Ivan Sestrivatovsky, a soldier who was stationed at the border with Crimea on February 24, 2022, said that attempts to blow up key bridges at Chonhar were thwarted by either Russian sabotage groups or damaged detonation wires.
In a July 6 interview with Ukrainska Pravda (UP), Sestrivatovsky gave his first public account of the events at the very onset of the Russian full-scale invasion.
Sestrivatovsky, who served at Chonhar from the autumn of 2021 as deputy platoon commander, says that all the bridges had been rigged with explosives since 2014. They were not cleared of these explosives before the full-scale invasion; in fact, their conditions were verified several prior to the outbreak of the war.
“Chonhar didn't have any special fortifications,” he said.
“However, everything was already rigged from 2014. All the bridges – including a railway bridge and Chonhar bridges – were rigged to explode.”
Sestrivatovsky recalls he was responsible for detonating the bridges at Chonhar on the night of Feb. 24, 2022. The order was meant to come from his immediate superior, but due to disrupted communication, incessant shelling, and the commander's preoccupation with personnel matters, Sestrivatovsky had to decide about the detonation himself.
UP points out that while Sestrivatovsky isn't a sapper, he had been given instructions on how to connect explosive devices and activate them.
"I attempted the detonation, but there was no explosion," the soldier said.
Sestrivatovsky said he was surprise to hear that the attempted detonation of the Chonhar bridges had become a topic of nationwide discussion in Ukraine, and that some individuals are even facing accusations over it. He disagrees with the notion that blowing up the bridges would have significantly hindered the invaders' progress in southern Ukraine.
“In my opinion, if the bridges had been blown up, it wouldn't have stopped the advance,” he concludes.
“It might have delayed it a bit, but not for long – maybe an hour or an hour and a half at most. They would have simply deployed pontoon bridges. They were prepared for this war.”
Following the failed detonation, Sestrivatovsky, along with two conscripts, decided to leave their positions in their own vehicle as he wasn't able to leave with his unit.
On that same day, Feb. 24, they were encircled and captured by Russian forces. Sestrivatovsky was only released from captivity on April 26, 2023.
Will you support Ukraine’s free press?
Dear reader, as all news organizations, we must balance the pressures of delivering timely, accurate, and relevant stories with requirements to fund our business operations.
As a Ukrainian-based media, we also have another responsibility – to amplify Ukraine’s voice to the world during the crucial moment of its existence as a political nation.
It’s the support of our readers that lets us continue doing our job. We keep our essential reporting free because we believe in our ultimate purpose: an independent, democratic Ukraine.
If you’re willing to support Ukraine, consider subscribing to our Patreon starting from 5$ per month. We are immensely grateful.
Please help us continue fighting Russian propaganda.
Truth can be hard to tell from fiction these days. Every viewpoint has its audience of backers and supporters, no matter how absurd.
If conscious disinformation is reinforced by state propaganda apparatus and budget, its outcomes may become deadly.
There is no solution to this, other than independent, honest, and accurate reporting.
We remain committed to empowering the Ukrainian voice to push against the muck. If you’re willing to stand up for the truth – consider supporting us on Patreon starting from 5$ per month. Thank you very much.
Will you help tell Ukraine’s story to the world?
Twenty years ago, most people hadn’t even heard of Ukraine. Today, the country is on everyone’s lips and everyone’s headlines. War pushed us on the front page. But there are many other things we do that we are proud of – from music and culture to technology.
We need your help to tell the world Ukrainian story of resilience, joy, and survival. If you’re willing to back our effort, consider supporting us on Patreon starting from 5$ per month. We are immensely grateful.