BLUE ICE NIGHTCLUB, MOSCOW
Yuri Sarkov sat quietly and somewhat unsteadily on the stool, his large frame leaning forward on the bar. A neat row of shot glasses formed a line in front of his face, the vodka they contained expertly drained by Yuri over the previous forty-five minutes. He took no notice of his surroundings, the loud, incomprehensible western music, the rhythmic flashing lights or the people that filled the smoke drenched club dressed in their jeans, bright shirts and short skirts. His mind was elsewhere, firmly implanted on the recent events in Chechnya.
As part of Spetsnaz, Russian Special Forces,
his unit was constantly rotated to the Caucasus. A brutal land where they were not welcome and
where the Russians Forces themselves did not want to be. But the government needed to show the
Chechynan’s who was boss, that they were part of the new Russia whether they
liked it or not and the responsibility fell in part to Sarkov’s unit, Vympel.
Vympel or Department V is Russia’s counter- terrorist unit, who are also specialists in counter-sabotage. Based in Moscow, they have a unit in every Russian city that has a nuclear power plant and are experts in 18 special disciplines ranging from marksmanship to flying aircraft and most things in between.
Sarkov’s pale blue eyes stared at his reflection in the mirror behind the bar, the features distorted somewhat by the lines of liquor bottles in front of it. But no amount of distortion could hide the tiredness in the eyes, sunken and bloodshot from too much alcohol and too little sleep. His heavy square jaw bristled with a three day growth, his mouth a cruel line above it. His dark hair was cropped savagely short, almost to bare skin on the sides of his skull but sticking up about a centimetre on top.
He motioned lazily to the bartender to bring him another vodka and watched with great interest as the man filled another glass before taking the empty ones away. He studied the oily liquid with fascination as if the contents of the glass held some sort of insight as to what had occurred during his time in the South.
The sound of her voice, at first a whisper then gradually louder before drowning out the music in the nightclub made him turn and look around before he sheepishly realised that this particular voice was in his head. He pictured her in his mind, running through the snow toward the small timber house on the outskirts of Grosny, pleading with the Russian troops to hold fire, that there were children inside. Sarkov remembered how he had questioned his Captain, certain that she was right and convinced that they had to storm the building with care to ensure the children were not harmed. But Captain Vadenko was adamant, he had his orders and they would be obeyed.
Intelligence had informed Vympel that Chechynan rebels were using this house as a safe house, which belonged to the sister of a rebel leader. Vympel had surrounded the building before first light, surprised by the woman who had discovered them on her return from her nursing night shift. She had rushed into the house in a panic but there was not the expected gunfire from the rebels within who were notorious for not giving up without a fight. No words were exchanged and nobody came out of the house.
The snow began falling once more and an ominous quiet hung over the timber building. Normal procedure dictated that the soldiers would enter simultaneously from front and rear, through windows and doors allowing percussion grenades to disorientate before they stormed the building. But today was different. Vadenko had his orders, this time they were not going in, no prisoners were going to be taken. From their perimeter surrounding the house Department V was to open fire with everything that they had. Sarkov stared at his Captain in disgust as the order was given and Vymel engaged the enemy. The small timber house was no match for the high velocity weapons of the Russian Spetsnaz. Walls, doors and windows disintegrated under the constant barrage of bullets. Holes appeared across its surface and splinters flew in the air. The noise was horrific and Sarkov tried in vain to distance himself from what it must be like inside even as he continued to press down hard on the trigger of his own weapon.
It was over in less than a minute. The house remained standing but only just. Sarkov marvelled at the fact that the shredded walls could still hold up the snow covered roof. With the gunfire over, the silence was overpowering, the snow muffling all sound of movement. As the smoke cleared, Vadenko, Sarkov and two others made their way cautiously to the front of the house. The front door was gone, blown away from the steady stream of bullets. The front room was empty as was the small kitchen. They found them in the second bedroom, the woman who had run into the house just minutes before and two little girls, no more than ten years of age. Their bloody and lifeless bodies in the middle of the room, the woman’s arm around both of the children in a futile attempt to protect them. Blood seeped from the shredded flesh and disappeared between the cracks of the floorboards. Sarkov stared at the bodies for a moment, his face impassive and unreadable. He checked the other two remaining rooms but nobody was there. No rebels, just the woman and her two children. In a state of shock, he walked back and stood next to Vadenko who seemed unsurprised by the lack of presence of any rebels. The Captain just stood and stared at the bodies on the floor a smile on his face, a sign of a job well done. Sarkov dropped his weapon on the timber floor and it clattered noisily besides the three bodies. Vadenko turned with and looked at Sarkov curiously, unable to block the punch that knocked him off his feet and lay him unconscious before he even hit the floor.
Later at his disciplinary hearing he had learned that it was doubtful that there ever were rebels using the house as a base. While it was acknowledged that it indeed did belong to the sister of a rebel leader, the intention of the mission was pure payback. To let the rebels know that if they could not get to them they would get to their families. The Russian military and the Russian government distanced themselves from the operation, concerned about negative foreign media exposure. Vadenko was publicly cautioned and privately rewarded for his part while eager to keep things quiet, Sarkov was discreetly discharged from the service.
The vodka oozed down his throat smoothly but without pleasure and for the first time he noticed the woman by his side. He nodded at her and she smiled warmly for this was her nightclub and Yuri had become somewhat of a regular. On unsteady feet, Sarkov stood and looked around for a moment seemingly confused as to where he was. The woman signalled to the barman and together they helped the staggering ex-soldier to a small room behind the bar and laid him on the canvas cot just before he passed out.