General Dmytro Marchenko headed the defense of Mykolaiv in the first, most dangerous months of full-scale Russian invasion. In an interview to ‘NikVesti’ media outlet, he told how they defended the city, what the first days were like, and whether Ukraine would win.
Marchenko is convinced that the greatest contribution to the resistance to the aggressor was made by the ordinary Ukrainian military, not by the leadership. With their courage and resilience, they ‘withstood the most difficult moments during hostilities’.
Regarding the mental state of people in the first days, the General said that it was mostly panic. On the first day of the war, he wrote the report to the Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhny with a request to go to Mykolaiv. Marchenko’s main advantage was that he knew the area and landscape. At the same time he began to receive from acquaintances videos of ‘Russian columns marching towards Kherson’, accordingly, the next was to be Mykolaiv.
In the city, people were scared and did not believe in the possibility of defending themselves from the aggressors:
‘As I was driving down the street, I saw a resident of the house removing the Ukrainian flag. I stopped and asked what he was doing. He said, ‘This is the end, Kherson fell, everyone understands we are the next, we need to prepare’. I said, ‘Wait, this is Mykolaiv, we will resist’. He replied, ‘Did you see how many troops they have?’ I said, ‘There is nothing to fear’.
The city was not ready to the attack. On February 25, according to the General, there were no trenches, no checkpoints, no defense, and no sufficient means of communication. That is why Marchenko immediately sent all the excavators out of the city to dig trenches. He divided the city into zones and appointed those responsible there.
He did not let out of the city all representatives of the authorities and law enforcement agencies who tried to ‘evacuate’. To prevent them from doing this at night, Marchenko even blocked bridges.
Bridges were also blocked to prevent Russians from entering. Dmytro Marchenko was ordered to blow up the Varvarivskyi Bridge eight times, but he persuaded the leadership not to do so. If he had blown it up, Ukrainian forces would have been surrounded.
About Mykolaiv governor Vitaly Kim, General Marchenko said that he had done a lot of work thanks to the positive mood though he is just an ordinary person and has such emotions as fear.
‘He did a lot of work – he made civilians believe in themselves and stand to resistance’, Marchenko said. He added that the rocket attack on the administration building at 8:30 – the time when Kim usually holds meetings there – was carried out in order to sow panic.
Local residents of Mykolaiv and the region helped to resist Russia. The General noted that Ukrainian forces managed to repel the enemy’s attacks due to the communication with local residents who reported on the movement of Russian troops and convoys of equipment in the area. Due to this, Ukrainian forces could strike with artillery the enemy convoys while they were not ready to defend themselves.
Marchenko told about one of the key battles for Mykolaiv – the fight for Kulbakinskyi airfield. He did not believe Russian tactical distractions (at the same time, columns of Russian armored vehicles were going in three different directions). In the end, the airfield was captured by the Ukrainian police unit, which allowed the artillery to aim and attack the main enemy forces.
If Russians had entered to the city, it would have been like in Irpin or Bucha, the General is convinced. He stressed that they wanted to capture Mykolaiv according to the Mariupol scenario – to surround it, drive the Ukrainian military to some object like a factory and exhaust them there.
In addition, according to Dmytro Marchenko, Putin’s plan regarding Mykolaiv is its destruction, to raze the city to the ground. ‘They want to raze Mykolaiv to the ground with constant shelling’. However, Russia does not yet have the strength to do it, and it has already lost about 20% of its potential in the war.
Putin is not being told the truth, the General is convinced.
‘Putin firmly believed that he would win as soon as he crossed the Ukrainian border. It was his big mistake’, Marchenko stressed.
The problem of the Russian army is total corruption, and because of this, Putin did not have enough information about the Russian armed forces. He neither had information about the war and the real situation in Ukraine. Putin was deceived and is still being deceived.
Marchenko considers the resistance that Mykolaiv showed in the first weeks of the war a kind of miracle, and he is not sure that he could do it again. ‘I don’t know how we survived’, he admitted.
The General rejected to comment on why the south of Ukraine was captured so quickly and rumors of demining of the isthmus leading out of Crimea.
‘I can’t comment on that – I don’t know what was there and how it was. I have my thoughts, I can’t voice them’, he said. He added that he believes that one day the truth will come out:, ‘Everything secret becomes open. One day, I think, we will find out why they [Russian troops] reached Kherson in 6 hours.