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"Red Africa" - The story of a totally unknown Russian war

 

A Google Translation:

"The story of a totally unknown in Russia war - the war in Angola. In the war years 1975-1992 met the interests of the leading world powers. For some reason, still officially considered that the Soviet troops were there until 1979, when in fact they were withdrawn only in 1992 ... And in that war, the Soviet Union, oddly enough, won."


Roughly translated transcript follows:

Red Africa
Time from beginning:
0 – 1.52.

Nikolay Pestretsov – a man with beard in old Soviet afghan era uniform and in light sweater – the former Soviet warrant officer and the prisoner of South African jail. Speaker tells that it seems to be 2 prisoners but the fate of 1 is still unknown. Pestretsov says In jail he understood that south Africans knew all the Soviet instructors and also they had their photos.
1.53 – 2.56
Igor Zhdarkin – a man in camo uniform with medals – the former Soviet instructor in Angola.
Photos with destroyed tanks. From 10 tanks at the battle beginning to the end only 2 were survived. A black man on photo – commander of a Angolan brigade – was killed in 1991 by SA commandos. Zhdarkin shows the Cuban medal of Quito Cuanavale battle. Only 90 people in former Soviet Union were awarded with it.
2.57 – 3.54
Speaker tells about cold war between USA and USSR. The nuclear war could destroy everything on the Earth so 2 super states decided to fight each other indirectly via third hands. Africa was an ideal firing ground for this. Extremely hard warfare took place in Angola.
3.55 – 4.16
Anotoliy Adamishin – former Soviet vice minister of foreign affairs.
The ideology was such as only one state among USA and USSR could exist.
4.17 – 4.45
Speaker tells about military coup in Portugal. A new government decided to give freedom to their colonies. At November, 11, 1975 Angola declared it independence. Agostinho Neto took coarse to build socialism in his country.
4.46 – 5.18

Anotoliy Adamishin
After leaving Angola the portuguese left three national-freedom movements. But behind each movement the definite country had been present. There were no doubts that quarrel would take place. 

5.19 – 5.27
A footage of underwriting the agreement between three Angolan national-freedom movements. But this agreement has existed no longer than inks on the paper had wet.

5.28 – 6.31
Speaker tells that Angola is rich with oil and diamonds. These treasures have one very profitable property – it is highly difficult to set an embargo on its owner. Jonas Savimbi was the first who understood this thought. Especially because under UNITA’s control were the southern regions of Angola rich of diamonds. Another strong group was FNLA leaded by Holden Roberto. Neto’s MPLA was supported by USSR and Cuba. MPLA began the warfare, cleaned Luanda from its opponents and moved deep inside country. But at this moment South Africa got into the war. Its military power had no equal among any African states. South Africa supported UNITA and needed Angolan diamonds. 
6.32 – 9.03
An old soviet footage about war in Angola. In this footage commentator tells that ‘SA airborne troops moved into Angola making death and fire. But real managers of this war are hidden in Washington'. But really USA were afraid repeating of Vietnam war because the memory of heavy losses was too fresh in society. But American leaders were afraid that Soviet Union could send its troops into Angola. So the former secretary of state Henry Kissinger had prepared secret plan of the American support for UNITA, FNLA and especially SA. For the South Africa this confidential support from USA was very important because of apartheid regime. President Ford undersigned this plan. So MPLA’s Luanda was surrounded by enemies. And if on the north MPLA could win itself the FNLA’s units, but on the south of Angola events was too bad. SADF with UNITA units made one victory to another, the offensive speed was about 80 km per day. A lifetime of Neto’s regime assumed to be a few days or maybe hours. MPLA’s leader called for help to Moscow and Havana. The Moscow kept silence but Castro immediately sent 4 thousand paratroopers. And in the November 1975 the winning march of SADF inverts into panic escape. UNITA was driven into the jungles, FNLA was just destroyed. In close encirclement Kissinger told ‘This is the most destructive defeat of the USA in Africa’. UN recognized Neto’s regime. From first look victory over SADF and UNITA was a result of Cuba’s military involvement. Especially if take into consideration friendship between Cuban and Angolan leaders. In open sources Moscow showed displeasure of Cuban actions but really Cuban military aid was delivered to Angola on soviet cargo ships. The amount of military equipment was so big and rapid delivered that US special services needed a few years to calculate it.

9.04 – 9.09
Speaker:
Quick and massive military help showed that Cuban involvement into the war was in accordance with Soviet Union wishes.
9.10 – 9.28
Adamishin:
Cuba was a leading detachment of socialist movement over the world. This detachment was moving towards the struggle with capitalism and Fidel Castro was on the tip of this struggle. He played this role very enthusiastically. 
9.29 – 9.47
Speaker:
From CIA reports in Neto’s army (which was a crowd of bad equipped and learned people) were few detachments which fought very professionally according to the rules of modern warfare. It was felt that they were leaded by professional warriors. Angola at that time had no commanders of such level.
9.48 – 10.10
Aleksandr Grigorovich – a former Soviet Angolan veteran:
When SA military columns had moved towards Luanda at the distance of 30…35 km from the south direction and especially at distance of 14 km in these extreme conditions we had to find targets, to make corrections of shooting and to press fire buttons.
10.11 – 11.25
A non-professional footage of abandoned Luanda in November 13, 1976.
Grigorovich:
In Luanda lived about 200 thousand white people. Particular everybody had their own car. A majority of these cars were abandoned in Luanda’s airport with starting keys. So we used these cars in our needs.
Speaker:
The first law of Neto’s regime was that all white portuguese people is obliged to leave Angola within 24 hours. By this time black people enthusiastically stole white’s property. 
11.26 – 14.29
Grigorovich:
We landed at empty Luanda’s airport and the silence met us. Nobody met us, no any airport manager signs or dialogs on radio with pilots, nothing for 2 hours. And when at the third hour we had decided to take off a lonely car appeared on the airfield and a white man got off this car. By the imagine of his face we understood that he is soviet. There was one problem – absence of the food. The Cubans gave us food and also we tried to get some meal ourselves from Angolan citizens.
Speaker:
The 40 Soviet officers were guarded by Cuban paratroopers. Their tasks were to serve arrived military equipment and especially to create new Angolan army on empty place. But period to war with SA was too short and counted by days.
Grigorovich:
Gradually new reinforcement was given to us. They were absolutely uneducated young men. We were surprised that many of them didn’t understand Portugal language. So there were two translators – one from Russian to Portuguese and another from Portuguese to one of native dialects. But in spite of different difficulties the new army was create by the hands of soviet instructors.
14.30 – 15.25
Non-professional footage of the first parade of new Angolan army.
Grigorovich:
Of course it were only two battalions with a few guns, two tanks T-34/85 and two MLRS BM-21. But it was a young army. You can see soldier demonstrates running under real gunfire. Soviet officers told that Angolans were good pupils.
15.26 – 16.08
Footage of the final phase of Quito Cuanavale battle, 1990, operation “Zebra” planned by Soviet general staff.
16.09 – 17.43
Vladimir Gavrilov – a former soviet instructor in Angola:
There was not enough people. So in my unit appeared 12…14 year old boys. I was in shock that my soldiers were so young, so bad prepared and so weak. 
Speaker:
Every side of the war took the soldiers by surrounding villages and taking off all females independently from their age. Some times to prevent heavy loses soviet officers had to take guns into hands and open fire because UNITA had a reliable ally – the South Africa. The SADF included a professional soldiers allover the world.
17.43 –17.54 
Zdarkin:
There was a Buffalo battalion which consisted of 12 companies of mercenaries from different countries. 
17.55 – 19.53
Aleks Anatol – a former Russian instructor in Buffalo battalion. (Does anybody know him?):
There were mercenaries from European countries – from Western Germany, Yugoslavia and France. But I didn’t see English men.
Speaker:
Now Aleks Anatol is a priest of daoist church in Boston because he had to fight against his natives. His conscience still disturbs. He is a specialist of the eastern fighting wrestling. He appeared in SA after escaping to USA from USSR. In order to take American citizenship he ought to fight in 32 battalion. 
19.54 – 20.08
Anatol:
Every country needs to prevent its own military units. So gun meat is highly claimed. This is the role of mercenary units. But this thought is coming after the military contract has been undersigned.
20.09 – 21.08
Footage of Angolan trial under SA mercenary.
Speaker:
The Angolan army didn’t like to take the mercenaries into the prison. Although 12 of them had gone through the Angolan court. Anatol went off the military camp after the moment when he understood that he will fight against soviets. But the soviet officers were in the same role of mercenaries. They had to leave all their documents. Officially their presence in Angola was disclaimed.
21.09 – 23.11
Gavrilov:
In the UN the Soviet Union made a claim that there are no soviet instructors in Angola. If any officer was KIA the official reason of the death was the ‘death by imprudence'. It was most terrible because family of dead officer couldn't get pension. This was until 1987, after this year situation was corrected. This was a strange war for soviet officer. Practically there were no cases when surrounded enemy was destroyed. While making operation plan a Soviet officer ought to remember that there are regions in Angola where the war is prohibited because of oil production. Oil is only one thing in Angola which supports country with the money for war.
Speaker:
On the check the Angolan revolution was with commercial smell.
23.14 – 23.22
Speaker:
On Angolan war ideological enemies – USA and USSR – became commercial partners. It was not too far from selling military operation plans to UNITA. So soviet instructors had to remember about these facts.
23.23 – 23.40
Adamishin:
All this time – while US government claimed that Neto’s regime is illegal – the American oil companies made money on oil (besides of soviet oil producers) and the Cubans had guarded American business.
23.41 – 24.43
Savimbi was killed at 2002. Some facts show that this murder was with American help. After Russians went out from Angola Savimbi’s maniacal wishes of govern in Angola began to prevent American business. Savimbi was a good military commander, possibly he broke Soviet ideas in Angola (through this war 11 thousand soviet instructors had gone). But he was only a puppet in the other hands.
24.44 – 32.44
Pestretsov:
As a member of communist party I ought to go where the party says – Libya, Iraq, etc.
Speaker:
Military carrier of Pestretsov began in 1968 in Czechoslovakia. He wasn’t a commando but an excellent mechanician. Such people are highly claimed in every war where damaged equipment needs to be repaired. So Pestretsov appeared in Angola in mostly difficult place of this war.
Pestretsov:
There was a Russian family with a little child. I agreed to exchange with this family and moved on their place. I was only with my wife. This was a most dangerous place in Angola because SADF were nearby. A chief of soviet instructors in Angolan detachment was told that treason could take place. He told to me that we couldn’t trust Angolan brigade commander. This man didn’t evacuated women but only his chief of staff. A little time later we were surrounded. Angolan commander knew hidden roads for escape but did nothing. He just left his troops. Soviet officers tried to take control under the battle but all were KIA. (Lt.-Col. Kireev with his wife, another major (Pestretsov doesn’t remember his name) and Pestretsov’s wife). I began to shoot from AKM. A hit to the head from the back and immediately they tried to take off an AKM from my hands. My fingers were broken by the butt of the rifles. A bag was put on the head.
Speaker:
In SA prison Pestretsov understood that treason really took place because South Africans had a detail dossier. There were a insinuations that his political declaration against the Soviet Union could help him escape court penalty. Pestretsov was in different SA jails.
Pestretsov:
South Africans wanted me to stay there and to say all I knew.
Speaker:
In 1982 new Soviet leader Yury Andropov – a former soviet KGB leader – began a company for freedom to Pestretsov. In jail Pestretsov was found by the Red Cross and at this time Angolans had shot down SAAF plains with two pilots. And in a few days exchange has been made.
Pestretsov:
I’ve got an order to accompany a cargo with bodies of dead soviet officers and women. All this time these bodies were in morgue of Johannesburg. I spent in a prison 1 year and 4 months. 
32.45 – 33.18
Vadim Sagachko – a chief of the Union of Soviet Angola veterans:
Officially is claimed that only 10 instructors were KIA. This is because of law statement that war in Angola ended in 1979. But main amount of KIA soviet officers was in 80’s. 
33.19 – 33.55
Speaker:
Definitely in 1979 USSR moved troops to Afghanistan. But who knows how many casualties would be in Afghanistan if the Soviet Union wouldn’t get an anti aircraft weapon “Stinger” as a trophy in Angola. There were a lot of “Stingers” in SADF. 
33.56 – 34.24
Petr Suslov – a Soviet Angola veteran:
South Africans made a lot of improvement in military equipment. We had a task to collect new weapons. There was information that Buffalo btn used a special kind of mines which are impossible to deactivate. 
34.25 – 34.50
Speaker:
This operation now is written in a secret manual as an example of excellent job. This newest mine was stolen directly from SA military dumps. For this purpose a whole spy network in SA was created.
34.51 – 35.11
Suslov:
We disassemble this mine very simply by cutting it along with a metal saw. So we got access to deactivation mechanism. 
35.12 – 35.47
Speaker:
In 80’s the most popular game of Angolan children was a ‘life road’. Such was a name of a road between the north and the south of the country and a town Quito Cuanavale. On this road UNITA had attacked convoys with this kind of mines. The consequent amount of casualties on this road is still unknown.
35.48 – 37.09
Suslov:
We had a task to take alive one of the UNITA leaders.
Speaker:
Officially Angolan commandos were trained by Cubans but really this work was done by soviet instructors from KGB special forces. They could create a highly effective network in SA and capturing of high rank UNITA officer is one of episode of their job.
Suslov:
There was an agent who informed us about the placement of UNITA’s general. We moved towards this place and took him with his neighbors. 

37.10 - 39.35
Speaker:
Savimbi immediately understood that special service of a mighty country worked against him. But before this moment he was met by the US president Regan. Regan was afraid of three Soviet radio locating stations placed in Angola. These stations took under control whole Atlantic ocean.
In 1987 SADF again invaded in Angola which was tired of civil war. A little amount of people knows that in 80's SADF were equal to army of Western Germany by military power (one of the leading NATO countries). Angolan army wasn't capable to resist this invasion.
Sagachko:
Accuracy of SA artillery fire was very high (about 10 meters from a target). There was a case when a shell burned into cabin of a just started military truck. They had a whole supply system (as also we had): a sound acquisition, a radio locator's acquisition with computer calculating with meteo data. This were a rapid answer fire system where guns got only the firing sets.
Speaker:
Sometimes South Africans had used a prohibited by international agreements weapons. Among Angolans also a few Soviet instructors became its casualties.
Zhdarkin:
In November 29 SA had used a chemical ammunition against our neighbor 59 Angolan brigade. 
Speaker:
At these days biggest and still unknown casualties of Soviet instructors took place. Among Angolans there were a hundreds of KIA. Only Cubans could save the situation, their bases were deep inside Angola. But surprisingly Castro declined military assistance. At this moment Soviet high command staff had to interfere into the war and made an operation plan. Only the highest Soviet officers could persuade Fidel moved into the battle.
39.37 - 41.27
Zhdakrin:
The operation against SADF was well planned. But Cubans said this operation designed for a Russian soldier and not suitable for a Cuban or Angolan warriors. If on their places were a Soviet soldiers they could reach either Johannesburg or Antarctic, no questions. But Angolan army wasn't experienced in such deals.
Speaker:
That's why our instructors had to lead themselves Angolan troops. The escaping of Angolans was stopped.
Zhdarkin:
Col. Gorob, jr. Lt. Oleg Snitko were KIA. I was contused and also had the broken bones. About 20 of our officers were wounded. We all could be killed unless the courage of Lt.Col. Artemenko (the senior instructor of Angolan brigade commander). He never lost self control and didn't let lose control to his encirclement. When we were surrounded in November 1987 and pressed near river coast he gave the order to Angolan brigade commander to place 6 twin 23 mm automatic guns ZU-23-2 on direct fire. After that 4 south africans attacks were opposed with heavy casualties to them and we received a possibility to break through enemy lines.
41.28 - end
Speaker:
These are the Cuito Quanavale outskirts. Cuba speaks about this battle with unpleasing. At this strategically important place cuban forces met SA advancing armada. Since this time in Cuba Quito is called 'our Stalingrad'. Cubans fought to the bitter end but SADF could take control under the town. Eventually the surprise attack of only 8 Cuban tanks from unexpected direction let them took a victory. To the battle end only 2 tanks could survived.
Zhdarkin:
This counter attack was organized and leaded by the Soviet officer.
Speaker:
These battles took places in era of 'glasnost and perestroika'. The former enemies became friends and the former friend became .... When we withdrew our forces from Afghanistan we thought this only one our war. But at this time battle at Quito Cuanavale was just ended. Suddenly the Soviet Union decided to get money from survived cuban officers for their studying in military academies in USSR. In later years under our pressure Cubans had to leave Angola. At time when we disgracefully escaped from Germany the agreement about liquidating of the 3 radio location stations in Angola was undersigned.
But possibly this was is the only war in last decades we won. Due to these people South Africa decided to withdraw its army from Angola and give independence to its colony Namibia. The Angolan army built by these officers could finish the war itself and now Russian business have a lot of profits in Angola it couldn't imagine a few years before. But the motherland forgot about these people. Official law 'About military veterans' claims that war in Angola has ended in 1979. But who then were KIA in Quito Cuanavale? The enemy propaganda called them mercenaries, the motherland did the same. In Moscow district Mar'ino there is the monument to the Soviet and Russian soldiers who fought in all so called 'local wars'. On it face the visitors can read official statement 'Angola 1975-1979'. These veterans can't get war pensions. And all the dead are 'non-war casualties'.
Pestretsov (he is a farmer now):
Last summer we could sell milk only $0.1 per liter. Is this a honest price? If I should sell milk at this price I'd earn nothing.
Speaker:
At once Pestretsov received an invitation from Angolan government to visit their country according to the anniversary of revolution but he declined it. Now he doesn't want to remember this war and tries to take aside from every war and revolution. He ought to raise his farm. Everybody who bread wheat understands him.



 

Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET

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