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P. V. Serov

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Marine

Russian Naval Infantry, 1st Guards Tank Army

Helmet captured by the Ukrainian 92nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade

     On 24 February 2022, Russian military forces across Eastern Europe began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, attacking across multiple fronts with hundreds of thousands of professional troops, local militias, and a vast arsenal of high-grade military equipment. While the first major advances were harrowing for the outnumbered defenders, the Ukrainian defense forces managed to stem the tide. Through the spring and summer the Russians were slowly pushed back as the new main battle front set in along the Donbas, splitting Ukraine in two. With Kharkiv Oblast primarily under Russian control, Ukraine launched a major counteroffensive on 6 September to recapture key points across the territory. The attack was massively successful in its early phases and by 13 September over 8,000 square kilometers were reclaimed. The Russians, however, unwilling to give up their gains, began to build vast emplacements and defensive fortifications. As the muddy season set in, movements slowed and the lines stagnated with heavy combat, creating many casualties as battles raged over numerous tiny villages dotting the region.

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Photo and patches from the 92nd Brigade sent with the helmet
Photo and patches from the 92nd Brigade sent with the helmet

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     One of the primary points of contention came to be the Svatove-Kreminna Line. Formed during the Russian retreat from the September counteroffensive, the line traveling along the two cities was manned by the 20th Guards Combined Arms Army and 1st Guards Tank Army to secure the land north of the Bakhmut, a major target for both sides. With a quick-advancing Ukrainian army on their tails, the area quickly became full of complex trench lines, foxholes, anti-tank barricades, dug-in artillery positions, pillboxes, and countless other heavy fortifications. As October rains turned the ground into a slosh of muddy fields and the emplacements did their job, the fighting turned into a slogging match between heavy artillery and daily infantry assaults. Battles were back and forth as raiding parties and ambushes attempted to gain meters of land at a time. Before long a “gray zone” quickly formed between the lines with an appearance identical to WWI no-man's-land.

 

     In December one of the primary Ukrainian units operating just north of Svatove was the 92nd Separate Mechanized Infantry Brigade. Formed in 1999, the brigade served many years in the National Guard of Ukraine before seeing its first action during UN peacekeeping missions and the 2014 war against separatists in the Donbas. By 2022 the brigade was equipped as a heavily armored unit with highly trained professional infantry supported by numerous tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery. When Russian forces invaded that February the brigade was stationed in the Kharkiv region, playing a major role in halting the Russian advance and pushing them back during the September counteroffensive. During this advance the brigade distinguished itself for quick, effective, and heavy-hitting combat maneuvers, capturing thousands of Russian troops and performing exceptionally in their engagements against enemy forces. By December the 92nd was once again on the front line fighting north of Svatove against an ever-hardening foe. To combat the prowess of the 92nd specifically, the Russians began mobilizing more modern and elite forces, including Naval Infantry and modern T-90 tanks, on their segment of the line. While these changes in personnel certainly toughened the fight, the 92nd held strong and has continued to play a critical part in defending the northern section of the Svatove-Kreminna front. 

Situation map of the Svatove segment of the line
Situation map of the Svatove segment of the line

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Russian marines in the Donbas, December 2022
Russian marines in the Donbas, December 2022

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Russian marine mortar team
Russian marine mortar team

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Situation map of the Svatove segment of the line
Situation map of the Svatove segment of the line

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     Around 18-21 December a Russian infantry force gathered to once again assault the 92nd Brigade in hopes of creating a breakthrough. Primarily consisting of a detachment of Russian Naval Infantry, some of their more trained and well-equipped forces, the Russians attempted to advance through the muddy wasteland, likely with no armor support. The results were devastating. According to “Myrotvorets” (meaning “Peacemaker”), a 92nd Brigade soldier who witnessed the assault, the Russian marines were decimated by the superior and well-placed fire of the Ukrainian forces. In his words, no one survived the attack, instead stating that they “are all in hell.” As is customary after an engagement, Myrotvorets and his comrades scoured the battlefield after the fighting came to a halt to search for Russian equipment that could be reissued to their own troops. Amidst the search, he came across this very helmet lying without an owner in the mud. As a tragic reminder of the fighting, Myrotvorets wrote his callsign upon the shell of the heavily muddied, worn, and shrapnel-damaged helmet before sending it back with other equipment gathered from the assaulting force. In a video taken after the battle, the helmets are described as “all that is left” of the marines, quiet and solemn reminders of the Russian lives needlessly lost in the grand scheme of Putin’s aggressive imperialism. 

 

     This helmet is the same found by Myrotvorets and was given to his friend, a logistics person supporting the 92nd Brigade, who passed it on to this collection to act as a physical reminder of this terrible conflict, the valor of the Ukrainian forces defending their homes, and the tragedy of every life lost unnecessarily in a war rooted in the expansionist dreams of demagogues. 

A Russian assault in the area similar to the one described

     While I cannot confirm definitively that Serov was killed in action, the details given come from the soldier who witnessed the battle. It is very possible that Serov was only wounded, captured, or possibly even escaped the action, just losing his helmet. Until more information is released, it cannot be said for certain. The helmet itself is known as a 6b47, part of the larger “Ratnik” program, and is the standard issue for the Russian armed forces fighting in Ukraine. Beyond its extremely war-torn saltiness, the helmet features a sewn St. George’s ribbon on its front. The ribbon has a long story in Russian military history but notably was used as the basis for the service medal given by the Russian military for actions in WWII. Since the outbreak of the invasion, it has taken on a new meaning as Russian propaganda attempts to characterize the invasion as a “denazification” of Ukraine, citing Second World War narratives of an anti-Soviet Ukraine in attempts to demonize their new enemy. Additionally, the helmet is named in multiple places to the marine who wore it, including his official name tape on the back of the cover and his name and initials written inside the helmet. The Russian government has so far withheld the names of the killed, missing, and wounded from the ongoing war, and until more information is publicly released, knowing more details of the exact soldier this belonged to are difficult to determine.

Some of the 92nd Brigade troops photographed and sent with the helmet
Some of the 92nd Brigade troops photographed and sent with the helmet

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Russian POWs taken near Svatove
Russian POWs taken near Svatove

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92nd Brigade soldier
92nd Brigade soldier

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Some of the 92nd Brigade troops photographed and sent with the helmet
Some of the 92nd Brigade troops photographed and sent with the helmet

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A 92nd Brigade soldier describing the helmets left by the marines; this helmet is believed to be on top upside down.

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