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TSh-4 Helmet of a BMD-2 Crewman

BMD-2 Crewman
331st Guards Airborne Regiment, 98th Guards Airborne Division

     This tanker’s helmet was recovered near Izyum, south of Brazhkivka, from a BMD-2 of the 331st Airborne Regiment, 98th Airborne Division, which was knocked out by mines sometime in April-May 2022.

​     The 331st Guards Airborne Regiment has a long and decorated history within the Russian military. Based out of Kostroma, the regiment was considered one of the more elite units of the army, consistently performing well in intra-military competitions while receiving the honor of appearing in countless military parades in Moscow and across Russia. In 2014 the regiment saw extensive combat in Chechnya and Donetsk, its last combat appearance prior to the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, giving actual fighting experience to at least some of its members.

     In January of 2022, the regiment was one of the last units to join the gathering of Russian forces along the Belorussian border near Kyiv, only arriving a few weeks before the invasion was slated to begin. On 24 February the regiment joined its parent organization, the 98th Airborne Division, and many other Russian airborne units to make a massive drive towards the Ukrainian capital, kicking off a full-scale invasion by attempting to capture key points of Ukrainian infrastructure and settlements leading to Kyiv. One of the 331st’s primary objectives became the Hostomel Airport and Bucha, key points to maintaining Russian logistical capability to support advancing ground forces. Before long, however, the area turned into a back-and-forth onslaught between Russian airborne forces and the Ukrainian defenders. The 331st sustained heavy casualties in the first few weeks of combat as Ukrainian ambushes and street-fighting led to dozens killed, countless more wounded, and even the death of their regimental commanding officer. By the end of March, as the drive on Kyiv faded, the regiment was sent back to Belarus to recuperate.

     Over the next several months the regiment, as a more well-trained and experienced force, made scattered appearances in places like Izyum, Donetsk, and Popasnaya as the unit moved with the 98th Division to fill gaps in the Russian lines and support various defensive operations across the Donbas. Despite their heavy casualties in the early fighting, the regiment was consistently put in some of the thickest combat positions.

This vehicle, a BMD-2, was knocked out south of Izyum at a crossroads south of Brazhkivka when it ran over a set of mines lining the road. The 331st was likely supporting the attacks on Izyum during April and May and thus far this has been the only vehicle I’ve found confirmed loss from them during this part of the campaign. It is unknown whether the crewmen made it out. It is clear the explosion caused the damage to these pieces, however, there seem to be no human remnants inside, suggesting the crewmen left their gear when abandoning the vehicle. The helmet was picked up several months ago when some Ukrainians were investigating the wreckage over half a year after it was knocked out. Inside were found this helmet, the scraps of another, and a tanker’s protective vest which was similarly shredded.

Based on the damage to the helmet it seems to have been sitting out in the sun, as there is strong fading where it was laying out, and grass stains from exposure to the elements. Although damaged, the vehicle’s distinct identifier number is still intact. The helmet itself is in very fragile condition and pieces flake off at the slightest touch, explaining the difference in condition between the numbers on the helmet as it was taken in the photo and as it exists know. It shall now be properly preserved.

​ A very tangible and well-documented piece reminding us of the continued mass losses and futility of this ongoing struggle.

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