their best interests, either.”
“Wars rarely serve anyone’s best interests, Comrade Vice-Admiral.
Except, of course, for the arms manufacturers and the politicians.”
“Why, Anton! You have the true Russian’s soul of the poet!”
“You told me to speak freely, sir. I am. It could be that those members
of your command who disagree with your plan see General Boychenko’s
initiative as their only real hope for survival.”
“I see. And how do you feel about it?”
Kulagin looked acutely uncomfortable. “I really don’t-”
“Come, come! You may speak freely here. It’s not as though I’m about to
ship you off to some gulag, eh?”
“Comrade Vice-Admiral, General Boychenko is a popular officer.”
“One of the few. Yes, I know.”
“The men and junior officers trust him. They trust him to get them
“And what of the officers and men whose homes are here, Anton? In the
“Ah.” He seemed surprised at the question, but he nodded. “They. ..
they are not so eager to leave, sir. Most worry about what will happen
to their families when they are ordered to leave, to go back to Russia.
The Ukrainians are not known for their forgiving natures.”
“And what about you, Anton Ivanovich?”
The aide hesitated a long moment before answering. “I will tell you the
truth, Comrade Vice-Admiral. I worry about my family, my wife and two
daughters. They live in Volosovo. That’s a town not far from St.
Petersburg, a very great distance from here. The war inside Russia
threatens them directly, far more than what happens to us here in the
Crimea.” He spread his hands, helplessly. “If the Crimea falls to
Ukraine, how does that hurt them? How does it take bread from their
mouths. .. unless, of course, I should die here. That would cause them
“You don’t wonder if Ukrainian aggression might be encouraged by a
display of cowardice in the Crimea?”
“I don’t think any reasonable person expects the Ukrainians to invade
Russia proper! In any case, their border is much closer to Moscow than
to St. Petersburg.” He sighed. “In any case, sir, I would feel much
better if I thought my service, my actions, were protecting them
directly. This, here. .. the Crimea. .. may I speak bluntly?”
“I feel, sir, that it is a lost cause. Nothing we do, nothing we can
even consider doing here, will keep the Ukrainians out in the long run.
Even the Crimea’s population is divided over its loyalties.”
That was certainly true enough. During the last free elections held
here, a slight majority had voted to remain with Ukraine, rather than be
readmitted to Russia. The region’s current status, as an autonomous
district loosely tied to Ukraine but still administered by Russia, by
the Russian military no less, satisfied no one.
Dmitriev studied his subordinate’s face for a moment. Kulagin’s
expression was that of a man who expected to be struck. Dmitriev only
nodded, however, and gave the aide a reassuring smile. “I appreciate
your candor, Anton. And I understand your concern. You must trust me,
however, when I say that Operation Miaky is the one hope we have now. It
will be our salvation, not a mass retreat, not abandoning our duty, and
certainly not Boychenko’s treason.”
Miaky, was the local name for a cold wind that blew south across the
beaches near Yalta, sweeping down out of Angarski Pass in the chain of
mountains that created a stone wall across the southern Crimea. That
wind, though, was not so cold as the sound of the word “treason,” as it
hung there in the room between them for long seconds after Dmitriev
“Is that how you believe Krasilnikov’s people will see it?” Kulagin
asked. “As treason?”
“Certainly. General Boychenko was tasked with the responsibility of
defending the Crimean Military District against all enemies, against all
threats, whether they be Blues, Ukrainians or Americans. He proposes to
abandon that responsibility, to turn it all over to the United Nations.
To foreigners. What is that, if not treason? You might mention that to
those personnel you speak with who are so eager to return to the Rodina.
They seem to think Krasilnikov’s people will receive them back gladly.