Ukrainian marine told comrades ‘screw the leg!’ after stepping on Russian mine

Oleksii Rudenko has made a sporting comeback since losing his right leg in a mine blast on a combat mission in the Donbas region (Picture: Oleksii Rudenko/British-Ukrainian Aid)

A Ukrainian marine has relived the moment when he lost his leg as he tried to defuse mines just 100 metres from an enemy sniper.  

Oleksii Rudenko was severely injured by an anti-personnel mine as he led a combat mission against Russian proxy forces in the eastern Donbas region.  

The officer, 28, told how he was thrown in the air amid a ‘column of smoke and dust’ and shouted ‘screw the leg, cover the exit!’ at comrades.  

He spoke to Metro.co.uk as he continues his military service by training elite Ukrainian troops and prepares for the TCS London Marathon

Oleksii had been serving in Donetsk, near the city of Horlivka, at a dug-in position on a windbreak just 150 metres from the enemy, from where his unit had been inflicting losses on the pro-Russian forces.

However snipers began to target the Ukrainian troops, leading the platoon commander and his comrades to take action after they identified one of the shooters at a position surrounded by mines and difficult terrain. 

Although they were only between 150 to 200 metres away in a straight line, a group of four fighters including Oleksii had to approach the sniper’s position from a five-kilometre side route through a swamp and strips of forest laden with mines.

Oleksii Rudenko has battled back to fitness after a devastating mine blast (Picture: Oleksii Rudenko/British-Ukrainian Aid)

‘World must see our courage’

‘At the military academy, I was taught that a leader should lead people, so I went first,’ Oleksii said.

‘During the execution of the task, I demined three enemy mines, but I did not notice a fourth. It was a PMN 2 anti-personnel mine which cannot be detected with the help of a mine detector, and it is not visible because is hidden under the ground. 

‘When I stepped on it, I felt a strong pain in my right leg, I was thrown up and I fell to the ground.

‘Through the column of smoke and dust, I tried to examine my wound.  

‘I knew that my leg was gone, but it was necessary to assess how serious the wound was. Seeing that the foot was gone, but the knee was intact, I asked my brothers to throw me a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.’ 

With only 100 metres separating him from the enemy position, Oleksii was forced to abandon his part in the mission, which took place in October 2020 during the earlier period of Russian military aggression.

He had stepped on a Soviet-designed mine which is a later version of the PMN 1, known as the ‘black widow’ because of its dark casing. 

Oleksii was a platoon leader on the frontline in the Donbas region (Picture: Oleksii Rudenko/British-Ukrainian Aid)

‘The fighters who were on the mission with me seemed to worry more about me than I did,’ Oleksii said.

‘One of them shouted, “You don’t have a leg!” and I replied, “I see, screw the leg, cover the exit!”

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‘I crawled back to the path, where there should no longer be mines.  

‘I ordered one fighter to run to our position and call an evacuation vehicle, the second covered our retreat, and the third helped me move from shelter to shelter to make a withdrawal.  

‘It’s a shame that we didn’t get the enemy sniper, but a week later my comrades wrote to me that they destroyed him after all.’ 

Oleksii has been decorated with honours for his service with the Armed Forces of Ukraine (Picture: Oleksii Rudenko/British-Ukrainian Aid)

The officer, now an instructor at an Airborne Assault Forces and Marine Corps faculty in the southern port city of Odessa, needed nine operations.

Before the last procedure, he asked the doctor to cut his leg a few centimetres higher so he could wear a running prosthesis.  

Oleksii then spent four months at a rehabilitation centre in the Hero City of Irpin, just outside Kyiv, where he broke the part three days after it was fitted as he pounded an exercise bike in the gym.

Oleksii has returned to sport using a prosthesis to replace his lower right leg (Picture: Oleksii Rudenko/British-Ukrainian Aid)

He broke another on a treadmill before being given a third of a more robust design which could withstand the load.

After being discharged from the hospital, the Major rejoined the faculty he credits for turning him into a toughened warrior.  

‘I continue to train future officers, showing by my example that such a minor event as the loss of a limb never hurts a Ukrainian marine,’ he said. 

Oleksii is due to use a sports prosthesis to run his first marathon as around 48,000 entrants take to the streets of London on Sunday, April 21. 

He is taking part to support comrades who have needed amputations, with his comrades continuing to take part in heavy fighting, almost two years on from the full-scale Russian invasion.  

The Major wants to represent Ukraine when he takes on the TCS London Marathon (Picture: Oleksii Rudenko/British-Ukrainian Aid)

His fiancée, Zoryana, also a military officer, is serving in the Kherson region on the left bank of the Dnipro River, where Ukrainian marines have been engaged in fierce battles. 

‘The whole world must see the strength, indomitability and courage of our people,’ Oleksii said. 

‘No enemy and no event can defeat us. I hope that those who see it will not be indifferent and will be able to give a helping hand to my country.

‘I ask all people, who care and understand what we are fighting for, to support in sharing and fundraising.’ 

Oleksii is taking on the marathon together with his Marine Corps comrades Heorhii Roshka and Slava Kulakovskyi who have also needed amputations.

The band of brothers are raising funds for the London-based charity British-Ukrainian Aid, which is sending ambulances and vital medical kit to the country and supporting Ukrainians affected by the war.

Support Oleksii’s fundraiser here 


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Do you have a story you would like to share? Contact josh.layton@metro.co.uk

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