Volunteers were best suited for the job, since they were most ready to accept the risk, said Mr. Serediuk, who stayed back, drinking coffee through the night, waiting for news.
His volunteers were united in wanting to recapture all Ukrainian territory, including the annexed Crimean peninsula, he said, and taking the fight all the way to Russia, too. “We all dream about going to Chechnya, and the Kremlin, and as far as the Ural Mountains,” he said. As for President Vladimir V. Putin, he said: “Kill him in his bunker. My small unit can do that.”
Their small sabotage attacks were not enough to liberate the occupied areas on their own, he said. “That will be land forces.” But he said he came to realize the value of their work when he saw the damage a Russian sabotage unit did behind Ukrainian lines near the town of Bakhmut in August.
“It had a very big impact,” he said, “and we had to use a big force to find them.”
The situation was changing rapidly in Ukraine with the introduction of thousands of newly mobilized Russian troops and then the retreat from Kherson this month, he said in a later interview. “Our task now is to hasten their retreat,” he said, “to turn their retreat into a chaotic flight.” The task would remain the same but they would be venturing deeper into Russian-held territory, he said.
The soldiers were back before dawn, unloading on the same beach, cold, weary and with few words. “Excellent,” said one soldier clomping back up the beach. One boat had broken down but within half an hour the operational commander reported all were back on base.
“We laid the mines and then came back without any noise and they did not see us,” said one 18-year-old soldier. He said he had watched the Russians from a distance of 100 yards or more. “Some were walking, some were standing, some were just watching their phones,” he said.