In the heart of the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, a select group of Ukrainian snipers known as “Bakhmut’s Ghosts” are waging a relentless battle. These elite marksmen navigate the treacherous terrain around the city of Bakhmut, tirelessly hunting high-value Russian targets. In this long-form news article, we delve into the lives and missions of these dedicated warriors.
The Unseen Heroes
“The work of a sniper is not as glamorous as the way Americans depict it in movies,” admits the commander of the squad, who goes by the nickname “The Phantom.” “We have to work 24/7, day and night. There are no days off. We are always exhausted when we return from our mission.”
The “Ghost” team’s relentless dedication has resulted in an astounding claim of 558 targets taken down in the past nine months, with “Ghost” himself accounting for 113, equivalent to the number of a battalion. However, it’s worth noting that such figures are often met with skepticism, as they tend to be inflated for propaganda purposes.
A Dangerous Game
The “Ghost” team is often the first to arrive at the hottest spots on the battlefield, traveling in Humvee armored vehicles to reach their mission locations. Once near the target, they proceed on foot to maintain secrecy. After taking the shot, snipers carefully observe to ensure their target has been neutralized, with data from their shots recorded by sensors on their scopes.
The missions undertaken by the “Ghost” team are fraught with danger, but their most challenging adversaries are often other Russian snipers. “It’s a predator hunting mission,” “Ghost” remarks.
The “Ghosts of Bakhmut” is a unit under the Independent Presidential Brigade of Ukraine, specially dispatched to the Bakhmut battlefield following a rigorous 10-month training program. Comprising approximately 20 members, their primary weapon of choice is the US-made Barrett M107A1 semi-automatic rifle, known for its precision and range.
While shooting skills are vital, “Ghost” emphasizes that combat in the field demands much more. Snipers spend just 10% of their time training on aiming techniques; the remaining 90% is dedicated to learning survival skills, including calculating firing elements, mastering camouflage, and understanding the battlefield environment.
The Spirit of Courage
When selecting team members, “Ghost” emphasizes their unwavering commitment to the cause. “The spirit of courage is something that can be trained,” he asserts. “They must be strong, resilient, focused, and patriotic. This is extremely important because they must understand what they are fighting for.”
While the “Ghost” team has avoided casualties, injuries are not uncommon. “Ghost” himself recalls being hospitalized for 12 days after being hit by shrapnel during a mission in Bakhmut.
Unity and Self-reliance
The “Ghost” team’s success is attributed to their self-reliance, close bonds, and the execution of tasks as a unified force. “Our members themselves do every step in the mission. Our drivers and repair teams are not dependent on anyone outside the unit. Perhaps that’s why we all survived,” he reflects.
Amidst the ongoing battle in Bakhmut, where thousands have lost their lives, the Ukrainian army is intensifying its efforts to regain control of the city. The “Ghost” team’s role has shifted from urban combat to open fields, each presenting its unique set of challenges.
In open terrain, snipers must employ meticulous camouflage, often lying in one position for up to 16 continuous hours while hunting for targets. This mission demands immense strength, endurance, and a keen awareness of the constant threat of Russian artillery.
The Human Element
Despite their exceptional marksmanship and unwavering resolve, “Phantom” and his teammates are still human, and they acknowledge fear. “If a person loses their sense of fear, that is the beginning of the end for them,” he reflects.
After completing their missions and returning to base, the “Ghost” team cherishes rare moments of normalcy. “Ghost” enjoys writing music, singing, and chatting with his daughter during his downtime. The team has even adopted a Husky dog named Lola to help relieve stress.
In the face of conflict, “Ghost” has transitioned from being a businessman known as “Casper” to an indomitable spirit on the battlefield, dedicated to protecting his homeland.
In conclusion, the story of “Bakhmut’s Ghosts” is a testament to Ukrainian snipers’ courage, resilience, and sacrifice in the ongoing conflict with Russia. These elite marksmen continue to brave the dangers of war, always prepared to defend their homeland.