On April 16, 1944, one of the prominent commanders of the Great Patriotic War, General of the Army Nikolai Fedorovich Vatutin, died in Kiev. His name is associated with the victories of the Red Army at Stalingrad, at the Kursk Bulge, the liberation of the capital of Ukraine and many other glorious episodes of that war, reflected in sufficient detail in Russian historiography.
But the tragic death of the general to this day is surrounded by a veil, if not complete secrecy, then a lot of reservations and ambiguities, giving rise to all sorts of assumptions, conjectures, and even outright speculation. Be that as it may, with the death of Vatutin, everything is very, very ambiguous. Well, let's try and we make our own opinion about this difficult case, its well-known and mysterious moments that remain to this day.
Lewdness or betrayal?
To begin with, let's recall those specific events that, in fact, ended with the death of the general. Let's make a reservation right away - there are so many options for their presentation that even the shortest retelling of them would go far beyond the volume of one article. Therefore, we will restrict ourselves to only the main points, along the way isolating obvious inconsistencies and oddities. So ... First of all, it should be admitted that for a long time the fact that the bullet that inflicted a fatal wound on Vatutin was fired not by the Nazis, but by their vile henchmen from among the Ukrainian nationalists, was hushed up in the most careful way. "Fell from an enemy shot ..." - this is how even the most reputable editions of his memoirs wrote. The death of the general was also reflected in the Soviet cinema - for example, in the epic "Liberation". Yes, there was a stupid period when the topic of Nazi henchmen, especially with the mention of their specific nationalities, was an absolute taboo, for which the country later paid very dearly ...
However, we are distracted. One way or another, but all researchers, with the exception of the most stubborn conspiracy theorists, agree that on February 29, 1944, moving from Rovno, where the headquarters of the 13th Army of Lieutenant General Nikolai Pukhov was deployed to Slavuta, where the headquarters of the Lieutenant General Ivan Chernyakhovsky of the 60th Army, the commander of the First Ukrainian Front, General of the Army Nikolai Vatutin, was ambushed by UPA militants, during the battle with which he was seriously wounded in the thigh. This is, so to speak, a synopsis. Further, the particulars begin, in which the riddles are hidden.
First of all, the route of the trip was changed by Vatutin himself. Initially, it was supposed to run along the highway through the settlements of Rovno - Zdolbunov - Ostrog - Slavuta. In this direction, part of the commander's guards were sent for reconnaissance and control of the terrain. However, the general, after listening to the advice of the commander of the 13th Army, Pukhov, decided not to make a detour, to move along the short route Goscha - Milyatin - Slavuta. And it would be fine, the problem was that this path lay on country roads (fortunately, it was winter) and in places extremely convenient for arranging ambushes. It was definitely known that this area was teeming with Bandera scum, like an old sofa with filthy bugs. This was repeatedly reported by the relevant bodies of military counterintelligence - SMERSH. Pukhov knew, Vatutin knew, everyone who took part in the trip knew.
In theory, Pukhov would have had to lie down with his bones, dissuading the front commander from such an escapade - after all, he was going, to put it mildly, on an extremely dubious road, even looking at the night (they left Rovno at 16.30, and in February it was already late twilight). At a minimum, General Pukhov should have at least forcefully imposed on Vatutin the guards he would rely on in this case - with armored cars, a couple of infantry trucks and machine gunners. However, the front commander left on a hostile night in several "cars" with a dozen soldiers. Moreover, for some reason, the head of the SMERSH department of the 13th Army, Colonel Semikov, did not insist on enhanced security measures, although he had the opportunity and was obliged to do so. The military council of the army did not inform (just pick up the phone!), Neither the command nor the SMERSH of the 60th army, which could have easily sent reinforcements with the same "armor" to meet Vatutin. All this would have looked more than strange in 1941, and in 1944 it defies explanation at all ...
Was it an accident or an ambush?
Regarding the events in the village of Milyatino, where, in fact, the clash took place, there are also a great many discrepancies. In particular, the number of attacking militants ranges from 100-200 people (in the official report of SMERSH) to 12 bandits who "accidentally" stumbled upon the general's cortege and foolishly opened fire in some other sources. The latter is hard to believe, since Vatutin's security would have coped with so many opponents without any problems. By the way, the question is also considered controversial, was it really the attack on him made by non-people from the UPA? Supporters of one of the "alternative versions" believe that Vatutin fell victim to a conspiracy of "army generals and senior NKVD officials who envied him for his successes." They say that there were no Bandera fighters in the village at all, but they were shooting their own ...
This is, forgive me, conspiracy nonsense of the purest water - if the commander of the First Ukrainian were really trying to eliminate people from his inner circle, he would not have come out alive from Milyatino. Such nonsense, by the way, is, in fact, a rehash of the lies of one of the "field commanders of the UPA - Kruk, who later assured that his" comrades-in-arms "had no idea to kill the famous general. These wags are completely refuted by one of the main Bandera cannibals - Shukhevych, who in his own memoirs with great pride wrote about the "liquidation of Vatutin and several of his staff officers" by a certain "Aeneas' detachment", calling the heinous surreptitious murder "a significant military success." So there is nothing to invent here - all the more since the large-scale "cleansings" carried out later in the area of Vatutin's death by SMERSH and the NKVD forces gave a rather convincing "catch" - both the killed and arrested bandits, and the "trunks" seized from them.
Subsequently, the head of SMERSH of the First Ukrainian Front, Major General Osetrov, in his memorandum honestly admitted that most of the regions of Rivne region (including Ostrozhsky, where the attack on Vatutin took place) “are extremely affected by banditry, while the local population is actively supporting the nationalist underground, sometimes - under the influence of coercion, and often - due to their own convictions ”... So they were Bandera, unambiguously. Much more interesting than nonsense about "conspiracies" for us is another version - according to which the UPA performed in this case only the role of "cover" for the special operation to eliminate the commander, carried out by the Nazis. This is much more like the truth! So, allegedly there is evidence that in the attacking the motorcade there were those who could not accidentally be there in any way. A certain "high rank from the Abwehr", as well as a sniper (apparently from the Hungarians), specially used to ensure the destruction of an important person. Let me remind you - Vatutin poured blood on the Germans oh, how many - both literally and figuratively. For his brilliant victories, especially in offensive operations, the Nazis called the general a "grandmaster." So why shouldn't they arrange the elimination of such a dangerous enemy, relying on Bandera rabble? However, this is just one of the versions.
But now you will get a sensation - the real one. In a very solid book: memoirs "Memories and Reflections", belonging to the pen of Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov (APN Publishing House, Moscow, 1969. Edition 487 (1st part) there was a fragment where the following was written in black and white: "During the trip General Vatutin in a unit of the 60th Army in one of the cars of the motorcade, which was attacked in Milyavtsy, was ... Nikita Khrushchev! ”Two of the four cars in that convoy belonged to him and his guards.
The ominous shadow of Khrushchev
Tellingly, neither in the previous editions of Zhukov's memoirs, nor in the subsequent ones, this episode can be found. It is understandable - the marshal was not a fool to write about this during the reign of Kukuruznik. But then ... Obviously, there was someone very authoritative who most urgently advised him to delete this stunning detail, completely breaking out of all the official (and most unofficial) versions of Vatutin's death, from the book. Perhaps the censors were removed. The point is that if what is written is true (and after all, Zhukov did not suffer from senile marasmus or a special craving for fables when creating "Memories and Reflections"), then it is the last piece of the puzzle, which is just perfect. And having solved it, we are finally convinced that the culprit of Nikolai Vatutin's death should be considered not a Bandera militant or even a mythical "Hungarian sniper", namely Nikita Khrushchev. Everything is very clearly lined up in a single line that looks extremely logical.
Vatutin's wound was, of course, severe, as they say “on the front end”, “lousy”, but it was definitely not fatal in any case. But with his treatment, we see "oddities" and ominous "misunderstandings" before which even the criminal negligence of the commander of the 13th Army, who released Vatutin at night on a dangerous journey without any protection, fades away. By the way, the hypothetical presence of Khrushchev in the cortege fully explains this point - it was completely useless to contradict him and try to reason. However, let us return to how Vatutin was “saved”. It was necessary to take him out of the battlefield in a peasant sleigh - all the cars were either hit or stalled. Well, let's say ... (Although, as we remember, there were four cars). The condition of the wounded began to deteriorate already with such a shaky transportation - which is not surprising.
First aid to the front commander (!) Was provided either in the medical battalion of the tank unit, or by some "random military doctor" who "was found in a military unit quartered in one of the villages." Be that as it may, it happened a full six hours after the injury. The commander received the first qualified assistance in the front-line hospital in Rovno, where they could bring him by force. Here again, willy-nilly, the question arises: “How so ?! Well, not 41 with its chaos and horror! And this is not just a high-ranking commander, but one of the best commanders of the Red Army! " And with all this, everyone - such an amazing carelessness ... Or is it something else ?! No carelessness or thoughtlessness can explain the actions of Khrushchev, who insisted that Vatutin from Rovno instead of being evacuated by plane to Moscow (as it was, of course, originally planned) sent by train to Kiev! Bald for some reason really did not want the commander of the First Ukrainian to be in the capital, and he was even more frightened by the prospect that Vatutin would survive. Proves, at least, the right to life of such an assumption is the tragic fact that it was in Kiev, under the "sensitive leadership" of Nikita Sergeevich Vatutin, who was initially confident that he would return to command of the front in three weeks at most, just " healed "to death. Neither the medical luminaries of the highest class who hastily arrived from Moscow from Moscow (the Chief Surgeon of the Red Army Nikolai Burdenko and a whole galaxy of other famous doctors personally took part in the salvation of the general), nor the use of penicillin, which had just appeared then in the USSR, which was considered a "miracle cure", nor even belated amputation of the wounded limb, which Burdenko insisted on. Time was lost irreparably and on April 15, 1944, Nikolai Vatutin's heart stopped beating ...
"Khrushchev's motive ?!" - you ask? It is more than obvious. The war rolled inexorably towards its end. Rather, it was moving towards Victory. Nikolai Vatutin was not just one of the best commanders of that war - the glory of the liberator and savior of Ukraine was forever entrenched in him. Subsequently, it was he, and not Khrushchev, who failed in all sectors of the front with complete disgrace, wherever he was sent, who could well head this republic. In addition, he could simply know something about Nikita that would completely ruin his career later - let's not forget that in the course of the same Stalingrad battle, it was Vatutin who had to correct everything that the bald "genius" had broken. And in general, they crossed too often on military roads ... Moreover, if we recall the zeal and zeal with which Khrushchev, having then seized upon the power, began to save the same "UPA warriors", suspicions begin to suggest themselves and are completely bad ... What if the ambush in Milyatino was really not accidental, but the Germans were not behind it at all ?! However, for a detailed and substantiated development of this version of the facts, it is still not enough, and therefore I will leave it to you, dear readers, to judge its plausibility on your own.