entire population of the city. What happened here! The firing of small arms, explosions of firecrackers, signal rockets fly, the crowds on the sidewalks, yelling and whistling, all around flashes of cameras, the way people kneel in front of armored personnel carriers. Oh my God! What to do? Since we do not even miss. I give command: close hatches, moving do not stop. Out finally from Pristina.
Stop, again the task of capturing the airfield, heard the scouts and go! Here he awaited, the most crucial moment. The battalion, like a spring, taken from the stopper, takes off and flies to the airfield. Continuously received reports of the commanders. Hear, briefly give the instructions. Worry, as though not to run someone into a minefield. Schemes-the minefields we do not have, and their then — visible-invisible: tried and themselves Serbs, and all and Sundry. Struggling sappers of Lieutenant-Colonel A. Moreva: conduct engineering reconnaissance, do the passages, but still the risk is great — the darkness-the pitch. Periodically distributed random firing, we heard the mine explosions. the Situation is complicated: depart Serbs; in one, in another place appear the Albanian fighters of the Kosovo Liberation army, the sky lights up with flares, tracks the bullets, the air is full of the reports of unit commanders. Great work the scouts of major S. Matviyenko: no idea how this mess can understand and to give clear information! Indeed, no intelligence anywhere.
Soon emerged the first success: the platoon commander Lieutenant N. Yazykov reported on the capture of the road junction in the South-East of the airfield. Important to us because that is the direction of pressure from bakovci, because there should be some Englishmen. Now Yazykovo need to "dig" into the ground and keep the roads, while we, the rest, will do the trick. One after the other reports: senior Lieutenant A. Kijko captured the fuel depot, senior Lieutenant D. Rabenau beats for a residential town... the Main thing is not to lose the initiative. With the dawn realize how big the airfield: the runway length of 2500 meters, mass hangars, a huge residential township. And almost all mined. Only now understand how us little. How to keep this edifice? Because we only two hundred bayonets, and to capture you need at least a regiment. So, everyone get a load of the whole Department. Well, let us hold fast.
I thought, what a great still our soldiers. Young guys in my life haven't really experienced, did not get into trouble, and then your eyes make history. And not in a good warriors of the French, the British or the Americans in our sometimes ugly-looking soldier from Ryazan or Vologda province.
WHO CAME FIRST, AND THAT TAKES LOOT
"By five o'clock in the morning on 12 June, the airfield was taken. Now the main task — to gain a foothold, to establish a system of protection and defense. The soldiers are exhausted, but we must hold on, need to "dig" into the ground, to cover equipment, prepare the spare position. At 7.30 in the morning came from a lookout's first report on the nomination of the English columns. Here and waited. A little later, the head of one of the posts, senior Lieutenant N. Yazykov, reports that military outposts of the British attempts to break through to the airfield, but not so Yazykov to someone skip.
Nominated to the post and watch the picture: standing in the way of our BTR-80, blocking the way to the English parachute battalion. In the side is Lieutenant N. Yazykov and explains something of the English officer. His face of surprise: what's with Russians and why they, the British, do not miss? And do not miss because they are late. As they say we the people: "first up, what God gives". Maybe, or rather once told the ancient: "Who came first, and that takes loot".
Later, there is an English Brigadier General. Familiar, are explained. Report to the General V. Rybkin environment and English accompany the brigade commander to our headquarters for talks. So, we met with the NATO. And then came the talks the commander of the United troops of British General Michael Jackson, other bosses. And the negotiations this was not the end. And we did the business: he studied the airfield, organized system of protection and defense.
During the first two or three days we are already thoroughly settled, even bath equipped. And waited for reinforcements. But was not destined to wait soon, as our former "brothers in the socialist camp" did not give our aircraft from Russia "corridor" for migration. At night haunted by the fighters of the KLA and local partisans who provoked us, to threaten and kept on the scope. We soon received the good news that begins the deployment of the main forces of Russia in Kosovo, and in a combined way — by air and sea. Came the long-awaited day, and we meet our planes with troops from Russia...
... Came the moment of return to Bosnia. Accompanied us with great gratitude. In summary, I would say, we had the great honor. We did our job and proud of it. Be at our other place, and I'm sure they would have completed the task since it had to be done".
Secret underground airfield in Slatina is a tunnel with a length of about 400 meters. Was built allegedly by the Moscow Metrostroy in the 1960s. 12 June 11 Yugoslav MiG-29 headed for Belgrade. The airfield was under the jurisdiction of Russia until the summer of 2003, then was transferred to NATO. Under the plan the operation after the capture of the airport "Slatina" he had to fly military transport aircraft the Russian air force with the personnel of the two regiments of airborne forces. But under pressure from the U.S., Hungary and Bulgaria refused Russia's providing air corridors. 200 paratroopers Pavlova several days were one-on-one against NATO.
Secret mission Yevkurov
In may 1999, the GRU major General Yunus-Bek Yevkurov received a secret mission: a group of 18 special forces to enter Kosovo and to seize the airport "Slatina". Yevkurov and his people have done so and waited for the arrival of a battalion of Colonel Pavlov. NATO members dispatched to Yevkurov of truce, captain Jackson. The title of hero of Russia, the President of Ingushetia received for the capture of "Slatina". The details of the operation are classified.
After the capture of Russian paratroopers of the airport "Slatina" in accordance with UN security Council resolution No. 1244 and on the basis of the decree of the President of the Russian Federation adopted a decision in Kosovo of the military contingent of the Russian armed forces number 3616. In the spring of 2003 the chief of the General staff Anatoly Kvashnin said: "we have no strategic interests in the Balkans and on the withdrawal of peacekeepers, we will save 25 million dollars a year". The troopers returned...
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