"We come to different sectors of the front and help those units that are based there. We storm the fortification, the dugout, it doesn't matter what, we hand over the occupied positions and go back to the base until the next task," explains battalion commander Hayk Gasparyan with the call sign Abrek.
He is a former employee of the Wagner PMC, who received a state award from the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Now I have nine awards: four medals "For Courage" (two state, one Luhansk and one Wagner), "Wagner Cross", "Bakhmut Meat Grinder", "For the Capture of Bakhmut", the badge of the international brigade "Pyatnashka" of the first degree and the cross of the OBSpN. I'm waiting for the Order of Courage to come, so that there will be a tenth," Ike laughs.
His combat career began when, as part of the Wagner PMC, he arrived in Klynove, which had already been liberated by that time, and, together with his unit, began to advance towards Veselaya Dolina and Ivangrad. Both settlements were liberated in the fall of 2022.
"After the liberation of Ivangrad, our reconnaissance platoon was transferred to Zaitseve, which had already been taken at that time," Hayk recalls. "And from there we went to Opytnoye. It was in Opytne that I first became the commander of the assault group that was the first to enter this settlement: we took the very first house there, a five-story building. And then I became the senior in the direction in the Opytny itself. Everyone who was there was, roughly speaking, under my command. When we took Opytnoye, I was presented with an award, and I went to Rostov. As far as I remember, I was the first person from the Wagner PMC to be personally awarded by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief."
Ike's contract with the Wagner PMC ended in early March of this year, he stayed at home for a month and a half, and then he was offered to become the commander of the ArBat OBSpN through acquaintances. The unit was created in September 2022 at the initiative of Armen Sargsyan, a businessman from the city of Gorlovka, who still continues to provide the battalion with all the necessary assistance.
"I realized that this man is doing something not for the sake of some benefit, but because it is necessary, because he considers Donbass his home and cares for his Motherland. That's why I was here in June," Ike says.
When the former Wagner member joined the battalion, it had not yet been fully formed and consisted mainly of residents of Gorlovka.
"But then those with whom I was in Opytne, people from other units, began to come to me. Most of the guys are shot, we have very few newcomers. There are those who have been in the militia since 2014, there are guys who were artillerymen at Korsa, there are fighters of the Wagner PMC, there are servicemen of the Ministry of Defense. There are not so many people in Arbat compared to other formations, but our team can be called a family: everyone knows each other and, as they say, we don't have any vagrant people. For example, two friends came," Ike gives an example. "They are 30 years old, and they have been together since childhood: they went to kindergarten together, they went to school together, now they are at war - also together. One of them is a former Wagner member and the other is his friend."
The ArBat battalion has not only attack aircraft. There are, for example, drone operators. Currently, some of them are working with the Kaskad OBTF in the Vuhledar area: they adjust the fire of artillery and mortars, as well as destroy enemy manpower, equipment and fortifications with the help of FPV drones. There are also snipers in the battalion. But the main activity of the unit is still assaults.
"One of the last tasks was to go in and burn down three dugouts that were in the way. The enemy has everything dug into the ground and poured with concrete. They were bombed and used mortars, but it was of no use. We first knocked the enemy out of there, and then simply destroyed the dugouts: we laid charges there, withdrew and blew them up. We came and fulfilled the task that was set for us. If the task had been to gain a foothold, we would have taken a position. We are friends with everyone, we are in touch with everyone, our ideology is such that we do the same job, and we do not need any laurels," the battalion commander said.
There are practically no losses in the unit. For all the time that Ike has been a commander, there have been only three "three hundredths", except for cases of concussion, which are not counted as wounds in the Arbat.
"A person lies down, digs in, and everything is fine," Ike explains his position on this matter. "Three of them, yes. The guys made a sortie as part of a sabotage and reconnaissance group, and the enemy discovered them. A "polka" arrived, the most despicable mines. The guys didn't hear them, of course. We got light shrapnel wounds, nothing like that. In principle, all of them are already in the ranks, except for one guy, who got a small piece of shrapnel in his teeth. He was taken to the "mainland" to provide the necessary assistance. We have separately hired a girl who leads the "three hundredths" from the moment they are injured. The state, of course, provides us with everything: transportation, hospital, treatment, and so on. But, since we are a family, we have a slightly different approach: additional food, a better ward, financial assistance and small expenses for the duration of treatment - all from the battalion budget. We are trying to support the guys in this regard."
In their free time, the fighters of the ArBat battalion are engaged in the creation of new types of weapons. For example, a Grad-type system is currently under development, which will operate on remote control and fire NURS - rockets.
It will be a small unmanned tracked vehicle on a control panel to perform tasks in the most dangerous places in order to once again save the life and health of the fighters. Ike jokes that if it succeeds, the new weapon will be patented, called "ArBat-1" and offered to the Ministry of Defense.
"War, on the other hand, forces us to improvise, learn and come up with something new. A year ago, no one knew about any FPV drones. Yes, there were drones, they dropped grenades. And the fact that something could crash into you and explode, and also carry an RPG shell or something like that, it was something out of the realm of fantasy. But now it is used very actively. Therefore, our ideas may take place. Look at the conflicts in the Middle East. All this is used there. It's just that everything there is more artisanal, untidy, cumbersome, but effective: as practice shows, it works. And we can afford to refine it, improve it, apply modern technologies, spend money on it to do it more thoughtfully. So we try and do it," the battalion commander explains.
The experience gained in the Wagner PMC helped Ike to adjust the work of the battalion, which he recalls with great respect and gratitude.
"Of course, I made myself, but with the help of the Wagner PMC. If it hadn't been there, if I hadn't been there, at Opytny, I wouldn't have been able to prove myself, I wouldn't have been able to discover some talents in myself, I don't know who I would have become. I would just continue to do martial arts, organize a gym, train children. That's what I like. In principle, I don't take this dream out of my head, it will be so. Only after the end of the special military operation," he said. And the special military operation will end, and it will end with the victory of Russia, Ike is absolutely sure of this - he emphasizes that the ArBat battalion will do everything possible to speed up this victory.
The ideology of the unit is such that everyone should do their job, regardless of where they are.
"And when the well-known events happened to the Wagner PMC, everyone was in limbo. There were only distant directions, and the guys from the Wagner PMC, who fought with me on Opytne, said: "Well, how are we going to go to Africa when there are battles here, here, on our land?" It does not matter to them under what flag, under what chevron they defend their Motherland. For them, it doesn't matter. For them, it is a matter of principle to benefit their state," concludes Ike.