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Inside the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and the Seizure of Kabul, December 1979

By Alexander Antonovich Liakhovsky

Translations by Gary Goldberg and Artemy Kalinovsky January 2007

The plan of operations for the deployment of our troops which was developed by the General Staff provided for the deployment of two motorized rifle divisions along two axes; the 5th from Kushka to Herat and Shindand and the 108th, from Termez to Pul-e Khumri and Kunduz. Simultaneously the 103rd Airborne Division and the rest of the 345th Parachute Regiment landed at Kabul and Bagram airfields.

On the night of 24 December the Commanding General of the Turkestan Military District Col. Gen. Yuriy Maksimov reported to Ustinov and Akhromeyev by telephone regarding the readiness of the troops to carry out the assigned mission and then sent them a cable with a readiness report.

Beginning at 0700 25 December two pontoon bridge regiments in the area of Termez began to lay a floating pontoon bridge. Troops and equipment were to cross over this very bridge…The Commanding General of the 40th Army Lt. Gen. Tukharinov met in Kunduz with the Chief of the Operations Directorate of the DRA Armed Forces General Staff Gen. Babajan and Abdullah, the elder brother of Amin.

At 1200 a directive came to the field signed by Ustinov. It ordered the crossing and overflight of the DRA border by the troops of the 40th Army and aircraft of the Air Forces to begin at 1500 25 December (Moscow time).

The deployment of Soviet troops began precisely at the set time. The first to cross were scouts and the airborne assault battalion of Capt. Leonid Khabarov, who were ordered to seize the Salang Pass; next the remaining units of the 108th Motorized Rifle Division under the command of Maj. Gen. Konstantin Kuz’min came across the pontoon bridge. Simultaneously, Military Transport Aviation aircraft began the airlift and debarkation of the units of the 103rd Airborne Division (commanded by Maj. Gen. Ivan Ryabchenko) and the remnants of the 345th Independent Parachute Regiment at the airfields of the capital and Bagram.

Three hundred forty-three sorties were made to carry the personnel and equipment and it took 47 hours to unload the Airborne Forces units and subunits (the first plane landed at 1625 25 December and the last at 1430 27 December). Col. Gen. [of Aviation] Ivan Gaydayenko supervised Military Transport Aviation operations.

Unfortunately they were not without losses – at 1933 on 25 December an Il-76 struck and mountain and exploded while coming in for a landing at Kabul (the crew commander was Captain Golovchin); 37 paratroopers were on board. All the paratroopers and seven crew members died.

A meeting of chiefs of advisory bodies was held on 25 December. In the course of the briefing all the advisers received orders – do not allow Afghan units to act against our troops in Kabul. Military advisers and specialists who had worked in the DRA Air Defense Forces established control over all anti-aircraft equipment and ammunition storage locations in order to prevent possible hostile actions by Afghan servicemen during the airlift of the airborne troops. They even took several anti-aircraft installations out of service temporarily (they removed sights and [firing] locks). Thus, the unhindered landing of aircraft with paratroopers was ensured.

A group of officers worked around in the clock in the USSR Armed Forces General Staff which followed the situation and the fulfillment of the measures to deploy Soviet troops, prepared reports, and made suggestions to Varennikov; the latter, in turn, reported to the leadership of the Defense Ministry and the CC CPSU.

The Defense Minister was vitally interested in the progress of the fulfillment of the assigned mission. Ustinov summoned the deputy chief of the lead directorate of the Main Operations Directorate Gen. German Burutin to his office and studied the situation for an hour, asking for clarifications: “Why are troops going across the pontoon bridge so slowly? They reported to me that they would be going much faster…How much time can the paratroopers hold out in Kabul if there is active resistance on the part of Afghan troops loyal to Amin?”

Improvised meetings arose in the course of the march of the combat columns (when they stopped at population centers). Many residents greeted Soviet soldiers with flowers. Soldiers of the DRA army and members of the Committees to Defend the Revolution were especially friendly to us.

On 26 December a combat collaboration meeting was held in Pul-e Khomri where our troops and the troops of the [Afghan] 10th Infantry Regiment of the 20th Infantry Division were present. In their speeches the Afghan servicemen expressed gratitude for the international aid and readiness for collaboration. They chanted slogans of Soviet-Afghan friendship.

But it was not so everywhere. Some Afghans regarded the appearance of Soviet troops with suspicion and did not enter into contact with them. There were also displays of hostility. Our troops began to come under fire from individual detachments of the armed opposition. But the General Staff Directive did not specify the procedure and conditions for the use of weapons and they were forced to return fire.

For example, on the morning of 26 December at the Salang Pass a group of rebels attacked subunits of the airborne assault battalion of Capt. Khabarov. The commander of a reconnaissance patrol, Lt. Nikolay Krotov, died while repelling this attack. A motorized rifle regiment under the command of Lt. Col. Viktor Kudlay en route from Khorog to Fayzabad was constantly subjected to attack by small groups of rebels who destroyed the only road in the mountains and obstructed traffic. As a result [the regiment] made only 10 km a day.

On 26 December the CC CPSU General Secretary held a meeting at his dacha in which Andropov, Ustinov, Gromyko, and Chernenko participated. They discussed the progress of implementation of CC CPSU Decree Nº P176/125 of 12 December. Chernenko made the record of this meeting.


Ref Nº P176/125 of 12 December 1979

On 26 December (Cdes. L. I. Brezhnev, D. F. Ustinov, A. A. Gromyko, Yu. V. Andropov, and K. U. Chernenko were present at the dacha) the progress of implementation of CC CPSU Decree Nº P 176/125 of 12.12.79 was reported by Cdes. Ustinov, Gromyko, and Andropov.

Cde. L. I. Brezhnev, having approved the plan of action in this matter scheduled for the time being by the comrades, expressed a number of wishes.

 It was recognized as advisable that the CC Politburo Commission is to act with the same membership and direction of the reported plan, carefully weighing each step of its actions. Proposals are to be submitted to the CC CPSU in a timely manner.

[signature] K. Chernenko

Nº 13-op (1 page) 27.12.79

At that time much was not clear about what plan they were implementing. If it had consisted solely of removing H. Amin from power then the deployment of troops would have been sufficient but if they were to stick to the official version then they were obviously too few to repel external interference.

The units of the 108th Motorized Rifle Division were to have occupied temporary bases in the areas of Doshi, Pul-e Khomri, Kunduz, and Taloqan. But in the process of the march the mission was changed and the division was sent to an area northeast of Kabul where they had formed up by the morning of 28 December.

The Operation in Kabul

The operations plan in Kabul provided for the seizure of the most important facilities: the Taj-Bek Palace, the CC PDPA buildings, the DRA Ministries of Defense, Internal Affairs (tsarandoy), Foreign Affairs, and Communications, the General Staff, the HQ of the Air Forces and the HQ of the Central Army Corps, military counterintelligence, the political prison in Pol-e Charki, the radiotelevision center, the post and telegraph office, …It was planned to blockade Afghan units and DRA Armed Forces formations located in the capital at the same time.

What happened then in Kabul has long remained a secret to the world. Many various opinions have been expressed and the most improbable rumors and conjecture have been floated. Soviet leaders categorically denied their participation in this action, saying that it was done at the hands of “healthy” forces of the PDPA. And only after the Soviet Union was no longer was much made clear. But not everything.

For history is a prediction of the past and even documents do not always give a true picture. Moreover, many documents written by hand in single copy have already been destroyed. Only the people who participated in those events know in fact what and how it was there. One can draw a general picture of those events from the accounts of the leaders and participants of the operation to seize the important facilities in Kabul, although they interpret them differently even now. It has been said for a long time they did not have the right to say anything about the operation in Kabul and that for many years they were weighed down by a psychological burden. Some who have something to conceal do not want to recall it and are silent. Others at times give accounts which, to put it politely, are far from reality. Everything is washed in memory and sometimes all that is left is what was said many times when it was impossible to tell the truth. Telling either a half-truth or generally a fabrication some believe it themselves. When it became possible to tell the truth it became somehow uncomfortable for them to reject their previous words and for many, disadvantageous. For their accounts are subjective, often contradict one another, and are based on conjecture and unverified facts. Much has been said incompletely or generally omitted. Several participants of those events are no longer alive. In the memoirs of soldiers there is the personal perception of what occurred, their view of the picture of battle, also an evaluation of the role of each in this operation. Not having information and not knowing the overall situation many thought that there were only a small handful of soldiers, who were actually suicide soldiers. Strange as it may seem, but among some such a feeling has remained until now, although it is now known, that there were considerable forces in the Afghan capital by the start of the operation: an airborne division, the “Muslim” battalion, subunits of the 345th Independent Parachute Regiment, and military advisers. Of all the officers and soldiers practically none of them knew the entire operations plan but each operated in his own narrow sector, actually in the role of an ordinary soldier. Therefore each of them had his own “target”, his own “bit” of the battle, his own “window”, his own “door”, his own “breastwork”, his own “stage [prolet]”, his own “ladder”, and his own “episode”. For a majority of them this was their “baptism of fire”, the first battle in their lives. Hence the gush of emotions in memories, the “clustering” of colors. Having ended up in an extreme situation each of them showed what he was worth and what he had done. Many performed their combat mission with honor, displaying heroism and courage.

 In the opinion of Yu. I. Drozdov: “The decision that was made on 27 December was an improbably difficult decision. This decision matured over a number of months. It was the result of an analysis of the historic and intelligence information and the actions of neighboring states by the highest political leadership of the country”.

The Preparations to Storm Taj-Bek Palace

The most difficult and important target to be seized was the Taj-Bek Palace. On the evening of 25 December a reception was held in the “Muslim” battalion for the command of the Afghan brigade. They prepared a pilaf; it is true there were problems with the alcoholic drinks. The KGB officers helped out. They brought in a box of “Posol’skoy” vodka, cognac, various delicacies (caviar, fish) – the cuisine turned out beautifully.

There were 15 people from the security brigade including Commander Jandad and the Deputy for Political Affairs Ruzi. During the reception [we] tried to get the Afghans to talk. Toasts were raised to Soviet-Afghan friendship, combat collaboration… Sometimes soldiers serving the reception served Soviet officers water instead of vodka. The deputy for political affairs was especially talkative; in the spirit of openness he told “Captain Lebedev” that Taraki had been smothered on Amin’s order. This was important information. Jandad quickly gave an order and the deputy for political affairs left for somewhere…We parted, if not as friends, at least as good acquaintances.

On the evening of the same day General Drozdov held a meeting with commanders of the KGB sabotage reconnaissance groups regarding the results of reconnoitering the targets and determined the location for each of them during the seizure of Taj-Bek. Everyone was ready. Only the layout of the Palace was lacking.

The next day the advisers to Amin’s personal guard, officers of the KGB 9th Directorate, led the scout- saboteurs into the Palace where they surveyed everything, and Yu. Drozdov compiled a story-by-story layout of Taj- Bek. However, at his request the adviser to the brigade commander Yuriy Kutepov refused a request to reduce the Palace guard.

Officers of “Grom” and “Zenit” Romanov, Semenov, Fedoseyev, and Mazayev surveyed the terrain and nearby firing positions. Not far from the Palace on a vantage point was a restaurant (casino) where senior officers of the Afghan army frequently congregated. The special forces visited there under the pretext of needed to book New Year’s reservations for our officers. From there Taj-Bek was clearly visible and they looked over all the approaches to it and the locations of all the security posts carefully. The truth is, it almost ended tragically for them. According to Romanov: “Yasha and I were taken prisoner before the operation itself. The problem was that we had no information about the Palace and not done any scouting but it was necessary to go into battle. You don’t lead people blindly. I selected a “GAZ-66” [truck] and took Mazayev and Fedoseyev with me. However an Afghan security battalion disarmed us and took us prisoner. The situation was dramatic and the group could have been left without commanders. The whole operation had been put in jeopardy only because we wanted to see with our own eyes where the tanks, firing positions, etc. were.

A road led past the Palace into the mountains. In the mountains there was a famous exclusive restaurant with a swimming pool. According to the cover story I, the subunit commander, was inviting the officers to a New Year’s party and wanted to reserve a table. We made our way there and noted everything that was necessary. The restaurant was closed.

They took us to a room and suggested we await our fate. Our driver spoke some Dari and I advised him: “Listen. If there’s anything, advise us”.

We said to the Afghans through the driver that we were wasting time, let’s see the restaurant and what service you offer. They called the restaurant owner. We selected the appliances, the glassware, and ordered a menu for 20 people. As a result they believed us. Well, we also worked out arguments that we were guarding Amin…The truth is, they tried to check this.

I wasn’t using my surname, nor was Yasha, it seems. But he had a document that he was in Amin’s guard but I had no other documentation besides my officer’s badge. I had nothing to present and this deepened suspicion. My nerves were on edge for we were already in position with our groups and there were only hours left until the operation and we were here…But evidently fate took pity on us and we got out somehow”. Actually, because of their independent action the commanders of the s almost put the entire operation in jeopardy. From the account of Vladimir Fedoseyev about this same episode: “On 26 December Mikhail Mikhaylovich, Zhenya Mazayev, Yakov Semenov, and I went to do some reconnoitering since there was information that a “wild” division was preparing to advance on the location of Amin’s palace in his defense. It was already clear that we would take part in one or another measure in the assault on the Palace. We left early in the morning about 8 and passed one guard post but they stopped us at the second; we talked with the Afghans a bit and they let us pass on. The cover story for the trip was that we were going to the restaurant located above to buy provisions for the New Year. And we accordingly invited [them]. I don’t know whether the Afghans caught on to the ruse or whether indeed they weren’t born yesterday but they didn’t say anything and  gave us the opportunity to pass onward. The restaurant turned out to be closed. We turned around and began to go back but when we approached the second guard post an Afghan army officer invited us in as a guest and we spent about four hours there with him talking about life and drinking tea. There were attempts to take our weapons but at that moment we had AK-74’s which we liked very much and naturally we didn’t hand the weapon to them. Tension was quite high. As soon as we got approval to leave this guard post we breathed a sigh of relief. We passed the next guard post without stopping. We arrived back at our place in the subunit safely”. The cover story under which they had gone to the restaurant did not stand up to any criticism since it was in complete contradiction with local conditions and Afghan reality. The problem was that Soviets never visited the restaurant and Afghans celebrate New Year’s on a completely different date – 21 March.

The same day Kozlov, Karpukhin, Boyarinov, Shvachko, and Klimov brought in two representatives of the future government of Afghanistan from the Embassy to the “Muslim” battalion’s location.

Klimov recalled: “Right before the assault we brought in future members of the Afghan government to the location of the “Muslim” battalion. Ehval’d Kozlov, Boyarinov, Karpukhin, Shvachko, and I took part in this operation. They issued weapons and grenades to us. I got in the vehicle right away and began to screw the fuses into the grenades. Kolya Shvachko and Boyarinov were in the back seat with me with Karpukhin and the driver in front.

We drove to the Soviet Embassy at about 7 P.M. in two Jeeps. We arrived at the Embassy and had to wait. All the senior officers, our leaders, got out of the Jeeps but we remained as escorts. We had to wait quite a long time. At about 11:00 or 11:30 P.M. we again went to the “Muslim” battalion’s area. We went back in a single column. A single Jeep was at the front and back and in the middle was a truck with Soviet license tags. In general it was an ordinary “heated truck” – a duct protruded and there was a little window in the back in which some faces appeared from time to time. We had to pass several Afghan security posts and stop at each of them. We were very tense and ready for immediate action because they said that in case it was necessary to force our way through we should open fire and not stop. We were carrying two leaders of the future Afghanistan under the floor and therefore if they had been stopped at the posts and their identity then discovered our fate would have been somewhat different.

The most difficult situation developed at the last security post in front of the entrance to the grounds adjacent to the Taj-Bek Palace. For about ten minutes the officer who was the post commander detained us in front of the traffic control barrier. We sat and observed, ready to enter into combat at any moment. Evidently it was a special post. It was well reinforced and under cover of tanks. So in that case our small group would have been in a tight spot there. The officer didn’t let our vehicles through for a long time. He was saying something to Kozlov through an interpreter and then went into a room and evidently began to call on the phone and report to someone. All this time our nervous tension was increasing but an expenditure of energy was improbable. Finally the traffic barrier was raised and our vehicles passed without inspection in any event. Obviously the Afghans did not want to spoil relations with the “Shuravi [Soviets]” and they displayed caution. But this carelessness, as during the assault on the Palace – put them in a corridor with a machine gun and it could cut us all down – helped us. In any event, there is a God.

Then M. Romanov assigned Kolya Shvachko and I to guard them [the future Afghan leaders]. They lived in a room next to our barracks. No one except us we allowed to go there so that no one find out about their presence. We carried food to them, played checkers, etc. We guarded them for a couple of days and then took part in the assault in Amin’s palace”.

Late in the evening Kolesnik, Drozdov, and Shvets again discussed all the subtleties of the operations to seize Taj-Bek, devoting special attention to issues of coordination and command and control. Constant agent and visual observation was set up inside and outside the target.

 Before the start of operation “Shtorm-333” the KGB special forces knew the target to be seized (Taj-Bek) thoroughly: the most suitable approach routes; the sentries’ routine; the overall strength of the guard force and Amin’s bodyguards; the location of machine gun “nests”, armored vehicles, and tanks; the internal structure of the rooms and mazes of the Palace; the location of the radiotelephone…

Before assaulting the Palace, as I have already said, the KGB was to have exploded a “conduit”, in actuality the central secure center for communications with the most important DRA military and government facilities. The scaling ladders, equipment, weapons, and ammunition were prepared. The combat equipment was also carefully inspected and prepared under the supervision of the Deputy Battalion Commander for Technical Affairs Senior Lieutenant Eduard Ibragimov. The main thing was secrecy and stealth.

The Taj-Bek Palace was located on a high steep hill overgrown with trees and shrubbery and all approaches to it were mined. Only a single road led to it, which was guarded around the clock. The Palace itself was also not an easily accessible structure. Its thick walls were capable of withstanding an artillery strike. If you add to that that the surrounding terrain was within range of tanks and large-caliber machine guns then it becomes clear that it was not at all easy to seize it.

On the morning of 27 December Drozdov and Kolesnik in an old Russian custom before battle washed themselves in a bathhouse and changed their underwear. A mobile bathhouse was set up for the remaining soldiers. Fresh underwear and striped undershirts [Translator’s note: Soviet special forces and paratroopers wore these distinctive undershirts] were issued. Each of them again reported their readiness to their commander. Boris Ivanov got in touch with Moscow and reported that everything was ready for the operation and then handed the phone to Yuriy Drozdov. Andropov said, “Are you going yourself? Don’t take unnecessary risks, think about your own safety, and take care of your people”. He had a similar conversation with Vasiliy Kolesnik.

At midday Colonel Kolesnik, General Drozdov, and the battalion commander again went visited the positions and informed the officers in the concerned units about the operations plan. Then he explained the order of the operations. Kolesnik ordered that one of the “Shilkas” be moved to a more advantageous position at twilight.

When they were reconnoitering they saw Jandad and a group of officers in their binoculars studying the defense of the “Muslim” battalion. Lt. Col. Shvets went to them to invite them to dinner, supposedly in honor of the birthday of one of the officers, but the brigade commander said that they were conducting an exercise and would come in the evening. Then Shvets asked that the Soviet military advisers be allowed to leave and be taken away with them. He thus saved many lives. After the assault on the Palace Jandad would say: they received information about our intentions [but] didn’t believe it, but decided to reconnoiter in any case …Obviously they reported to Moscow about the Afghans’ scouting activities. They were told: begin the assault at 1500.

Having received this information they quickly gathered all the company, assault group, and fire support subunit commanders on the second floor of the barracks. General Drozdov gave a favorable assessment of the situation and revealed the overall mission, making an estimate of the Taj-Bek guard force’s men and equipment. Colonel Kolesnik issued a combat order to the subunits, assigning each of them a specific mission, described the procedure of coordination, identification, and signals. Major Khalbayev, the commander of the “Muslim” battalion and the commanders of subgroups Romanov and Semenov assigned combat missions to subunit and subgroup commanders and organized preparations for the assault. All the soldiers were in a determined mood. No one refused to take part in the assault on the Palace. According to Karpukhin, a soldier of the “Grom” group: “Gennadiy Yegorovich Zudin wrote everything down scrupulously from the beginning before the start of the assault – to whom he gave two grenades, whom he gave three, and how many rounds. But then he spit and said, ‘Yes, go ahead and take all you want’. And we took the entire load of ammunition. There was some aloofness in the man. You know, such a feeling had developed that he would soon leave this life. Zudin was about 10 years older than us and was sort of considered the granddaddy. He was then 42 years old. Probably life experience was telling and evidently a person with years takes situations associated with risk to life more seriously. I didn’t understand this then, but I do now. I wanted all this to end quickly. It was impossible to refuse but by nature this was not the question then although many, it is true, said that it was necessary to talk our commanders out of it saying ‘This is crazy, we can’t do anything and everyone will die there’. I won’t name names as there’s no point in it. Let them all remember this themselves if they wish. I remember it. Of course we understood –it’s possible to say anything you want but you have to do it all the same. And there was no alternative for us because if a decision has been made it needs to be carried out”.

 From the memoirs of Valeriy Yemyshev: “Mikhail Mikhaylovich gathered all of us together and assigned the mission of assaulting the Palace. They broke us up into crews and each crew was specified an approach route to the building, specific places to attack, and targets in the Palace itself. The mission of my crew was to put the telephone communications on the first floor next to the duty officer’s room out of order. They postponed the start of the assault several times. Before landing I remember that Gennadiy Zudin, Dmitriy Volkov approached and asked for a smoke. I gave Zudin a package of “Dymok” cigarettes and he smoked them all”.

From the memoirs of Vladimir Fedoseyev: “When Mikhail Mikhaylovich gathered us together he gave each of us 100 grams of vodka, sausages, and bread. But the mood was so strong that the vodka ran out and no one began to eat the bread and sausages. Afterwards they again formed into crews. I ended up in Balashov’s crew.”

At that time Hafizullah Amin, not suspecting the events taking shape, was in a state of euphoria because he had managed to achieve his goal – Soviet troops had entered Afghanistan. On 27 December during the day he held a lavish dinner, receiving several Politburo members and ministers with their families in his luxurious Palace; in particular Panjshiri, the wives of Zeray and Shah Wali were present. The formal occasion on one hand was the anniversary of the founding of the PDPA and on the other the return of CC PDPA Secretary Panjshiri from Moscow. He assured them that the Soviet leadership approved the version of the death of Taraki and the replacement of the country’s leader. The visit had strengthened relations with the Soviet Union. They had confirmed in Moscow that the USSR would give broad military aid.

Amin, in spite of the fact that he himself had deceived Brezhnev and Andropov in September (he had promised to save Taraki’s life when the latter had already been suffocated), trusted the Soviet leaders. Why? If you don’t throw out the version that he was tied to the CIA then most likely he received such instructions. Or thought they don’t put victors on trial, they make friends…with them. It’s possible that he did not doubt that “the Russians recognize only force”. In any case he did not only “surround himself” with Soviet military advisers and consult with senior KGB and Soviet Ministry of Defense officials but completely trusted…only doctors from the USSR. And in the final account he rested his hopes on Soviet troops. He did not trust Parchamists and expected an attack from them and from the mujaheddin. But he became a victim of political intrigue from a completely different direction.

At the reception Amin triumphantly told those present: “Soviet divisions are already on their way here. Paratroopers are landing in Kabul. Everything is going beautifully. I am in constant touch by telephone with Cde. Gromyko and we are discussing together how to best formulate the information to the world about the extension of Soviet military aid.”

A speech by Amin was expected during the day on Afghan television. The most senior military officers and political leaders had been invited to the Palace to record his speech. But the action carried out by the KGB interfered with this.

During the dinner, which was prepared by Soviet chefs, Amin, his children, sister-in-law [Translator’s note: nevestka, which can also mean daughter-in-law], and many guests unexpectedly felt ill. Several lost consciousness, including Amin. His wife immediately summoned the commander of the Presidential guard Major Jandad who began to call the Central Military Hospital (Charsad Bistar) and the Soviet Embassy polyclinic in order to get help. The food and pomegranate juice were immediately sent for testing. Cooks under suspicion were detained. Security was intensified. However the main culprits had already managed to escape.

At 1500 the Soviet Embassy informed Yuriy Drozdov that the time to begin the assault (“H-hour”) had been set at 2200 and then changed to 2100. Later it was periodically confirmed and finally became 1930.

Then, at the request of the Chief of the Main Political Directorate Muhammad Ekbal Waziri and at the insistence of the Chief of the Political Department of the Chief Military Adviser in the DRA General-Major Sergey Tutushkin, Soviet doctors in Kabul, the Chief of the Central Military Hospital of the Afghan army Lieutenant Colonel Weloyat Habibi, and the Chief Surgeon of the Hospital Abdul Kayum Tutahel arrived at the Palace.

When the commander of plastic surgery [khirurgicheskoye usileniye] group of the hospital Colonel Viktor Kuznechenkov and other doctors arrived at the outer guard post, and usual, started to hand over their weapons they still were searched, which had never been done before. And they were dealt with in a rather harsh manner. Their documents were examined more carefully than usually when entering the Palace and they were searched again. Had something happened?

They understood when they saw people lying and sitting in the entrance hall, on the stair steps, and in the room in unnatural positions. Those who “had come to their senses” were writhing in pain. The doctors decided right away: mass poisoning. They decided to give the victims medical aid but Lieutenant Colonel Weloyat Habibi ran up to them and led them away to Amin. In his words the chief of state was in serious condition. Amin was lying in one of the rooms undressed to his undershorts with his jaw dropped and eyes rolled. He was in a serious coma. Had he died? They felt his pulse – the beating was barely perceptible.

Colonels Viktor Kuznechenkov and Anatoliy Alekseyev, not thinking that they were disrupting any plans, started to save the head of “a country friendly to the USSR”. First they put his jaw in place, then restored breathing. They took him to a bathroom, washed him, and began to pump his stomach and force diuresis. After this they moved him to a bedroom. Injections and again injections, medicine droppers, and needles in the veins of both arms…This work continued until 6 P.M.

They managed to save Amin’s life, but feeling that some alarming events were about to happen, Alekseyev sent the women out of the Palace in a timely manner, referring to the need to do laboratory analyses…

The incident alarmed the officers (Jandad, Ekbal) greatly as they were responsible for protecting the Chairman of the DRA Revolutionary Council. They set up additional (even external) posts comprised of Afghan servicemen and called the tank brigade – have them be ready to help. But they could not expect help from anywhere. Our paratroopers had completely blocked off the Afghan military units located in Kabul.

This is what Vladimir Salkin said about what happened in Kabul, for example: “In the evening, at about 1830, an order came to brigade commander Ahmad Jan to deploy one battalion to the city. At this time the adviser to the brigade commander Colonel V. N. Pyasetskiy and I were constantly next to the commander. He ordered the commander of the first tank battalion to be in full combat readiness and he would issue the order to leave later.

Momentarily the tank engines roared. The first battalion was ready for action. From time to time Pyasetskiy looked at his watch, expecting new orders to the brigade. At 1900 Viktor Nikolayevich himself asked Ahmad Jan to get in touch with his command…However the latter could not call because of a lack of communications.

Pyasetskiy advised him to check the status of the telephone wire at the brigade’s base. A signals platoon was quickly summoned and the soldiers started to careful inspect communications. This took about 30 minutes.

…Suddenly four airborne combat vehicles at full speed broke through the gates of the military compound and encircled the brigade HQ building without slowing down. A Soviet captain jumped out of the first vehicle. Entering the building, he presented himself, called Pyasetskiy aside and talked with him. Then he delivered a small flask containing an alcoholic beverage and suggested drinking it. Turning to the brigade commander, the captain said there was trouble in the city and it was inadvisable for the brigade to leave. After consulting, the commander gave a “standdown” order to the first battalion…”

Quite a bit of time would pass while they shook Amin a long time and, when he came to his senses, asked with surprise, “Why did this happen in my house? Who did it? Was it an accident or sabotage?”

About 6 P.M. Magometov summoned Kolesnik to talk and said: in connection with unforeseen circumstances the time for the assault was postponed and it needed to start as soon as possible. And so they began the operation before the set time. After literally 15-20 minutes the seizure group headed by Captain Sakhatov went in the direction of the hill where the tanks were dug in. Among them were two men each from “Grom” (Dmitriy Volkov and Pavel Klimov) and “Zenit” (Vladimir Tsvetkov and Fedor Yerokhov). The tanks were protected by sentries but their crews were in barracks located 150-200 meters away from them. The KGB officers – Vladimir Tsvetkov from “Zenit” or Dmitriy Volkov” from “Grom” were to shoot the sentries. One company of the “Muslim” battalion laid in a designated area ready to support Sakhatov’s group with effective fire.

 Klimov recalled that “Immediately before the operation some drank vodka, others valerian, but all the same it didn’t help. The excitement and stress was great. For many this was the end of their biographies; everyone understood the danger.

I was put in a group of 14 men who were first to carry out their mission. We had two from the “Grom” group (myself and Dima Volkov), two guys from “Zenit”, and two crews of five men each from the “Muslim” battalion.

About 20 minutes before the start of the operation we drove in a truck in the direction of one of the security battalions’ barracks, not far from where the tanks were dug in. We had the mission of seizing these tanks and not giving them the opportunity of opening fire on the assault groups. In addition, we were to make the Palace defenders who had been fooled by the situation think that the brigade’s servicemen had mutinied and attacked the Palace. We needed to create the appearance that the first salvos were coming from the barracks itself.

The snow was waist-high, which hindered our advance. I didn’t start to put on my bulletproof vest because neither the soldiers of the “Muslim” battalion nor the guys from “Zenit” had them. I could not be in a bulletproof vest when the rest were without them and, yes, we then needed to run through deep snow and I was afraid that I could fall behind. I was like everyone else. Therefore I left my bulletproof vest with my friends from the “Zenit” group who had none. The truth is, they then cursed me for this”.

At the command post Col. Grigoriy Boyarinov was visibly nervous. He had arrived in Kabul only the day before and had still not yet sized up the situation but it’s possible that a foreboding suggested trouble to an experienced soldier. In view of this, Ehval’d Kozlov asked General Drozdov permit him to take part in the assault on the Palace, saying that he would go with Boyarinov and help him. Drozdov thought for some time and then said, “Good, go, but be careful”. Having checked his Stechkin pistol and not finding that anyone had bulletproof vest Kozlov quickly ran to the BMPs in which there “Grom” troops were already sitting. V. Kolesnik had barely managed to issue him his helmet. Neither Ehval’d Kozlov nor Grigoriy Boyarinov then yet knew that they would become Heroes of the Soviet Union after the assault and, it is true, the latter was not fated to return from this battle. Ehval’d Kozlov said that he “felt that it would be very difficult for Boyarinov to coordinate the operations of the s but I knew the soldiers of both groups and therefore it was easier for me. I should have been in the battle”.


When the vehicle of Makhmud Sakhatov’s group was approaching the location of the third battalion suddenly shooting was heard, which unexpectedly intensified. Col. Kolesnik immediately gave the order for the soldiers and officers of the “Muslim” battalion and the KGB special forces groups: “Fire!” and “Forward!” Red flares flew through the air. It was 1915 by the clock. The signal “Shtorm-333” had been given on the radio nets.

Two self-propelled anti-aircraft ZSU-23-4 (“Shilka”) guns were the first to open fire on the Palace in a direct line of sight on command of Senior Lieutenant Vasiliy Praut, raining down a sea of shells. Two other guns hit the infantry battalion, thus supporting the paratrooper company. AGS-17 automatic grenade launchers began to open fire on the tank battalion without letting the crews get to their machines.

Subunits of the “Muslim” battalion began to advance to designated areas. The company of Senior Lieutenant

V. Sharipov was to have been first to advance; it had five BMPs as an assault force of several special forces subgroups consisting of “Grom” headed by Oleg Balashov (Aleksey Bayev, Nikolay Shvachko, and Vladimir Fedoseyev); Valeriy Yemyshev (Sergey Kuvylin, Gennadiy Kuznetsov, Andrey Yakushev, and Grigoriy Boyarinov); Sergey Golov (Viktor Anisimov, Leonid Gumennyy, Gennadiy Zudin, Mikhail Sobolev, and Vladimir Filimonov); and Viktor Karpukhin (Nikolay Berlev, Aleksandr Plyusnin, Vladimir Grishin, and Sergey Kolomiyets). Major Mikhail Romanov had overall command. Aleksandr Repin, Gleb Tolstikov, and Yevgeniy Mayev were also with him in a BMP together with Ehval’d Kozlov and Asadullah Sarwari.

Major Yakov Semenov with a “Zenit” subgroup of four armored personnel carriers of Rustam Tursunkulov’s platoon were to advance toward the western part of the hill. Then they were to climb up to the side part of Taj-Bek on a ladder and both groups were to join up on the façade of the building and operate jointly.

 But everything became confused at the last moment. The platoon of the three armored personnel carriers of Senior Lieutenant Tursunkulov began to advance first. In the BTRs were also “Zenit” subgroups, the commanders of which were Aleksandr Karelin (A. Agafonov, V. Antonov, N. Kurbanov, S. Chernukhin, and N. Kimyayev); Boris Suvorov (V. Poddubnyy, V. Drozdov, V. Ryazantsev, A. Kolmakov, A. Novikov, and T. Gulov); and Vladimir Fateyev (S. Chizhov, Yu. Lysochenko, F. Il’inskiy, M. Tsybenko, and V. Makarov) with Yakov Semenov having overall command. They were to seize the first floor of the building. The fourth “Zenit” subgroup headed by Vladimir Shchigolev (V. Bykovskiy, A. Ivashchenko, B. Ponomarev, U. Charyyev, V. Kurilov, and V. Zakharov) ended up in the “Grom” column.

Yemyshev recalled: “On command we began to take our places in the combat vehicles. At the very last moment Grigoriy Ivanovich Boyarinov jumped in right next to me and asked me to move. I said that we were completely full but he sat down all the same. Besides us the crew contained the BMP commander, the driver-mechanic, and the gunner-operator from the “Muslim” battalion. Interpreter Andrey Yakushev from the KGB First Main Directorate was sitting next to me. The vehicles advanced on signal”.

The first combat vehicle passed the traffic barrier successfully, crushing the Afghan soldier rushing to close it; shot up the remaining external security posts, and hurried along the only road which snaked upward into a mountain ending in an area in front of the Palace. The road was strongly defended and had a good field of fire [khorosho pristrelyana], but other approaches to the Palace were mined. The first APC had just passed a turn when large-caliber machine guns struck it from the building. Rustam Tursunkulov, leading the operations of the platoon leaning out a port from his waist suddenly heard how bullets were starting to “click” on the armor. He understood right away that games were over - a real battle had started. The APC containing Boris Suvorov’s group was suddenly knocked out and started to burn. The personnel quickly began to get out and several were wounded. The subgroup commander himself received a wound in the groin just below his bulletproof vest. They could not save him because of the loss of blood.

Having jumped out of the APCs the “Zenit” troops were forced to lie down and shoot at the windows of the Palace. They began to climb up the mountain with the aid of the scaling ladders. At this time the “Grom” subgroups were also climbing the winding road toward Taj-Bek.

A BMP, having passed the gate on the approach to the Palace building, got caught on the brickwork and died. Company commander Sharipov gave the order to hurry. The soldiers were forced to get out quickly. There were still 20 meters to the Palace. At this moment the signalman was killed and radio communications with Colonel Kolesnikov were lost. Sharipov could not stop the fire of the “Shilka”’s. Romanov recalled that he “ had created several subgroups, each of which had a BMP. Ehval’d Kozlov joined us; he was in my crew. The vehicles were to support us with machine gun and automatic weapons fire. They also had scaling ladders.

The approach to the Palace area was supposed to be from two directions. I and my “Grom” team were to twist along the winding road and Yasha was to assault the side of the Palace with a ladder. Then, joining up at the façade, we were to break into the Palace together. But, as always, the situation made its own corrections. Semenov’s break-in group was hindered. The APC had been put out of action and the crew had gotten out. Several soldiers had approached the designated area but the rest were scattered, pinned to the ground by fire.

But we were approaching the side part, climbing along the winding road. I gave two snipers to the group that was to seize the tanks. Thus I had 22 men left with me. The assault groups were formed. They broke into the Palace in one breath. There was a delay only when one of our BMPs was put out of action. They rushed in from the second approach.

The barrage was such that you couldn’t move….A “Rafik” bus was parked at the Palace so it was turned into a sieve. You could see right through it. It’s a pity they didn’t save it for a museum.

Bulletproof vest didn’t save anyone. A bulletproof vest is symbolic, not a serious device. The pistol, antipersonnel version as well, and an automatic weapon penetrates it easily. The West German helmets were not bad…”

At 7:30 P.M. strong explosions thundered through Kabul. The KGB subgroup had blown up the so-called communications “conduit”, cutting off the Afghan capital from the outside world. And Polyakov recalls that: “Having received the order to carry out the diversion I again reconnoitered the target visually, but upon returning to the villa noticed that everyone except those in my group had gone off somewhere, including the leaders of the opposition.

I gathered the group, announced the time the diversion would take place and assigned the mission to also cut the cable at 1930.

At about 1845 we drive in three vehicles to carry out the command’s mission. Only one officer was left at the villa whom I ordered, in case the mission failed, to hide everything and go to our Embassy, specifically to the Border Guards post. Although there were not enough interpreters in the detachment I nevertheless begged for an interpreter to be assigned to my group.

The further development of events showed that had there not been an interpreter in my group the operation would not have gone without bloodshed.

Having arrived at the target of sabotage the cover subgroup and I situated ourselves in an UAZ-469 around the traffic control post. The second cover subgroup stopped around the hotel in a “Volga” [automobile] and Boris Pleshkunov’s subgroup with interpreter Khayatov in an UAZ-450 directly approached the conduit. At the moment the conduit hatch was opened the sentry of the communications center security post unexpectedly hailed the saboteurs. The interpreter ran to the sentry and explained that they were checking communications, offered him a cigarette, and distracted him with conversation.

The operation to open the hatch, lay the charge in the conduit, and then open the hatch again to throw a grenade in with tear gas (in their haste they did not put the grenade in with the charge) was carried out, as they say, in a matter of seconds, although it seemed like quite a long time to all of us. The position of the cover [force] and the perpetrators and the distance between them allowed us to use visual means of communication. Therefore as soon as the UAZ-450 with the saboteurs left the site our cover groups also began to move simultaneously.

We returned to the villa without adventure and began to await the explosion without worry. At the moment we returned two officers of our [KGB] residency and several Afghans were at the villa who were to greet their supporters, so we armed them.

Among the Afghans was one who spoke Russian quite well. The rest of the Afghans did not know Russian or gave the appearance that they didn’t understand Russian.

At 1930 a strong explosion thundered rumbled and soon a second one, not far from us, blowing up the army communications lines.

I reported to the leadership via radio about completion of the mission. And then it began. The shooting in the area of Amin’s palace was especially intense…”

The explosion was to have served as the start of the assault on Taj-Bek but the special forces had begun somewhat earlier. According to Sergey Golov: “We had hardly begun to move when our vehicle stopped. The driver- mechanic was frightened, jumped out of the BMP and fled, but I hadn’t yet managed to decide on his replacement when he returned - it turned out to be even more frightening outside the vehicle. We started to climb upwards. When we stopped and began to get out the two Tajik interpreters sitting on the edge were killed right away. It turned out that behind the BMP was an Afghan guard post whose soldiers opened fire on us. We had to eliminate this guard post and turn around right away because the main shooting was from above, from the direction of the Palace. Gena Zudin was rather heavy when he jumped out of the BMP; his legs fell under the track and were crushed. Who gave him [medical] aid I don’t know because the main mission then was rouse the subunit into the attack and advance. The fire was very intense. When we managed to make it to the Palace walls to a “dead” space we began to feel a bit better”.

The break-in took place under a hurricane of fire. The combat vehicle of Viktor Karpukhin made it to the Palace first although it was third in the column. Karpukhin recalled: “I was the commander of one of the subgroups. When the BMP stopped I scared the driver-mechanic a bit. I told him not to spare the ammunition just shoot as fast as you can. And he tried; it was impossible to breath in the vehicle from the smoke. All the shells and rounds for the machine gun coupled with the gun were expended very quickly. But we had left something else entirely in order to get to the target. I forced the driver-mechanic to drive closer to the Palace because it was foolish to even be exposed to such heavy fire. And the driver-mechanic moved the BMP almost to the main gate itself. Thanks to this only two more in my crew were slightly wounded. All the remaining subgroups suffered much worse. I jumped out first and Sasha Plyusnin ended up next to me. We began to shoot at everyone who was exposed and was shooting from the windows, allowing all the rest of the soldiers of our subgroup to get out. They managed to quickly make it under the walls, break into the building, and continue the mission further…”

The special forces quickly climbed to the area in front of Taj-Bek. They make it under the heavy fire of large- caliber machine guns. It turned out that they were firing from every quarter.

According to Kolomiyets: “We had barely gotten out of the BMP when a shaped-charge grenade hit it. I then encountered a machinegunner who was sitting inside; his jaw was down and there was a terrible wound in his stomach. I don’t know whether he remained alive. A fragment had pierced my bulletproof vest but I ran under a deflector [kozyrek], and like everyone else not even noticing whether I was wounded or not. There was great excitement and the desire to go even further”.

The first minutes of battle were the most serious. The KGB special forces went to assault Taj-Bek but the main forces of Vladimir Sharipov’s company and the platoon of Rustam Tursunkulov covered their operations. The other subunits of the “Muslim” battalion provided an external covering ring.

According to Grishin: “We began to climb the winding road. It was dark. When we approached the Palace I saw the guys who had gotten out earlier – Sasha Repin and Zudin. We passed them. Luckily it turned out that the column had kept somewhat to the right; we had gone around them and drove up to the entrance itself. Bullets hit the “armor” and there was a feeling of unreality: everything around was lit up, searchlights were blinking, and the guys were moving quite openly…The guards evidently also valued their lives and were also afraid to expose themselves, although they threw grenades. There were explosions”.

The bulletproof vest of one of the “Grom” subgroup commanders, Oleg Balashov, was hit by a fragment but in the excitement he did not feel pain and threw himself at the Palace together with everyone else; however he did not have enough strength for long and he was sent to the medical battalion. Eh. Kozlov was sitting on the side of the combat vehicle, still in the BMP; he barely managed to put his leg outside when it was shot but, paying no attention to it, he jumped out of the BMP, clearing the way for his comrades-in-arms…”

According to Vladimir Fedoseyev: “I was sitting last in the BMP; Bayev was opposite me with a machine gun. We were ready to open the hatches at any moment to jump out in time if the vehicle was put out of action. We had just begun to move, but had not gone probably ten meters when they opened fire from the direction of the Palace. They knocked out our BMP. The passage was so narrow that two automobiles could separate with difficulty but generally combat vehicles couldn’t at all. The vehicle began to spin and the BMP commander shouted that an armor fragment had hit him in the thigh. When the driver tried to get out of the vehicle he was killed immediately. There was a pause and a dead silence. I turned to Balashov and said: “Oleg! This is an iron coffin. We need to jump out”. But he said to me: “Where did they say? There’s been no order”. I said “What order could there be? Just one more round and we’re dead men; or we can do something else. Open the hatches”. We jumped out of the vehicle. Bayev took a position right away with the machine gun and went behind the BMP and opened fire from a rifle. Balashov lay right next to me.

Afterwards a second grenade hit our vehicle and it began to smoke. An interpreter was also with us. He had been killed in the first second when he tried to climb out of the vehicle through the upper hatch.

We fired until the magazines were out of rounds. At this time some sort of explosion occurred next to us. I felt a sharp pain in my legs. My right leg was wrapped around my left. After some time I felt blood trickling down my legs. A shell landed on the vehicle right next to us and exploded. The terrible impact and shock wave threw me down from this breastwork. Aleksey Bayev was standing on the breastwork and firing a machine gun. Suddenly there was some sort of snap and he fell. I started to call him but he did not answer. I tried to drag him to a sentry box; he was big, about 120 kg, and I couldn’t do it. It’s good that Shvachko helped. We dragged him to the sentry box and I gave him an injection, and bandaged his thigh. I did not know then that he also had a wound in his neck. We left Bayev in the sentry box and again went to assault the Palace.

 We had barely gotten out of the sentry box when an explosion rang out and threw us into the breastwork again. I lost consciousness. One of the guys dragged me to the sentry box where Bayev was lying. When I came to Kolya Shvachko asked me whether I could go into battle but I couldn’t. I shot at the windows of the Palace with a sniper rifle. Bayev and I remained in the sentry box until the end of the assault.”.

The “Shilka”s hit Taj-Bek but the 23-mm shells which were not designed for such purposes bounced off the thick walls, carving out granite chips. And all the same they exerted a psychological influence on the Afghan defenders.

Yakov Semenov confirmed that “Gulyabzoy Said was in my crew from the very beginning of the assault on the Palace and he travelled the same path that we did”.

The hurricane of fire continued from the Palace, pinning the special forces to the ground. This was the culminating moment of the battle, which was necessary to rouse people to the attack no matter what the cost. The main part of the soldiers were wounded at this moment. The commanders, Eh. Kozlov, G. Boyarinov, V. Karpukhin, and S. Golov were first to make an assault. But the people climbed only when a “Shilka” neutralized a machine gun in one of the Palace windows. This continued for a short while, possible five minutes, but it seemed an eternity to the attackers. Ya. Semenov and his soldiers also threw themselves at the Palace and were met at the entrance by M. Romanov’s group…He recalls: “Initially the situation was on the edge of panic. I saw that we could not get a large number of people to the Palace. The shooting was horrible. The firing locations, which should have been neutralized by the army guys, were shooting at everything. If we had flinched just a bit everything would have turned out differently. And suddenly a general outburst: we needed to get to the entrance! We made a dash to the Palace entrance but Viktor Karpukhin was already standing there. Many Afghan bodies were next to him. It is good that Yasha and his soldiers showed up here. We, too, had several guys too.

I was in shell shock when I began to organize a second approach to the Palace, either from an RPG round or a grenade burst whose shock wave threw me on the BMP, which my head and the left side of my body struck. The blow was sharp and blood flowed from my ears and nose. I felt its salty taste on my lips. I started to hear badly as there was a constant buzzing in my ears. I even sort of lost consciousness for some time. I regained consciousness – explosions, shots, the cannonade. But the mission was still not accomplished, the very heat of the battle. As they say, here I wasn’t up to it…

We didn’t go by the side but through the windows, on the right side. The guys acted desperately and clearly.

There were various situations…”

Something inconceivable was happening. It was a picture of Hell. The “Shilka”’s were firing well.

Everything was confused. But everyone acted in a single outburst; there was no one who would have tried to shirk or sit it out in shelter and wait out the assault. Zudin was killed back on the approaches and Kuvylin, Fedoseyev, Bayev, and Shvachko were wounded. Things were no better with “Zenit”.  Ryazanov, who received a perforation wound in the thigh, bandaged his leg himself and went on the attack. But nevertheless they managed to overcome the resistance of the Afghans and break into the Palace building.

A group of special forces consisting of Kozlov, Boyarinov,  Golov,  Sobolev, Karpukhin,  Plyusnin, Grishin, Anisimov, Kurilov, Bykovskiy, and  Filimonov attacked through the main entrance and  Romanov, Semenov with the “Zenit” forces of Ryazantsev and Poddubnyy broke in through a window on the right side of the Palace. Karelin, Shchigolev, and Kurbanov attacked the Palace from the rear. Rustam Tursunkulov: “We ran into heavy fire. The personnel of the platoon hid behind the APCs and began to dig in because it was simply impossible to raise one’s head”.

All the groups and soldiers were confused and each was already acting at their own discretion. There was no single command. There was a single goal – to make it to the walls of the Palace as quickly as possible, hide behind them somehow, and carry out the mission. The special forces were in hostile territory, in a foreign uniform, without documents, and without any recognition signs; there was nothing except white armbands on their sleeves. The fire was so heavy that the safety glass on all the BMPs was shot out and the skirting was punctured in every square centimeter. That is, it had the appearance of a strainer. They special forces were saved only by being in bulletproof vests, although they were practically all wounded.

 Yakushev and Yemyshev were first into the central entrance of the building. The Afghans were throwing grenades from the second floor but the special forces jumped into the entrance hall. Yemyshev recalls that: “Practically no one was left in our crew; they had all jumped out. Under cover of the BMP Yakushev and I rushed to the central entrance and jumped into the building. He wanted to rush upstairs right away but I said to him: “Let’s go to the left here; we need to destroy the communications center.” There was no one in the entrance hall besides us. I ran to the left and opened the door to the duty officer’s room; the lights were all on but there was no one in it. On the right was a hall and further on, the telephone center. I suddenly saw Yakushev fall and ran to him but at this time I was hit by something large in the right arm: my automatic weapon fell, my arm was hanging, there were bits of flesh, and all the bones had been broken. I fell and started to crawl to the entrance door. At this time Sergey Kolomiyets jumped into the entrance hall, shot a round from his automatic weapon to the right, a round to the left, and left. Then others rushed in. The guys saw me and helped me. Kolya Berlev wrapped a bandage on the wounded arm and put me in a BMP which had been parked right across from the entrance. The shooting was not as strong as in the beginning and we were able to move. But the guys went upstairs.”

According to Grishin: “We jumped out of the BMP and rushed to the Palace entrance. Viktor Anisimov was shooting from a “Mukha” grenade launcher. I was behind him and, although he yelled for everyone behind him to go move away, could not manage to avoid it. Evidently I was in shell shock then but I quickly came to my senses. We hid behind an overhang on the first floor of the entrance hall. It was lit up and there was shooting everywhere. We advanced on Karpukhin’s order. Yemyshev was lying at the ladder which was resting on the second story. But in reply to the question posed at the briefing before [the operation] “What do we do with the wounded?” there was dead silence and I don’t remember what an Embassy representative said, as I remember, “Generally speaking, you need to carry out the mission”. No one said that you don’t need to render aid but no one answered. We understood that the main thing was to carry out the mission.

Running to the ladder around which Valeriy Petrovich was lying I simply saw his eyes, how he looked at me. Both Vitya Anisimov and I simply grabbed him and it seemed the hand of his left arm was torn off. We dragged him to under an overhang and tried to bandage his arm, but he said: “Volod’, my arm was torn off there, don’t look so it doesn’t shock you”. We were all in a first battle for the first time and had seen wounded people for the first time. We bandaged him and left him. When we started to enter the entrance hall again I saw a soldier lying on his back with a huge hole in his forehead. It turned out to be Yakushev. When I saw him I were aware of the whole seriousness of this operation and felt that all of us were now on the edge of life and death; feelings of danger and caution appeared. I then became more attentive and, casting aside fear, reacted to the slightest movement without giving the enemy a change to shoot first”.

Sergey Golov recalls that: “All the soldiers of my crew except Zudin were able to make it to the building and started to operate according to the previously developed plan. We broke in through the center. Sergey Kuvylin and Grigoriy Ivanovich Boyarinov ended up next to me. The group which was to have put the communications center out of commission could not manage to break in and they were practically all wounded. Grigoriy Ivanovich was also wounded by that time. Kuvylin and I helped him – they showered the communications center with grenades. If I recall right now, there were so many grenades and cartridges hanging on us as each could carry. I was next to Misha Sobolev who was throwing grenades and I was “working” the rooms with a machine gun. The rest were also doing the same. The first order was “Don’t take prisoners. No one should be left alive.”

Likewise, Kurilov remembers: “The roar of battle covered a well-known tenor voice: “Forward, men!’”The old soldier Grigoriy Ivanovich evidently felt some mistake in the actions of the defenders. The return fire actually started to seem less intense.

I leaned out of the parapet, let go a long burst just before jumping, but suddenly felt a strong blow on my left which turned up at my elbow; the automatic weapon jerked to the left and the butt hit my shoulder painfully. Such an effect I had from a shell exploding in the weapon! I squeezed the cock from inertia but the weapon didn’t fire…I dived under a parapet, laid on my side, and began to jerk the bolt – but it wouldn’t move. And there I saw that my weapon had been jammed! The bolt had been completely jammed! My left arm had grown numb. I took a glance – my hand was all bloody. I felt with the fingers of my right hand. Ugh! The edge of my palm was double its normal size! I imagined: probably the bullet had gone through the left hand which was on the front grip of the stock, and hit the weapon and jammed it. But where had the bullet come from? Could it have ricocheted around my face?

 Probably…Right! So what was I to do without a weapon? I had a pistol, I remembered, and I mentally swore: This toy pistol wasn’t good for anything with such an opinion! Perhaps only to shoot myself if the operation was a failure!

But Volodya Bykovskiy managed to jump into the entrance and ran around there, not knowing where to go. Our guys began to gather there. Boyarinov ended up next to me. He was always in that leather flight jacket with a helmet on his head and a Stechkin automatic pistol in his hand.

“Upstairs, men! We need to go upstairs! And defend the corridors here on the first floor!”, he shouted.

…I looked around. Next to me lay a soldier from the “Muslim” battalion among unexploded grenades and some rocks. From appearances he was dead. The butt of an automatic weapon protruded from under his hand. I touched the butt with my right hand and pulled the weapon out from under the immobile body. I moved the fingers of my left hand. They moved. And suddenly it was like there was no special pain. Only the elbow ached: a strong impact was evident…But the entire hand was sticky with blood. I wiped my hand on my trousers and looked. I needed to go!

I untangled the strap on the automatic weapon to make it longer, threw it behind my neck, and rushed forward. I almost ran on all fours, squatting and dodging, like they taught us in KUOS, firing bursts. And right here I was hit in my left arm, my bad one, as if by a giant hot needle!

I don’t remember how I ended up under the arch of the Palace entrance. I was next to a wall. My arm was almost completely separated. I simply didn’t feel it! My sleeve was swollen with blood. Here’s the devil for you, a second wound, and both in the same arm! I probed it with my fingers. They moved just a bit! But I almost didn’t feel my arm!

I stood up, leaning on the wall with my arm. Our guys ran past in the semidarkness.

Where was I to go now? What was I to do? Ah, yes! According to the order our group was to operate on the first floor. We needed to neutralize enemy resistance and clear it from all the rooms, and take the safe with its documents under guard!

Having stood up the stock of the automatic weapon in front of me and holding it by the grip with my right hand - the left had finally fallen off - I moved along the corridor.

Ahead one of our soldiers was firing an automatic weapon into the door of an office. Then he came running up, put a grenade under the door, and jumped behind a corner. I also hugged the wall. It exploded with a deafening rumble and suddenly the lights went out on the entire floor. Pitch-black darkness. After a bit the lights blinked and again went out…The power had been cut. Thank God!

I ran several steps more along the corridor, which seemed to me to be endlessly long, and yanked the handle of some door toward me. The door opened and inside it was semidarkness but I saw that there were tables and a couch there…I pulled a grenade out of my pocket, tore off the pin with my teeth, and launched it deep into the room with the counterrecoil. Knocking about, the grenade rolled on the parquet floor but I slammed the door and jumped to the doorpost. It burst inside, and the door creaked and was thrown open, throwing puffs of smoke and dust from the office…

Here an automatic weapon round hit me. They were shooting from the left apparently, from an partly-open door. The bullet pierced my morally and physically obsolete bulletproof vest and, having played havoc with its metallic plates, hit me in the left side, right under the lowest rib. The force was such that it hit like a crowbar. It knocked me off my legs and I fell on the floor on my right side and everything dimmed in my head for a second, but I didn’t lose consciousness. Instinctively, having raised my weapon in the direction of the presumed enemy, I let loose a long random burst in the semidarkness and listened to some wild howl. Like someone had stepped on a cat…

I felt sick. On my wounded side, it was as if someone had played around with a hot poker, such was the pain.

I tried to raise myself. It worked.

 The hell with it! What a shame! Just a little more - and victory, and I was out of action. There was shooting going on around me, the thunder of a grenade explosion, and plaster beginning to fall on my helmet from the ceiling.

Thinking fuzzily about what I was doing, I poked into some dark secluded corner. Directly ahead of me was a metal ladder. Two soldiers from the “Muslim” battalion appeared next to me. Their appearance was somewhat disoriented but sufficiently combative. I mechanically noted under my breath that the soldiers seemingly did not have orders to enter the Palace. They were to finish it off from the outside…These were young guys who could have gotten ahold of themselves and entered the Palace and now probably should be good warriors…If they remained alive…

They looked upon me with fright:

- Comrade officer, are you wounded? – one asked.

- Everything’s normal! Forward, men! – I said to them, trying to seem optimistic, cheerful, and confident.

At this moment, a fireball exploded literally five steps to the right of me. Evidently this was a RGD-5 grenade which had been hurled down the ladder opening. I distinctly remember that for a hundredth or a thousandth of a second, as the grenade fragments flew toward me I convulsively and strongly folded into a ball, squeezing for ages.

The fragments lashed my face, arms, and legs badly…The shock wave knocked me from my legs…”

The battle in the building itself right away took on a fierce and uncompromising nature. The special forces acted desperately and decisively. If they didn’t come out of the rooms with hands raised then the doors were broken down and grenades thrown in. Boyarinov,  Golov,  Karpukhin, and  Kuvylin accomplished the most important mission, putting the Palace communications center out of commission. As Karpukhin recalls: “I didn’t hurry up the ladder, I crept up it like all the rest because it was impossible for us to run there; I’d have been killed three times if I’d run there. Each step there had to be fought for, just like in the Reichstag. It’s probably comparable. We moved from one place of cover to another, shooting all around and then to the last one. What did I do personally? Well, I remember Boyarinov who became a Hero of the Soviet Union posthumously. He was wounded and slightly shell- shocked and his helmet lay to the side. He tried to say something but nothing was audible. The only thing I remember is how Berlev shouted to me: “Hide him, he’s a colonel, a war veteran.” I was thinking that he needed to be hidden somewhere; nevertheless we were all somewhat younger but where they were shooting there it’s in general hard to hide.” Golov was literally “flogged [poseklo]” by grenade fragments; then they counted nine intact [grenades].

Berlev’s magazine was hit by the bullet of an automatic weapon; he was lucky that Kuvylin was next to him and managed to give him his magazine.

Berlev remembers: “I stayed on the first floor but Karpukhin and Plyusnin ran up to the second floor. And suddenly a guard jumped out around a turn from somewhere. He began to shoot at me practically point-blank, from about 10 meters, and let loose a burst of about 10-12 rounds. It penetrated the hand guard and hit the magazine, and the shells flew from it. The guard stopped, frightened, and looked at me because he was shooting and I wasn’t falling. He had such glazed eyes; they were right in front of me, such dark hazel, even brown eyes. He himself was dark- complexioned. And I was struck dumb for a second. Then I thought that I had rounds in my chamber. And in a fraction of a second I lifted my weapon and fired. He fell.

I sat down and started to gather the rounds. At this time Sergey Kuvylin ran up to me and asked what was the matter; he gave me his own double magazine. I fastened them into the weapon and started to continue to carry out the mission.

When we had broken into the Palace and losses occurred a sort of frenzy came to me – to “mow down” everyone. Yes, and there was an order – don’t leave living witnesses”.

Soviet Ambassador Tabeyev was not informed of the plan of the operation and therefore when he heard an explosion and the lights went out in the Embassy he was confused. He recalls: “It was very awkward for me in front of my wife. She then said to me that no one is taking you into consideration and they are even keeping you in the dark”. The Ambassador called KGB representative Kirpichenko and demanded an explanation about what was going on in the city. The latter told to him that there was no opportunity to talk right then and he would give a detailed report in the morning.

 …The “Shilka”’s shifted their fire to other targets. The BMPs left the area in front of the Palace and blocked the only road. Another company and two platoons of AGS-17 grenade launchers fired on the tank battalion and then seized the tanks, simultaneously disarming the tank crews. A special group of the “Muslim” battalion seized the weapons of the anti-aircraft regiment and took its personnel prisoner. Lt. Col. O. Shvets oversaw the combat operations in this sector.

In the Palace the officers and soldiers of Amin’s personal guard and his bodyguard (about 100-150 men) resisted stubbornly, not surrendering. Their undoing was because they were all mainly armed with MG-5 submachine guns and they did not penetrate our bulletproof vests.

The “Shilka”’s again shifted fire, beginning to hit Taj-Bek and the area in front of it. A fire began on the second floor of the Palace and this exerted a strong influence on the defenders. As the special forces moved toward the second floor of Taj-Bek the shooting and explosions intensified. The soldiers of Amin’s security force, having taken the special forces for an Afghan rebel unit, heard Russian speech and swearing, and surrendered to them…As soon became clear, many of them had trained at the Airborne Forces School in Ryazan’ where they obviously remembered Russian swearing for their whole lives.

Kozlov, Golov, Karpukhin, Semenov, Anisimov, and Plyusnin rushed to the second floor. The target of the “first line” was their main objective there. The special forces attacked boldly, shooting from automatic weapons and throwing grenades in all the rooms. According to Sergey Golov: “I climbed upstairs together with Ehval’d Kozlov and the “Zenit” group leader Yasha Semenov. I don’t know why he had ended up without a bulletproof vest but Eh’vald bravely forged ahead with a pistol in his hands. I didn’t notice when I myself was wounded. Possibly it was when, having thrown a grenade into a window and got into trouble and it rolled back; I quickly managed to throw a second grenade and lie on the floor. The grenades detonated and we stayed alive. The main goal was to reach Amin’s location at any cost.”

The lights were on everywhere in the Palace. All the attempts by Nikolay Shvachko to turn them off came to nothing. The electrical power was independent. Somewhere in the depths of the building, possibly in the basement, there were electrical generators operating but there was no time to search for them. Some soldiers were shooting at light bulbs in order to shelter themselves somehow since they were in plain view of Palace defenders. By the end of the assault only a handful of sources of illumination remained but they were burning.

According to Ehval’d Kozlov: “In general, impressions from events, the perception of reality in battle and in peacetime differ greatly. Several years later in a quiet situation I walked through the Palace with General Gromov.

Everything seemed different, completely opposite of what it had been then. In December 1979 it seemed to me that we had overcome endless “Potemkin” stairs but it turned out that the staircase was narrow, as in the entrance of an ordinary house. How we eight travelled up it together I don’t know; the main thing is we stayed alive. It happened that I was fighting without a bulletproof vest, which even now is horrific to imagine but on that day I didn’t remember it. It seemed, I had become empty inside and everything was forced out by the desire to carry out the mission. Even the noise of battle and the shouts of people were perceived differently from the usual way. Everything in me operated only for battle and I was to be victorious in the battle”.

Soviet doctors in the Palace hid where they could. Initially they thought that the attackers were mujaheddin and Taraki supporters. Only after hearing Russian swearing did they understand that their own servicemen were fighting. Alekseyev and Kuznechenkov, who were to be helping Amin’s daughter (she had a baby), found “refugees” at the bar counter after the assault. They saw Amin, who was going along a corridor, completely in the reflections of a fire. He was in shorts and a sports shirt, holding his hands high, wrapped in tubes, vials with saline solution as if they were grenades. It is possible to imagine what effort this cost him with the needles put in his elbow veins.

Alekseyev, having fled from cover, took out the needles as his first act, pressed the veins with his fingers to keep them from bleeding, and then led him to the bar. Amin rested on a wall but then heard a child’s cry somewhere from a side room. His five-year-old son came out, washed with spots of tears. Having seen his father, he ran to him and embraced his legs. Amin pressed his head to him and they sat down together at the wall.

 Many years after these events Alekseyev said: they could not stay around the bar any longer so they hurried to leave there; when they were travelling along the corridor an explosion rang out – the shock wave threw them toward the door of the conference room where they took cover; it was dark and empty here. A broken window brought in the sounds of shooting. Kuznechenkov stood in the partition next to the window, Alekseyev to the right. Thus they shared their fate in this life. In any event, some soldier who had jumped in there shot in the darkness. One of the bullets hit Kuznechenkov. He cried out and immediately fell dead. Alekseyev lifted the body of his dead comrade to him and took it to the courtyard where he placed it in an APC which was taking the wounded away. “We don’t take the dead”, the soldier who was supervising the loading of the wounded cried to Alekseyev. “He’s still alive, I’m a doctor”, the Colonel objected. They took Kuznechenkov’s body to a [military] hospital and Alekseyev went to an operating table and gave aid to the wounded.

It is clear from the memoirs of his adjutant that Amin had ordered him to notify our military advisers about the attack on the Palace. In the process he said: “The Soviets will help.” But the adjutant reported: “The Soviets are shooting.” These words caused the General Secretary to lose his composure; he grabbed an ashtray and threw it at the adjutant, crying: “You’re lying, it can’t be!” Then he tried to call the Chief of the General Staff on the telephone…There were no communications. Amin quietly muttered: “I suspected this; it’s all true.” If Amin was a CIA agent, he did not give himself away in the last minutes of his life.

…At a time when the assault groups were breaking into Taj-Bek the soldiers of the “Muslim” battalion had created a rigid ring of fire around the Palace, destroying everything which offered resistance. Bursting into the second floor they heard a woman’s cry: “Amin, Amin!…” Evidently his wife was shouting.

When a group composed of Kozlov, Semenov, Karpukhin, Golov,  Plyusnin,  Grishin,  Gumennyy, Anisimov, Karelin, Drozdov, and Kurbanov, throwing grenades and firing continuously from automatic weapons, rushed into the second floor of the Palace resistance rose to its highest level. There was shooting from every direction, some figures appeared in the smoke, and shouts were heard. According to Viktor Karpukhin: “It was quite hard for us to converse during the battle; we had other concerns. There simply isn’t enough time to talk. You were to reload faster and in any case look in order to orient yourself and not get a bullet from somewhere. How did I feel that Amin was killed? How was I generally supposed to feel? I saw it all with my own eyes…”

And according to Grishin: “There was shooting from every direction. Lenya Gumennyy, who gave me shells, was standing on the span of a stair step and I reloaded my magazines. There were also other guys there. We began to group together at the entrance to the door into the corridor which led to the second floor rooms. We had to open the door and rush inside. Getting ready, we reloaded our magazines. It was dark there. We were taught before we rushed in – either shoot from an automatic weapon or throw a grenade. We opened the door with a leg but the door was on hinges. Sergey Aleksandrovich threw in a grenade but the door had been opened so sharply that it knocked against a wall, suddenly closed, and therefore the grenade struck the door and rolled toward us. Lenya and I managed to jump to a level below and lie down. Everyone also laid down and the grenade exploded. Possibly it also brushed against someone; it then turned out that someone was wounded, someone else got caught, and for the rest everything turned out OK. But then after the explosion we jumped into the corridor right away. In this group were: Plyusnin, Gumennyy, Anisimov, Karpukhin, Golov, and Berlev. There were also guys from “Zenit” of whom I knew only Yasha Semenov. I saw him on the second floor but I didn’t know anyone of the rest. Sasha Plyusnin and I operated as a pair. Shooting, we ran a bit along the corridor and fell down as if on command. This is how we moved along. A recess appeared on the right, like a shelter. This was the bar. We ran in there. At the bar counter a man was laying on his back. He was in a sport shirt and shorts. I didn’t see any signs of blood in general, I don’t remember; in any case, there was nothing there in my opinion. He was still alive but his movements were sort of convulsive. As it turned out later this person was Amin.

At that time women’s and children’s voices rang out and everyone ceased for as if on command. Probably in the spirit of normal Russian people, even soldiers, pity on women and children always remains; that is, human qualities are never lost. It then turned out that one boy was wounded in the thigh and a woman was barely scratched; the rest were unharmed. Letting them go, we continued to clear the room.

We again ran into the corridor. I ended up paired with Lenya Gumennyy and we “cleaned” all the rooms in sequence. First we opened the door, threw in a grenade, and shot everything. Then we stopped throwing grenades and just shone a flashlight since there was no more resistance. We ran through the entire floor and then returned. The carpet was wet. I don’t know whether this was from water or blood.

Much has been wiped from my memory. When now veterans of the Great Patriotic War talk I am surprised at their good memory. I have switched off several episodes. Some of it remained there in my memory; for example, for a long time I felt the smell of flesh and blood for a month or two”.

The gunpowder smoke gradually cleared and the attackers saw Amin lying around the bar counter in his “Adidas” shorts and sport shirt. He was dead…It’s possible a bullet from one of the special forces or a grenade fragment hit him. Some express a version that Amin was killed by the Afghans. What the cause of his death really was is quite hard to ascertain right now.

According to Golov: “Romanov gave me, as a former medical student [medik], an order to help our men. And I, as a commander at one time, actually disengaged from the battle and began to help the wounded: Gennadiy Kuznetsov had a wound in his thigh, Sergey Kolomiyets had a bullet go through his bulletproof vest into his thorax, Aleksey Bayev had a bullet right through his neck, and Vladimir Fedoseyev had a grenade explode under his legs and break his foot. We found a first aid kit and bandages. Everyone was given first aid.”

After they seized the second floor it began to be somewhat easier since practically no one was left in the entire Palace; everyone had been shot down. And those who managed to be spared began to be taken prisoner.

The battle in the Palace was not long (43 minutes). “Suddenly the shooting stopped”, remembered “Zenit” group commander Major Ya. Semenov. “I reported to General Yu. I. Drozdov by radio that the Palace had been taken, that there were many dead and wounded, and the main thing was ended”. Company commander Sr. Lt. V. Sharipov climbed up to the second floor in order to be personally convinced of the death of Amin. He then started to call Col. Kolesnik on the radio to report completion of the mission. He managed to get in touch with battalion chief of staff Ashurov and allegorically reported that Amin had been killed. Ashurov understood him and reported completion of the mission to Col. Kolesnik.

…A group headed by Captain Sakhatov arrived at the Palace building in two of the tanks which had been seized from the Afghans. He reported to Kolesnik about completion of the combat mission and informed him: when they passed the third battalion of the security brigade they saw that an alert had been declared. The Afghan soldiers had received ammunition. Next to the road along which the special forces passed the battalion commander and two more officers were standing. A decision came quickly. Jumping out of the vehicle they seized the Afghan battalion commander and both officers and threw them in the vehicle and continued. Several soldiers who had managed to receive shells opened fire on them. Then the entire battalion also hurried to the pursuit, to free their commander.

Then the special forces hurried and started to shoot at the pursuing infantry with machine guns. The soldiers of K. Amangel’dyyev’s company also opened fire, supporting the operations of Sakhatov’s group. They “put down” a great many – about 250 men; the rest scattered. At this time “Zenit” member Vladimir Tsvetkov “removed” the sentries guarding the tanks with a silencer-equipped automatic weapon and the soldiers seized them. The Afghans opened return fire. Sakhatov’s group had to lie down. During the crossfire Dmitriy Volkov was killed, Pavel Klimov from “Grom” was wounded, and Vladimir Tsvetkov from “Zenit” was wounded in the head.

As Pavel Klimov recalls: “When we drove up to the place designated for us the vehicle stopped on a slope not far from the barracks and we quickly jumped out of it through the back. There turned out to be four, not two, sentries around the tanks. Dima Volkov and one more guy from “Zenit” went to “remove” them. We laid in readiness to cover them with fire. Shots were heard. Soldiers dashed out of the barracks. A battle started.

We had sniper rifles and one of the “Zenit” troops had a “Mukha”. We deployed and began to shoot on the Palace. I managed to shoot four magazines. I remember there being a guy from “Zenit” not far away. Then a grenade flew in, probably an RGD-5, and exploded next to me. A red lightning blazed in my eyes and a sharp pain seized my entire body. I lost consciousness for some time. Then I periodically regained consciousness and then lost it again. The last time I came to I saw that our “Shilka”’s were firing on the Palace. Their shells did not penetrate the stone walls of the Palace but simply bounced off them, carving out chips. There was a hurricane of fire coming from the Palace side but our guys went on the attack.

 Then I lost consciousness and when I came to I saw a soldier from the “Muslim” battalion who leaned over me and asked: “You’re not wounded?” I said: “It’s nothing, comrade; probably I’m wounded. I’m simply deafened or shell-shocked.” But my head was so heavy and there was a whistling in my ears, and my entire body was weak. I still don’t remember the details. I was in shock, in a semi-conscious state. I only recall that I showed them the 6P9 silencer-equipped pistol but they had never seen such a weapon. One of them took the pistol, turned it over in his hands for a long time, and even pointed it in my direction. He could not understand how the pistol fired. Then I told him to return the weapon to me since I was still alive. He handed me the pistol.

The soldiers bandaged me and left. The battle continued. They began to fire from automatic weapons in the direction of the Palace. I lay in the snow and bled. Then when I started to feel a little better I tried to get up – and managed to do it. Purely intuitively I wandered to my comrades. This saved my life; otherwise I would have shared the fate of other dead comrades. The doctors then were saying that I was mortally wounded, like Bagration.

About 100 meters from us were three BTRs in which soldiers from the “Muslim” battalion were sitting. I don’t know what their mission was. Probably it was second-echelon defense in order to restrain an Afghan attack and not let them go toward the Palace if our group was all killed. I even went over to them and asked that they help me get into the APC. One of the soldiers helped me, pulled me inside the APC, and put me in the back seat. My arms and legs were all cold. I laid there and put my legs in a warm exhaust pipe, and a soldier warmed my hands with his breath. I shivered and felt sick. I laid in the dark APC, my body burned and felt somewhat weightless. As before, the soldier gave me some help. But all this time I had “disappeared” somewhere but, exerting my will, tried not to finally lose consciousness. However the wound turned out to be quite serious. Then it became clear that I had lost three liters of blood and I had been given first aid in the process. Then I lost consciousness and regained it only for a moment back in the Embassy. As of yet I do not know how I ended up there. Evidently soldiers from the “Muslim” battalion brought me there on an APC.”

Company commander Sr. Lt. Vladimir Sharipov also reported that the mission had been accomplished. Col.

Kolesnik gave the order to cease fire and moved his command post immediately into the Palace. When he and Drozdov drove up to Taj-Bek the commanders of the assault groups began to approach them with reports in front and around the Palace. Karpukhin pointed out the bullet which had stuck in the safety glass of his helmet, saying: “Look how lucky I was”. The special forces and the assault group members walked around the Palace checking whether it was harboring any of “Amin’s people.”

After Sarwari and Gulyabzoy arrived at the Palace and were convinced and confirmed that Amin was really dead the body of the head of the DRA government and leader of the PDPA was wrapped in a carpet…The main mission was accomplished. Success in this operation was secured not so much by force as by surprise and swiftness of pressure.

According to Vladimir Grishin: “When I saw General Drozdov I calmed down right away and understood that everything would be OK. He had a German ‘Schmeisser’ and a radio in his hands and was without his helmet. I didn’t know that it was Drozdov but simply saw a gray-haired man, obviously one of the senior leaders, who went through the Palace quite boldly although the shooting had still not stopped everywhere. It inspired confidence that we had done the main part of our work and had carried out the mission.”

During the entire assault on the Palace Drozdov maintained radio contact with Ivanov, who was at the communications center. Communications were very unstable. All the time they had to change the batteries, which quickly “quit” for some reason. It was good that Kolesnik had selected a soldier who was always next to him and supplied him with batteries. Karpukin recalls that “The command with us was – Yuriy Ivanovich Drozdov...He was our senior commander, he inspired optimism…This was a man of the highest courage, a legend. He had been an army officer in the [World] War and then an illegal [agent] - in Germany. He knew three languages well. A very literate, erudite man. I have already talked about Boyarinov...But we had a common fate…”

Right after the seizure of Taj-Bek Drozdov reported to Ivanov about completion of the mission and then handed the radio to Ehval’d Kozlov and ordered him to report the results of the battle to the leadership. When Kozlov, who had not yet left the battle, began to report to General Ivanov the latter interrupted him with a question “What about ‘Dub’?” Ehval’d started to select a word in order to tell him about the death of Amin in a veiled way, but

 Ivanov again asked, “Was he killed?” Kozlov replied, “Yes, he was killed”. And the General immediately cut off communications. It was necessary to quickly report to Moscow, to KGB Chairman Andropov about completion of the main mission.

According to Golov: “After we found out that Amin was dead we gathered downstairs; we had to repel a tank attack. But what does it mean to lie on frozen ground on a winter night after a heated battle? It was telling then, of course, since besides a wound I had double pneumonia. Initially I didn’t feel feverish and then, when everything had sort of quieted down, the guys looked at me and said, “Serezha, why are you so pale? Take off your shirt”. I took off my jacket and I saw I was all bloody. They sent me to the barracks of the “Muslim” battalion right away where we had been living before. They bandaged me there and said that I needed to go to [either a civilian or a military] hospital. In the morning Berlev and Shvachko sent me to the hospital at the Embassy. I was operated on there. They removed grenade fragments.”

…After the battle they counted the casualties. Five men in the KGB special forces groups which had assaulted the Palace had been killed, including Col. Boyarinov. Almost everyone was wounded but those who could hold a weapon in their hands continued to fight. Five were also killed in the “Muslim” battalion and 35 wounded.

Twenty-three who were wounded remained on duty. The battalion medical officer initially took seriously wounded soldiers out in a BMP to the battalion and then to various medical institutions which were then in Kabul.

I don’t know the fate of the officials of the KGB Ninth Directorate who were directly guarding Amin.

According to some information they all managed to evacuate earlier.

According to Viktor Karpukhin: “We took up a perimeter defense and collected everything which could shoot and prepared. During the battle I was not aware of the ammunition at all, although there was about 50-60 kg of it hanging on each of us considering the packs, ammunition, bulletproof vests, helmets, etc. But after the battle such a deadly fatigue came over us that we simply fell down in a “dead faint”. And, as I saw it, everyone slept where they had fallen into some shutdown mode [v otklyuchku], like in resuscitation.”

During the night the special forces guarded the Palace since they were afraid that the divisions and the tank brigade stationed in Kabul would try to storm it. But this did not happen. The Soviet military advisers working in Afghan army units and the airborne units which had been airlifted to the capital did not let them do this. Moreover, the special services had paralyzed the command and control of Afghan forces beforehand.

Probably one of the Soviets suffered from his own: in the darkness the personnel of the “Muslim” battalion and a KGB special forces group recognize one another from the white armbands on their sleeves, the “Misha-Yasha” password, and…swearing. But since everyone was dressed in Afghan uniforms and shooting they had to throw grenades from quite a distance. Try to follow in the darkness; isn’t there confusion about who has a white armband on his sleeve and who doesn’t? In addition, when they started to lead Afghan prisoners away their sleeves also had white armbands.

Kolomiyets adds: “I would like to put in a good word about the now-deceased Volodya Filimonov. We had orders not to assist the wounded but just [move] ahead. I was already wounded on the second floor and I suspect from a bullet of one of the men of the [KGB] First Main Directorate. They only had 7.62 mm automatic weapons but Amin’s security force had different weapons. Filimonov took me by the leg and dragged me down the stairs. I hurt my head on the steps. I told him: ‘Volodya, take my weapon’. He took the weapon, added a magazine, and delivered it in a safe place.”

Valentin Braterskiy recalls: “There were five of us from the First Main Directorate and two groups of 30 each who were carrying out the operation. “Grom” is a unique group which included rated athletes and was to operate right in the Palace. The “Zenit” group was to secure the approaches to the Palace. It had guys from the Balashikha School which trained the special forces. Of the 60 men, 14 remained on duty.

There were high casualties on the other side. There were 300 men in Amin’s security force. One hundred fifty were taken prisoner. The dead were not counted.

 Amin had also driven in a 2000-man regiment and they were entrenched around the Palace. We cut through the regiment like a dagger. It scattered somehow during the assault. Karmal promised that 500 guerillas loyal to him would support us. They brought in weapons and grenades for them – and waited. Only one of the 500 came.

There was one other group under the command of a KGB major. Their mission included delivering several members of the Afghan leadership to confirm the story of a domestic coup.

The story which was impressed on us was – Amin was in touch with the Americans; we would get one more dangerous neighbor from the South. There are no documents confirming this story and nothing has been presented.

It all seemed finally clear to me that when the man who had shot Amin told me that there was on order: don’t take Amin alive. By the way, Amin’s approximately eight-year-old was wounded in the chest at the same time during the shootout and died. I bandaged the wound of his daughter with my own hands – she was wounded in the leg. We left a Palace in which the rugs were soaked with blood and sloshed our way through. This is hard to imagine…

We were all promised the stars of Heroes [of the Soviet Union] before our departing flight. As far as I know, two of us did receive them, one posthumously; everyone in the KGB involved in this affair, 400 people, received awards, even the typists and secretaries.

All the men who survived that night agreed that they would meet every year on 27 December at 7 P.M. at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Kryuchkov forbade it – ‘There’s no use whining’…

Commenting on these recollections General Drozdov said: “I very much doubt the correctness of individual statements of V. Braterskiy. He was not in the assault groups. I see nothing in his scathing pronouncements except an ignorance of the facts, carelessness, and incompetence. They didn’t promise us the stars of Heroes, they simply assigned us the performance of an operational assignment. Those who write weren’t there themselves but know everything and more than everyone.

Actually, for a good five years the “Afghans” marked this day in spite of the prohibition, but in another place. They did not share this point of view of their leadership. KGB Chairman V. A. Kryuchkov in his conversations with me agreed with them but not everything was in his power.”

On that same day, 27 December, airborne units and subunits of the 103rd Division and also men from the KGB “Grom” and “Zenit” groups selected to help them went to the locations of military units and formations, and important administrative and special facilities, and established their control over them. The seizure of these key facilities took place in an organized fashion with fewer casualties.

The Seizure of Important Facilities in Kabul

The General Staff of the Afghan army turned out to be another difficult target whose security force had been considerably strengthened and the situation inside the building itself was quite tense.

The mission to seize the General Staff building was assigned back on 14 December but it was located in a different place then. It was simply senseless to carry out an operation with the forces then available and it was postponed.

This time during the course of preparations to carry out the mission the senior of the “Zenit” subgroup Maj. Rozin, accompanying the adviser for combat training Gen. Vlasov was inside the building where the General Staff had relocated not long before. A museum had been located here earlier. Rozin managed to look over only certain portion of the building. Thanks to the fact that he had previously been a construction specialist, however, saw he compiled a plan of the entire building story by story indicating the locations of the guard posts on the basis of what he saw.

They developed a detailed plan of operations. Each “Zenit” officer was assigned a specific, clear-cut mission. The worked out problems of coordination in detail. This helped very much because there’s no time to ponder in battle. The most difficult one was to break into the building. Yakub displayed special vigilance and was in the General Staff all the time, even spending the night there. They decided to use the presence in Kabul of Soviet paratroopers.

 At 1850 a “Zenit” detachment of 14 reconnaissance saboteurs headed by Valeriy Rozin and two Border Guards officers in automobiles left the Soviet Embassy grounds for the General Staff building. An Afghan, Abdul Wakil, was with them. They arrived at the site about 1900. One “Zenit” group climbed up to the second story in the left wing of the building where the staff of the Chief of the General Staff M. Yakub was located. The rest remained on the first floor in the entrance waiting for the established time.

They paid attention to the fact that the Afghans in the building (the external guard force, the posts in the entrance and on both floors, people in civilian clothing, and officers) were considerably more than had been determined when scouting the target. In the communications center room, besides three signalmen on duty, there were about 15 Afghan soldiers with automatic weapons. In the side parts of the building at the left and right entrances besides the usual two sentries there were 7-10 more Afghan soldiers each. Several soldiers were in rooms on the first floor.

Probably there had been a leak about the operation, possibly even about the hour it was to begin. From indirect signs the Afghans were awaiting our operations and took specific steps to organize resistance. Opposition was considerably weakened thanks to the unexpected change of the beginning of the operation to an earlier time.

The operation was carried out with a cover story of the Commander of the 103rd Airborne Division General Ivan Ryabchenko becoming acquainted with the Chief of the Afghan army General Staff General M. Yakub.

About 1900 the division commander, the adviser to the Chief of the General Staff Gen. Kostenko, Gen. Vlasov, Col. Letuchiy, Maj. Rozin (he wore an airborne camouflage uniform over his special forces uniform and he posed as the deputy to Ryabchenko for technical affairs), and interpreter Pliyev walked into the office of the Chief of the General Staff. They handed over their weapons before they entered the reception room. The Afghans searched them. Officer P. Lagoyskiy escorting Gen. Ryabchenko and also Zenit officers Irvanev and Vasil’yev stayed in the corridor in front of the reception room. Yakub greeted his guests affably and invited them to a table. There was a radio in Yakub’s office with which he maintained direct communications with division commanders. They reported to him about readiness from time to time. A conversation began. Gen. Vlasov presented the division commander to the Chief of the General Staff of the DRA Armed Forces. They began to discuss issues of mutual cooperation and coordination. Ryabchenko had not been informed about the operation which had been prepared and therefore behaved naturally and seriously. The presence of Yakub’s radios [SIC, plural] was a surprise for the military advisers; they did not know when the Chief of the General Staff had obtained them. As the time for the beginning of the operation approached Gen. Vlasov and Kostenko left Yakub’s office under various pretexts.

At this same time the reconnaissance saboteurs had collected in the entrance and corridors of the first and second floors of the General Staff. They covered the majority of the Afghans located there. In order to distract their attention and achieve the effect of surprise they established contact with the Afghans, treated them to cigarettes, held conversations with them about their having arrived with the division commander and ensuring his security.

At 1930 a strong explosion rang out in the city. Judging from the facial expression Yakub also heard it but continued to talk. Obviously had already guessed everything but did not lose his self-control. Then he hurried to the table where a German 9 mm MG-5 automatic weapon was lying. Major Rozin threw himself in the way. Hand-to-hand combat began. It needs to be said that Yakub himself was physically very strong (almost two meters tall and more than 100 kg) and with well-rounded training. At one time he had graduated from the Ryazan’ Airborne School, and he spoke Russian well and was a great friend of the Soviet Union. Of course, it would have been difficult for Rozin if at that moment Lagoyskiy, Irvanev, and Vasil’yev, who had remained in front of the reception room, had not burst into the office with several Afghans. Not understanding what was going on, Gen. Ryabchenko was sitting in his seat but interpreter Pliyev also entered the fray. First they put the radio out of commission, depriving Yakub of the opportunity of giving an order to division commanders to begin combat operations. In the ensuing firefight Yakub’s assistant was killed and Yakub himself was wounded. The Chief of the General Staff quickly hid in a lounge where, as it turned out, there were several more senior Afghan army servicemen as well as the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs. Pliyev suggested that the Afghans who had hid in the Chief of the General Staff’s lounge surrender. And they began to come out one at a time with hands raised.

 At that time the group consisting of V. Kudrik, V. Stremilov, and A. Mashkov disarmed the sentry at the entrance to the communications center on the first floor in brief hand-to-hand combat, cut the outgoing telephone wire trunks in the landing, and suppressed the resistance of the guard force with automatic weapons. The “Zenit” troops put the most vulnerable and important parts of the communications center out of commission. The command and control of formations and military units located in Kabul was paralyzed which to a large extent ensured the success of the operation in the Afghan capital.

“Zenit” officers Kim and Nam covered the entrance to the first floor of the right wing of the building, not letting soldiers from the security company enter. The entrance to the left wing was controlled by Baranov and Povolotskiy. At the same time they did not let Afghan servicemen out of the rooms.

Pestsov and two Border Guards remained in the entrance and helped liquidate the guard force at the main entrance.

After the communications center was put out of order Kudrik, Stremilov, and Mashkov run up to the second floor to help support Titov and Klimov of the “Zenit” detachment operating there. Hand-to-hand combat and shooting in the rooms of the second floor were the most prolonged and fierce. The Afghans, concentrated in the rooms of the second floor, fired furiously. Some part of the Afghan servicemen hid on the third floor.

Meanwhile the situation in the office of the Chief of the General Staff had somewhat calmed. The wounded Yakub was lying in the lounge and the remaining Afghans surrendered. They were tied up and placed under guard in a separate room.

Shots and grenade explosions were heard through the entire building. General Kostenko hid in his office and almost fell victim to his own countrymen. When the battle situation in the office of the Chief of the General Staff was actually over Abdul Wakil appeared. He talked in Pashto to the wounded Yakub for a long time and then shot him with a pistol.

As they managed to put down the resistance of the Afghans in various places in the building they gathered the prisoners in a large room. In the final account they collected about 100 people there. Many of them were in shock. And although they were all disarmed they nevertheless presented a real threat to the small handful of “Zenit” troops. Then Rozin ordered that they all be quickly tied up [but] there was no rope. They used communications cable for these purposes which was found where possible.

They did not begin to assault the third floor of the building. The Afghans stuck there could not leave since all the exits were controlled by “Zenit” troops.

The battle lasted more than an hour. When the shooting had started to die down a company of paratroopers, who had arrived about 40 minutes later than the time set in the plan, quickly advanced on the General Staff building in airborne combat vehicles [BMDs]. The paratroopers opened massed intensive fire at the windows from machine guns and automatic weapons. The “Zenit” troops were forced to lie on the floor and find cover in order not to fall victim from their own soldiers. Tracer bullets piercing the walls of the rooms glowed like red fireflies, creating an inimitable sight. Maj. Rozin began to shout at the division commander that he needed to take some measures to cease fire. Gen. Ryabchenko gave a mission to one of his officers to quickly get in touch with the company commander. After some time signalmen with an R-105 radio arrived in the building and the division commander assumed control himself. The paratroopers quickly put down the remaining hotbeds of resistance and occupied the third floor. They “cleaned” the rooms.

The Afghans lost 20 men. Many hundreds of officers and soldiers were taken prisoner. Two men in the assault groups were slightly wounded.

On conclusion of the battle the General Staff building and the prisoners were put under guard by the paratroopers. Captured equipment was also handed over to them – automatic weapons, machine guns, grenade launchers, ammunition, and silent weapons. Rozin gave documents, valuables, and money from the safe to Gen. Vlasov and he handed them over to Gen. Kostenko the adviser to the Chief of the General Staff for storage. Two days later Gen.Vlasov handed over everything taken from Yakub’s safe to the Embassy for Gen. Ivanov.

 A reconnaissance company of the 345th Independent Parachute Regiment, augmented by a ZU-23 anti-aircraft squad and nine “Zenit” troops was selected to seize the radiotelevision center. The reconnaissance company had been transferred from Bagram to Kabul on 21 December with this end in mind and situated not far from our communications center.

The company commander Sr. Lt. Aleksander Popov and the head of the “Zenit” group Maj. Anatoly Ryabinin were briefed about the upcoming mission ahead of time. It was stipulated that the seizure of the outer grounds of the target and the destruction of the weapons were to be performed by the paratroopers, but the “Zenit” troops were to operate inside the buildings.

They understood that the success of the battle could be ensured only by careful preparation and therefore they took it very seriously. Ryabinin had twice managed to visit the facility earlier. As an automation engineer he discovered where the radio and television studios were located from which broadcasts were made; their switching networks; and the main and reserve electrical power supply.

First, Popov drove around the radiotelevision complex with “Zenit” troops, determining its general layout and the main approaches to it. Changing into civilian clothes, the company commander, together with platoon commanders Lts. Devyatovskiy and Chibinov, then conducted detailed reconnoitering of the routes leading to the facility, the location of entrances and exits, guard posts, and weapons.

Popov and Lt. S. Loktev drew up a plan to seize the target, a diagram of the guard posts, and the location of combat equipment and barracks, and allocated men and equipment and calculated the time to reach the target via various routes.

They planned to seize the grounds of the radiotelevision center from two directions: from the right – from the direction of the American Embassy two platoons under deputy company command Lt. Loktev would cut off the crews from their tanks and then either them or seize them; from the left – from the direction of the main entrance with the men of a reconnaissance platoon, the HQ section, and the anti-aircraft squad, they would break down the gates, burst into the target’s grounds and support the operations of the seizure group. Two alternatives were provided: on the march in BMDs and on foot at night without firing.

In the middle of the day on 27 December the company commander received the combat mission from the Chief of Intelligence of the Airborne Forces Col. A. Kukushkin, informed the platoon commanders, and then in turn specified a particular task for each paratrooper. The BMD drivers and the gun operators were especially instructed. A.

M. Watanjar operated together with the Soviet soldiers.

The order to begin operations came at 1830. They were ordered to begin attacking the target at 1930, seize it, and organize a defense. Maj. Ryabinin was in the company commander’s BMD. A group of “Zenit” reconnaissance saboteurs were located in an APC together with A. M. Watanjar.

The combat vehicles began to advance at the established time but were unexpectedly cut off by a column of an advancing paratroop battalion. The APC with the “Zenit” troops and Watanjar stopped. Aleksandr Popov, recalling that time, said: “We did not know then that there were other Airborne Forces units in Kabul besides us and therefore were quite surprised and could not understand where these paratroopers here had come from.” And all the same the reconnaissance company advanced to the target on time and the paratroopers rushed onto its grounds from both directions, crushing the gates and shooting down the sentries. The reconnaissance personnel acted daringly and rapidly. They immediately opened massed intensive fire. They destroyed three tanks and one BMP using the “Mukha” hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher. They seized one tank around the checkpoint and took the crew prisoner. The remaining tanks and BMPs (there were 11 tanks and four BMPs at the facility) did not offer resistance. Not one tank fired its gun although all the guns were loaded and the crews were in full combat readiness. They had been alerted back at 1700 but were not told against whom they were to fight. Having fired their machine guns the combat vehicles withdrew from the facility and stopped, expecting something.

Meanwhile the “Zenit” group rushed into the radiotelevision building, seizing it by storm.

 The battle lasted about 40 minutes. After the building was seized the Afghan radio and television personnel were searched and gathered in a separate room and a guard posted.

The group was given a great deal of help by Watanjar, who sent the captured tank crews to tanks in the distance with an order to surrender. He explained the situation to them and assured them that soldiers who switched to the side of the new government were to be guaranteed safety. All the crews of the remaining seven tanks and three BMPs surrendered. Afterwards the soldiers from the facility’s security force laid down their weapons. There were 106 taken prisoner, seven killed, and 29 wounded. On our side one soldier was wounded in the leg. He was later sent to a hospital.

Then Watanjar spoke to the officials of the radiotelevision center and organized work with Afghan specialists to transmit an appeal to the people by Karmal and a number of announcements of the new government. The paratroopers monitored these transmissions and guarded the buildings. Subsequently the radiotelevision center was handed over to representatives of the new government of Afghanistan and its security was entrusted to one of the companies of the 103rd Airborne Division. On 29 December the reconnaissance company of the 345th Independent Parachute Regiment left for Bagram. Thirteen servicemen of the company received government awards for courage and heroism displayed in carrying out this operation (Popov and Loktev were awarded the Order of the Red Banner).

At 2020 a paratrooper platoon and nine “Zenit” troops led by Aleksandr Puntus drove up to the telegraph building, but the entrance to it was closed. Puntus and an interpreter got out of the vehicle and started to explain to an Afghan officer who approached them that the group had arrived to reinforce the telegraph office’s security force and asked to be let into the facility. However the officer replied that he had orders not to let anyone into the facility. In his words, about an hour before a strong explosion had occurred near the telegraph office, as a result of which a large crater had formed and the building had been damaged. No arguments worked on the Afghan officer, so they were not able to get inside the building peacefully.

After reporting the situation an order was received to seize the telegraph office by force. The operation began at 2100 with an APC knocking down the gates and entering the courtyard, neutralizing the guard force located around the building and in the sentry room. Then the paratroopers and “Zenit” troops swiftly rushed into the building and quickly seized its three floors. The entire operation took 20 minutes and was carried out successfully although Afghan soldiera, and there were 32 of them at the facility, offered armed opposition at first.

The Afghan soldiers were disarmed and placed under guard in the sentry room. Besides the guard there were support personnel inside the building (20 men and 12 women). They were all searched and placed in rooms on the third floor of the building. They did not offer resistance. The equipment was disconnected with the help of Afghan specialists. They were fed, calmed down, and put up for the night. The next morning all of them were released to go home. There were no casualties on either side.

After the seizure of the telegraph office outer [security] posts were set up which monitored the entrances to the building. There were no attempts to seize the building.

And already on 29 December, by agreement with Yusupov, the senior adviser to the Ministry of Communications, support and technical personnel of the telegraph office were admitted to the building; they cleaned up the rooms and adjusted the equipment.

At 1930 two paratrooper platoons and 14 “Zenit” troops headed by Yuriy Mel’nik began to seize the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Tsarandoy) building. They acted suddenly and swiftly. They approached the target in three open trucks and stopping sharply at a checkpoint let loose a salvo from seven “Mukha” hand-held grenade launchers. This caused brief confusion among the guard force numbering about 350 soldiers and officers, which helped the paratroopers to quickly make it from the checkpoint to the MVD building, from which the attackers were fired upon. The group drove the guard force from the first floor in several minutes with a decisive assault and seized it. Then the paratroopers hurried up the stairs, firing without interruption and throwing grenades. It took literally 15 minutes to occupy the remaining floors. The Afghans were demoralized, not understanding what was happening. After this resistance ceased immediately.

 During the firefight “Zenit” soldier Capt. Anatoliy Muranov was shot through both thighs. MVD adviser Major V. Sisin tried to help him and delivered him to the Embassy polyclinic but Muranov died from pain shock and loss of blood.

A large number of Afghans were taken prisoner and a guard was posted around the building. Soviet MVD advisers assisted the paratroopers and “Zenit” troops.

Senior MVD adviser Kosogorskiy had ordered the arrest of Minister of Internal Affairs A. Sh. Payman but he was not in the building. He had fled in his underwear to where Soviet MVD advisers were living and was identified there by Maj. Nazarov. The next morning Payman was delivered to the command staff of the operation where Gen. B.

S. Ivanov suggested he sign an appeal to the Afghan people for the need to maintain peace and order in the country. At 1400 28 December this appeal was broadcast over the radio.

On 29 December the new Minister S. M. Gulyabzoy and Commander of the Tsarandoy Lt. Col. Asgar, who had previously been held in Pol-e Charkhi Prison, arrived at the MVD and got down to work.

The HQ of the Central Army Corps (TsAK) and its security subunits were deployed in the “House of the Peoples” building complex – in all, more than 1000 men with artillery, APCs, and small arms weaponry. A paratrooper company, six “Zenit” troops, and six military advisers were allocated for its capture.

The mission included: seizure of the facility, establishment of control over the command and control system of TsAK HQ; involvement of the staff sympathetic to the new government in verification of personnel loyalty [fil’tratsiya]; isolation of Amin’s supporters; and ensuring the HQ’s activity was in the interest of neutralizing [any] actions of military units against Soviet troops.

The entire group was broken into subgroups. At the start of the operation the first subgroup took the barracks and the guns of the anti-aircraft battalion, the artillery depot in the “House of the Peoples” courtyard, and the signals battalion barracks under guard. The commander of the subgroup summoned a senior Afghan officer who turned out to the deputy for political affairs of the artillery battalion and informed him via an interpreter that Amin had been overthrown. A democratic government had come to power in the country at whose request Soviet troops were helping it maintain order in Kabul. In the curt form of an ultimatum the commander demanded that conditions be met which precluded bloodletting. The Afghan officer readily accepted all our conditions and organized their fulfillment together with the chief of staff of the [signals] battalion. The military adviser to the signals battalion commander convinced him not to offer resistance. At 2015 the situation in this sector was completely under control of the subgroup.

While driving into the groups of the Corps HQ the other subgroup encountered fire from an APC and small arms. The paratroopers and “Zenit” troops opened return fire and quickly suppressed resistance. The APC was destroyed.

The commander of the group summoned a staff officer and through an interpreter congratulated him on the victory of the victorious forces of Afghanistan, demanded he disarm his company and the officers of the Corps HQ.

One of the captured officers said on his own initiative that Corps commander Dust had hidden in one of the HQ rooms with nine members of his personal guard. When an assault group rushed into the building and suggested that Dust surrender the Afghan defenders returned fire. In the ensuing battle the assault group suppressed resistance with automatic weapons fire and grenades and took the HQ personnel prisoner except for the Corps commander and his bodyguards who had helped him escape over rooftops to the grounds of a military publishing house.

Making use of the calm, the commander of the group organized the extinguishing of a fire and the rescue of communications equipment and weapons with the aid of Afghan officers and soldiers who had expressed loyalty to the new regime.

By the morning of 28 December the fire in the building had been put out and the communications center had been brought into working order. All the combat vehicles of the group took up positions to defend the facility. On the rear side of the building two BMD crews suppressed hotbeds of resistance by Afghans using machine gun and automatic weapons fire.

 With the coming of daybreak they began to comb the HQ building and the surrounding terrain in the course of which they detained an Afghan soldier who informed them that N. Dust was hiding in a building of the military publishing house. The commander of the group suggested that the Afghan soldier pass on a demand to Dust that he surrender, explaining to him in detail the situation in the country.

Convinced that the Soviet officers were speaking the truth, Dust handed over his weapon and was taken under guard.

The commander of the group together with the military advisers immediately began to use the Corps commander to issue orders to TsAK formations and units to recognize the new government and cease resistance. Dust issued orders to the following units: the 88th Artillery Brigade; the 4th and 15th Tank Brigades; the Pukhantun Military Academy; the 26th Airborne Regiment; the 37th “Commandos” Regiment; the 7th and 18th Infantry Divisions; the 190th Artillery Regiment; the TsAK intelligence battalion; the 9th Mountain Infantry Division; the 41st Infantry Regiment; and also individual units and subunits deployed in the provinces of Bamian, Wardak, Parwan, Kapisa, Kabul, Lowgar, and Nangarhar.

On the morning of 28 December TsAK HQ intercepted a telegram with an order of the governor of the province of Nangarhar in which an infantry division and the 444th “Commandos” Regiment were ordered to march on Kabul. The TsAK HQ advisers were informed that division commander Sabur was the brother of the captured TsAK signals battalion commander. They convinced him to get in touch with his brother and explain the political situation to him and draw him to the side of the new Afghan government. The division’s march on Kabul was halted.

By morning of 28 December HQ security was being carried out by dual Soviet-Afghan posts. And the next day the Corps HQ was relocated to the “House of the Peoples” and functioned normally. Operationally significant information came into the HQ constantly and was relayed to the command of the operation.

The seizure of the Afghan Military Counterintelligence (KAM) building turned out to be a quite difficult mission. The forces selected for this target included two paratroopers platoons, 12 military advisers, and 6 “Zenit” troops headed by Rafaehl Shafigulin, who had at his disposition 3 BMDs, 2 GAZ-66 automobiles, and 2 anti-aircraft guns. They began to advance at 1830.

According to the plan to seize and blockade the target developed by the group and coordinated with the advisers, it was proposed to get in through perimeter entrances. The BMDs breaking in were to pull up to the main building and blockade it. The personnel who rushed in were to disarm the security force along the perimeter and the seizure group (21 men), having broken into the main building, were to disarm the facility’s workforce and seize designated people. It was decided not to enter into combat with the security force, limiting themselves to cutting them off from the main target with the BMD-mounted machine guns and anti-aircraft guns.

When breaking into the grounds one of the combat vehicles received damage and lost the ability to move. The seizure group commander, who was in this vehicle, decided to assault the nearest door with part of his group. Under the cover of fire of the BMD the group broke into the building where it linked up with adviser Chuchukin, who had been there since before the operation. Then the group began to carry out its main mission and put out a fire which had broken out. The “Zenit” troops and paratroopers of the second group broke into the building through the main entrance. The operations of the combined group were quick and decisive. The enemy inside the building decided not to resist and surrendered their arms. Among the captured Afghans were all the designated people, even several members of the government. The facility’s security force, which had been cut off, heard the noise of battle and abandoned their location. During the night about 150 Afghan soldiers returned in individual groups and surrendered their weapons. The security force of the remaining buildings and services surrendered after an appeal via a megaphone.

The remaining facilities in the Afghan capital were seized without any special problems.

Shooting at night did not surprise anyone in Kabul then and therefore residents of the capital and Embassy officials slept quietly and when they woke up in the morning Afghanistan already had a new government.

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