A shot worth of millions: how the “Old man” destroyed the Su-25 with a Wagner Group pilot onboard
25 July, 2022
Serviceman with the call sign “Old man” Oleksii Bratushchak / hromadske

In June, the 72nd Separate Mechanized Brigade, named after the Black Zaporozhians, entered the Donbas. In a few days, it reported the Russian Su-25 was destroyed, and the Wagner Group pilot was captured. The skillful actions of a serviceman with the call sign “Old man” ensured this success. Together with his partner, he destroyed a jet with Igla man-portable air-defense system. This was “Old man’s” first combat experience of using MANPADS. And he destroyed the target worth UAH 385 million.

hromadske met “Old man” in the Donbas. Find his story below.

Adrenaline was coursing through my veins

My partner Artem and I were sent to the position to monitor the sky. It was reported that there were a lot of Russian jets flying there. When we arrived at the position, we saw a lot of Russian jets and “UAVs” flying in the Popasna area. But, they were too far, and we couldn’t reach them with MANPADS.

However, we saw the Su-25 flying 50 meters above us. We contacted people on the walkie and asked if it was our jet because it easily flew to our rear. We were informed that it was not ours. Then I took a position on one side of the position, and Artem was on the other side. The jet turned around and just flew at me.

He must have seen me with the Igla and turned sharply to the right to land. And there Artem “met” him — he hit the left engine. And then I hit the right one with the second missile. The aircraft jet fell somewhere outside the site. The pilot ejected, and our guys found him. Later, I saw on the Internet that it was a Wagner Group mercenary.

The impressions after I hit the jet? Adrenaline was coursing through my veins, as they say. But I also realized I had to change the position and leave the place. I heard on the talkie I should get ready because “whirlybirds” (helicopters, ed.) were coming to get the pilot.

One hundred grams of alcohol for the destroyed jet

“Partizan,” the commander, who is now dead, called our people and told them to prepare one hundred grams of alcohol for the destroyed jet. But he never made it... so we didn’t celebrate in any way. And how could we celebrate when the positions were scattered? There hasn’t been any celebration yet. We will celebrate when we win.

This was our first combat launch with Artem (using Igla MANPADS, ed.). Before that, we have been training for two days. It was like a computer game. You put on a helmet, take a missile — like the real one, a little heavier. But the more challenging the training, the easier the mission. And so we have been training for two days; the instructors told us how to lock onto targets and everything else. The instructors had combat experience.

(The 72nd Brigade reported on its Facebook page that the Igla MANPADS simulator developed by the Kyiv Research and Production Enterprise “Enerhiya 2000” was purchased with funds raised by the Come Back Alive Foundation. And in a few weeks, 70 service members completed the training course.)

A Ukrainian service member is undergoing training on the simulator for an anti-aircraft gunner of the Igla man-portable air defense system / Photo: Come Back Alive

I received the call sign “Old man” because of my age — I am 58

In ordinary life, I am an employee of Kyiv Paper Works. I was given a call sign “Old man” because I’m already 58. I am quite old, and it’s a bit tough. In this war, I’ve been doing all sorts of things: I was a driver, a machine gunner, and a grenade launcher operator, and now I have become an anti-aircraft gunner.

I have experience in the Anti-Terrorist Operation. Back then, I was mobilized and served in the 93rd Brigade — I was a driver. When a large-scale invasion began on February 24, we met with the former ATO participants and went to the military enlistment office. We were ordered to take the things we needed and be there at noon. We were sent to the 72nd Brigade. In the evening, we were in Brovary, and in the morning — in the village of Skybyn. There we repelled enemy attacks with Tanya Chornovil. She is not in our Brigade. She had sort of a “wandering” brigade.

On March 9, we destroyed the Russian column. This was their first attempt to break through. There were about a hundred “little boxes” of their equipment. They tried to start moving again on March 19. We stopped them that time, too. We had very well-equipped positions there. We managed to dig in thanks to the fact that Chernihiv and Sumy were resisting. And Russian aviation did not work as much in Kyiv Oblast as in the Donbas. They also didn’t use artillery as much as here in the Donbas. They are now firing around the clock and do not stop, razing everything to the ground.


The author expresses his gratitude to the “power engineers” volunteer group for their help traveling to the Donbas and across it.

Author: Oleksii Bratushchak