Retired Lieutenant Colonel of Georgian Armed Forces Zaur Benianidze was among first Georgians that came to Ukraine to help reincarnate Ukrainian army - it was in May 2014 - the most turbulent time when risk of Russian full-scale invasion was really high. Four years before that he was defending his native country from the real Russian invasion that took place in August 2008. You can read his story about the war 8.8.8 below.
In 2008,I was Head of intelligence unit of 2nd infantry brigade of Georgian armed forces. The war itself began suddenly for us. Guerillas from Ossetia side were fiercely shelling of our positions for a couple of weeks. All of a sudden on 7 August, we received an order to move forward. We had a task to tape the militants’ firing-points, from which shelling of the Georgian villages was made. The operation began with the first rays of sun in the morning. It looked very much like a police operation.
Our artillery units were not working neither on Tskhinvali nor on villages around it. There were no need in it as enemies just went away. The only place where we faced any resistance was Tskhinvali downtown.
The war itself started without any sharpness, prosily. I took a command over the avant-garde unit of the brigade that got a task to pass around Tskhinvali and reach the Dzari road near Khetagurovo. We got two tanks. Special operations forces unit was acting with us as well. Our comrades from 3, 4 and 5th brigades and MIA (Ministry of Internal Affairs) special units were executing clearing operation in Tskhinvali, while we had another route - to pass Tskhinvali around from the south.
Out of a sudden we went into combat with forward company of the 58th Army, that included headquarters convoy led by general Khrulev. When Russians tell that they went into close-in action with Georgian special forces i believe they exaggerate the quantity of our special forces guys. In reality the convoy was stopped by two our tanks that opened fire from the long range and destroyed couple of enemy's armored vehicles. We tried to keep distance and did not conduct any mop-up operations.
Couple of hours of silence after destruction of Russian convoy were followed by artillery and airstrikes on us. We left our positions. We did not suffer any losses in this battle – enemy’s fire was inaccurate.
Facing the war for our army was not a simple but challenging. We could hardly believe that large Russia decided to attack us only for the reason that we decided to punish terrorists, which were killing people on the Georgian land for many months.
When Russian EW (electronic warfare) blacked out the voice communication, many Georgian soldiers were in panic – especially those who were participating in his first battle ever. Without cell phones and connection with the external world, they felt a bit uncomfortable. Nevertheless, because we had the contract army we reduced to order very quickly and subsequent tasks were completed with a disciplined approach. Moreover, the military tactical communication showed its effectiveness and worked without failures.
The whole our army on the all levels of subordination was equipped with the Harris radios. This is brilliant communication systems and it is a pity that Ukrainian army does not have them in sufficient number. I believe that all officers-in-charge should have “Harris”. Russian EW systems were not able to black them out during the whole war.
Presence of reliable communications and equipment of the infantry and artillery units with reconnaissance drones allowed me, as chief of reconnaissance and command of the brigade, to maintain stable management throughout the war and receive a sufficient amount of latest information about the enemy. Our artillery units worked perfectly.
Unfortunately, our army has not been prepared for repelling of Russian invasion. As a result, there was no appropriate plan of using armed forces in this case. We were holding our positions on 9th and 10th of August but on the 11th of August, we started a withdrawal operation that has not been well organized. I do not even remember anyone receiving any orders.
I was backing up the withdrawal of my brigade. In Nikozi village, a couple of units turned around in order to blunt Russian convoys.
We destroyed the avant-garde of the Russian troops. At least 2 tanks and 2 IFVs were burnt in the village. Our attack was much unexpected for our enemies – in the knocked-out tank we found just one soldier – commander and gunner were missing. We asked him: “Where are you going alone?”, and he answers “Hell knows”. He was subsequently exchanged for our captured guys. Unfortunately the enemy attacked Nikozi in force. Crew of our anti-tank missile system "Fagot" heroically died in a battle. Three my soldiers were killed. But we managed to stop the enemy for a long time.
However, a tragedy has happened nearby. Another Russian convoy passed through Nikozi and occupied Shindisi train station. Our rear convoy of sigs and combat engineers of the 2nd Infantry Brigade, with no heavy weapons at all, have been shot up by enemy armored vehicles. They did not flinch, and they have taken this battle in hopeless conditions - no one gave up. 17 Georgian soldiers were killed. Now there is a monument on this place. Perhaps, due to the courage of these killed soldiers and their resistance, the Russian units did not surround Nikozi, and we, the rearguard of the army, managed to leave it unhindered.
Despite the use of the overwhelming forces of armored vehicles, aviation and artillery against us, we managed to withdraw for trip wiring our capital with minimal losses for such circumstances.
I will never forget all that evil and pain that Putin's regime caused to my Homeland. Therefore, as soon as I heard about the attempt of the Russian Federation to invade in Ukraine, I immediately came here to help. I continue to struggle, and will give all my strength to transfer my knowledge and experience to the Ukrainians. I used to teach the members of Donbass Battalion. Now I am delivering lectures at school of junior commanders of the "Azov" Regiment. To defeat Putin, we need well-trained soldiers ".