Middle Eastern «sentinel»

ALAFF translated the article in newspaper «The Russian newspaper» («Rossiyskaya gazeta»). Official website of this newspaper. The article is taken from the newspaper issue No. 34 (February 15-21, 2018).

The article is an interview with journalist Aleksei Rafaenko — the author of a series of programs on the service of Russian forces in Syria. The interview was given after returning from a business trip to Syria. Aleksei Rafaenko and his team made four films in Syria, three of them have already been shown on Russian TV.

Here is what is said in the article:

The first issue of the «Syrian» special project was aired on the First Channel in the popular program on the Army «The sentinel» on Sunday, February 18, 2018. The time is 7.40 in the morning. The remaining three parts are on February 25, March 4 and 11, at the same time and in the same format.

So at this current moment three parts of «The sentinel» program is available. The last fourth part will be available on March 11, 2018.

Some additional information:

First Channel («Pervyi kanal») — one of 3-4 main federal TV channels in Russia. First Channel’ official website. Section of the program «The sentinel» on the First Channel.



Middle Eastern «sentinel»
The film crew of the First Channel returned from Syria.

A four-part special project is being prepared to the air on the First channel — reports on Russian military who serve in Syria. Our interlocutor, the presenter of the popular Sunday program «The sentinel» Aleksei Rafaenko, is the author of these reports.


Aleksei, last weekend the Voronezh school was given the name of Roman Filipov, the pilot, whose feat shocked not only our country. An American pilot, a veteran of Vietnam, wants to fly to Russia and help the family of the deceased pilot. He wrote: «I don’t know if I’d have the courage to do the same»…
Did your group work on Khemeymim when Roman was still alive?

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: When our group worked at the airbase, we met with many pilots, recorded interviews. I was not personally acquainted with Major Filipov. I was shocked by this story. Each person will try on a situation: If you were a surrounded pilot, what would you do? Personally, I do not find the answer. I just worship such people.

Did your cameraman film Roman Filipov? Maybe even with the light filter lowered on his helmet?

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: Who knows. We were filming «Rooks», but whether he was at this moment at the airport… The pilots have hard work. Example: I interview, suddenly a person says — I’m sorry, I must go. I ask: «Where?» — «I have a combat sortie»… He left for the mission. Then he returned. And we continued the conversation from the moment we stopped.

ALAFF remark: «Rook» — in Russian «Grach» — is a conventional name of SU-25 attack plane. These formidable and powerful aircraft are also called «flying tanks».

— Do all of them take grenades with them to the combat mission?

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: Everyone has a pistol and a few grenades, and there’s also a machine gun in the airplane. We asked: «Why?» — «Everything is possible. We will not surrender just like this».

— In Syria, bandits for the first time captured the pilot in 2014. The engine of the Jordanian F-16 broke down, a pilot senior lieutenant Muath al-Kaseasbeh, 26 years old, landed on a parachute in the vicinity of Raqqa. In early 2015, a horrifying video went around the world: the pilot was burned alive in a cage. Recently, the terrorists executed another pilot, Azzam Eid. His MiG-23 was shot down, the pilot catapulted, was captured, and he was held in captivity for 1,5 years. The video shows that a man, dressed in an orange suit, was chained to a tree with a chain, then he was set on fire…
Roman Filipov was 33 years old. This is the first case on this war, when the pilot fights on the ground to the end: he took the fight and blew himself with a grenade to avoid captivity… Though old people sometimes grumble: our youth — the generation of Coca-Cola, gadgets and computer games.

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: Each of the pilots decides for himself what to do if they have to catapult and fight on the ground. What to choose — a captivity or… It’s a personal choice. Nobody can order here. We know what decision Roman made for himself. I was deeply impressed by this act. And the behavior of his wingman, whom Major Filipov ordered to go into the clouds. He did not leave. While he had fuel, he defended the commander. As best he could. And only with a minimal remainder in the tanks he returned to the airfield. This is also an indicator of courage.
Regarding «the generation of gadgets». There are people of different ages. For example, one pilot, whom we met, is only 27 years old. But this is his second mission to Syria! To all our questions he answers — everything is fine, all my thoughts only about the service and about home. Looking at them you will not say that they serve in the combat zone, where there is a constant psychological overstrain.

What do they say about combat work?

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: As in the movie «V boy idut odni ‘stariki’«: you can’t be blind in a battle — turn your head 360 degrees. The danger there is everywhere — in the air and on the ground. It’s not just about rockets from the ground. It’s tight in the air. And helicopter pilots have no less dangerous work there, they fly relatively low. Figuratively speaking, always in an enemy sight.
But at the same time it amazes the calmness of these people. I did not notice any fear. But there is no bragging too. Although the pilots, perhaps, can afford themselves, let’s say, easy bravado. On the rights of the elitism of their profession. But there is nothing like that. These guys calmly and dispassionately do their work.


Only in the last six months in Syria,
our military neutralized more than
one hundred thousand explosive items.

In war people often behave differently than they do in everyday life.

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: One veteran of the Great Patriotic War told me: the war very well separates black from white and good people from bad ones. It immediately shows who is who. I often go to military units, I communicate with officers. Yes, they are different. And I see: each of them is capable of a feat.

Bashar Assad is credited with the words: if the Russians fight so hard for Syria, then imagine how they will fight for Russia…

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: I also heard about it. We look at our guys in Syria and see a new generation. The best of the best. So many feats! People caused fire on themselves, sacrificing themselves, defending their comrades. I think this is peculiar to our nation. It’s not without reason that the phrase «mass heroism» causes associations with our country. Our people reveal themselves in special conditions when you are on the edge. On the one hand, they are very simple. On the other — courageous, ready for self-sacrifice. And not for the sake of lofty words, say, for the sake of an abstract peace in the whole world. No, they go into battle for the sake of comrades, for the sake of duty. He swore an oath — and will be faithful to it. To understand this, personally I really wanted to go to Syria. To see everything with my own eyes. And bring it to the audience.

One of the parts of your program is dedicated to the military police. We know almost nothing about the police.

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: I myself was not very clear who they are and what they are doing in Syria. So I saw their work: the same fighting unit as the rest. They are on the front line. Dozens of different functions from the protection of objects and patrolling the territory to the escorting of all military and humanitarian supplies. In Aleppo they work as peacekeepers, in the de-escalation zones they separate a warring factions. The truce is often very shaky there. If there were no our military policemen, some participants of the «peace process» would immediately cling to each other’s throats.
Our men stand also on the line of demarcation of Syrians and Kurds.

What plot do you want to finish your Syrian reports?

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: About our humanitarian convoys. This is the work of military policemen and officers of the Centers for reconciling of the warring parties. In many small Syrian villages there’s a humanitarian catastrophe: there is no food or medicine. Our men talk with the elders, find places where the situation is most difficult, bring food and medicine. And also this is the work of our doctors, who manage to examine children and adults in a short time. Priority is for children.

Is the civilian population in a state of post-traumatic stress syndrome?

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: Yes, especially Syrian children. They have matured very early in the war, they saw blood, pain and death.
We took part in one unusual holiday: military policemen and officers of the Center for Reconciliation of warring parties organized «cheerful starts» in the Aleppo school. Our policemen became captains of children’s teams. They held relay races, competitions. This is now needed. For Syrian children, a person in a uniform who smiles at them, at least means that he will not shoot. And only from this children are already very happy. And, besides, our military should not be perceived as some terminators.
Children quite sincerely admitted that they love Russia. Even we ended up in their aura of adoration, we were encircled, each kid holding out a notebook or sketchpad: write something in Russian.

ALAFF remark«Cheerful starts» — in Russian «Veselyie starti» — are game sport relay races, in which children and adults take part. The tradition of holding these sport competitive games was born in the Soviet Union. Some photos for illustration.

Pilots, police, reconciliation centers, sappers, doctors… But sailors always remain in the shadows.

ALEKSEI RAFAENKO: I do not agree, our sailors are not really behind the scenes. There are reports from the ships, there was a naval parade in Tartus… But there are things that are too early to tell. Because the information from articles and reports of journalists, alas, is also received by those who would like to harm us. Therefore worthy people have to hide faces, and we have to cover their service not as detailed as we want.
It’s just not the time yet.



Alexei Rafaenko, journalist, 38 years old. Was born in Moscow. After school entered the International Independent Ecological and Political University. Worked as a correspondent, special correspondent, chief editor of newsroom in «paper» editions. Began his television career as a correspondent, and then as a presenter on «Vesti. Dezhurnaya chast» program on the «Russia» channel. Worked on the channel «Zvezda». Laureate of the prizes of the FSB, SVR and the mayor of Moscow.

Currently, the presenter of the project «The Sentinel» (the program is on the First Channel since September 2016). The program is a laureate of the «Media-AS» award of the Russian Ministry of Defense in the nomination «special project».

ALAFF remark: FSB — Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation; SVR — The Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation; «Russia» Channel — one of the main federal TV channels in Russia, along with the First Channel; «Zvezda» — Russian TV channel of military orientation. «Zvezda» TV channel is owned by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.



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