Volunteer sniper embodies Ukraine’s versatile military

Aug 29, 2022, 11:16 PM | Updated: 11:20 pm

Ukrainian sniper Andriy attends a training outside of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday Aug. 27, 2022. After ...

Ukrainian sniper Andriy attends a training outside of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday Aug. 27, 2022. After moving to Western Europe to work an an engineer, Andriy scrambled back to Ukraine at the start of the war, and within weeks underwent a conversion from civilian life to a sniper being trained by the country's special forces. (AP Photo/Andrew Kravchenko)

(AP Photo/Andrew Kravchenko)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Before taking a shot, Ukrainian sniper Andriy buries his face in a foldout mat, breathing slowly and deliberately.

“I need to be completely relaxed, to find a place where I will not move the rifle when I pull the trigger,” he says. “I don’t think about anything. It’s a kind of vacuum.”

In a semicircle around his head are boxes of bullets, printouts of charts, a heavy-duty stapler and a roll of tape.

Strapped to his wrist is a monitor, which is the shape of a jewelry box. It’s a ballistics calculator to factor in the wind and other surrounding conditions. Bees persistently circling his head and scope are ignored.

After a long pause, he says the word “shot” in Ukrainian.

Crack! A sound not unlike a starting gun used at sporting events produces a reflexive jolt in people unaccustomed to war.

Six months ago, the noise might have startled Andriy, who had moved to Western Europe to pursue a career in engineering.

His experience resembles that of many Ukrainians who returned home to the war, abruptly pulled from civilian life to embrace fighting methods – modern but also makeshift – that have held back the far larger Russian military.

Andriy comes from Bucha, a district near Kyiv’s airport that was hammered during the Russian advance. Hundreds of civilian killings took place there, the bodies found in mass graves or left lying where they were shot in what the United Nations describes as potential war crimes.

Tall and with a good command of English, the sniper spoke to The Associated Press while practicing alone at an informal firing range near Kyiv, hoping to resolve some issues with his weapon through hours of trial and error before his next deployment.

He asked only to be identified by his first name and that some details of his civilian life remain private.

Andriy scrambled home, taking a flight to Budapest and arranging an 1,200-kilometer (750-mile) overland route that included paying “a big amount of money” to a driver willing to take a risky journey eastward. Within a few days he had joined the ferocious fight around Kyiv, adopting the war nickname “Samurai.”

He bought his own gear and a U.S.-made sniper rifle, and began receiving training from a special forces instructor, connected through friends in the military.

“Early in the morning on Feb. 24, I received a call from my mother. She lives in Bucha and told me the war had started. She could hear helicopters, airplanes, bombing and explosions. I decided to return,” he said.

While not allowed to discuss any specifics of his operational activity, Andriy describes Ukraine’s military as a force that prides itself on flexibility, harnessing a wide range of skills from its personnel to become more versatile in combat.

Snipers, he said, are often used to spot Russian military positions for artillery targeting.

“I have also gained experience in tactical medicine, with drones and shooting with assault rifles,” he said.

Military specialists are encouraged to learn new skills and even find their own equipment, with Western suppliers still delivering to Ukraine in a private market that is monitored by the army.

To protect his hearing, Andriy acquired a set of hunter’s headphones that suppress the noise from his rifle while amplifying voices. “You really need these,” he says.

Russia has more than doubled the territory it controls in Ukraine since launching the invasion in February, to about 20% of the country, but Andriy shares the optimism of many fellow Ukrainians that victory will be possible after the winter.

“I think with the help of our friends in Europe and the United States that we can push them out of our territory,” he said.

His desire to become a sniper came from a familiarity with hunting rifles, common in Ukraine, and playing the role of a distance shooter in video games.

But his goal at war: “It’s to return to my home, to my family,” he says.

“No one of us wanted to be a warrior, a shooter, a sniper. It’s just a necessity to be here now and do what we’re doing here.”

After a pause he adds: “I don’t know how to explain this: I don’t like to kill people. It’s not something you want to do, but it’s something you have to do.”


Follow AP coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Israeli Embassy...

Associated Press

US airman dies after setting himself ablaze outside Israeli Embassy in Israel-Hamas war protest

An active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force has died after he set himself ablaze outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.

2 hours ago

Biden and Trump to visit Mexico border Thursday immigration...

Associated Press

Biden and Trump both plan trips to the Mexico border Thursday, dueling for advantage on immigration

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will make dueling trips to the U.S-Mexico border on Thursday.

3 hours ago

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

4 days ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

5 days ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

12 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

13 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

Volunteer sniper embodies Ukraine’s versatile military