Ilovaisk hell: Memories of volunteer battalion soldier who survived in "trap"

Author : Mykhailo Ukhman

Source : 112 Ukraine

Recently, Prosecutor General's Office published the results of an investigation into the events of the Ilovaisk trap, which became the most terrible page in ATO forces history during all the years of the war. Investigators confirmed that the reasons for the tragedy were the invasion of Russian regular troops to Ukraine, some miscalculations of our command and desertion among the ATO forces. However, ordinary soldiers who passed Ilovaisk, think differently. Last week, we published a point of view of General Staff head Viktor Muzhenko on this issue, and today - the story of a soldier of Shakhtarsk battalion, who was able to survive in that meat grinder
11:45, 30 August 2017

Open source

Ilovaisk. Once an inconspicuous town in Donetsk region, now it has become a sore point in the war going on in Donbas. In these days three years ago thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers got into the cauldron, a trap from which they could not escape ... Even today it is unknown how many our guys were killed there. Military prosecutor's office is conducting some kind of investigation, where no person was found responsible for this, unsurprisingly. But what do the soldiers that were there say?

Shakhtarsk battalion, later renamed to Tornado does not have a perfect reputation. Because of some of its fighters who confused liberation battle with criminal actions. But the majority of soldiers has participated difficult battles in 2014. They also were in Ilovaisk. Afet an unsuccessful attempt to enter Donetsk from Pisky, the soldiers of the battalion were sent to rest in Mariupol. And after that they received order to move out to Ilovaisk. A 28 year-old Vitaly, born in Kirovohrad region is one of those who started his military history in Shakhtarsk battalion and experienced this hell.

- Having arrived in the city, I waited for a few days to establish communication between the units, - he tells about the beginning of battles. - Then the General Khomchak came from the headquarters, who said that there are almost no militants in the city, and this will be an easy task for us. A day later we moved out. Nobody walked straight ahead, but rather we moved by fields, between the railway station and the village of Vynohradne. We were given two IFVs, and the Azov battalion was armed with KamAZ with NSV machine gun. The total number of fighters was about 200. Halfway there started the enemy attacks from mortars, heavy equipment. And we were ordered to retreat. There were already the first dead and wounded soldiers.

Related: Viktor Muzhenko: Battle of Ilovaisk through the prism of time. Part 3

The next day they went on the offensive again but using another route. The very attack of the battalion did not succeed: they were simply shelled at the station, and they returned together with the wounded and killed.

It was strange that the leadership assured that there were not many militants, but at the same time our soldiers faced huge enemy forces. It was this way during the second assault. They went into the ravine halfway to Ilovaisk and stumbled upon the positions of separatists. There were powerful concrete fortifications that could not have been made unnoticed. It is still unclear why our intelligence did not see this. These trenches were so sturdy that even Ukrainian artillery of 152 caliber could not do anything. Our soldiers engaged in an unequal battle and put pressure until the enemy artillery started to work. And then our fighters were forced to retreat, capturing several militants. There was simply no way to advance further, because the terrorists pulled up reserves and already prevailed over Ukrainians quantitatively: both in technology and in infantry.

The chaos started after the retreat. Soldiers were divided into groups and there was no cooperation between them. Everybody acted    separately. Sometimes, in this turmoil they shot at each other. The artillery that covered them, could hit its own fighters. Nobody knew what would happen tomorrow. On August 19, the majority of Shakhtarsk battalion fighters went out of Ilovaisk. The retreat was badly organized. Twelve fighters, including Vitaliy, remained in the city. They returned with everyone after August 20.

Related: Russian troops – main culprits of 2014 Ilovaisk tragedy, - Ukraine’s deputy minister of occupied areas

And before that the shooting was a chaotic. The enemy attacked Ukrainian fighters in all sectors. There was one road where nobody yet shelled. Our servicemen tried to retreat by it. Four guys ambushed to hold off the enemy infantry and allow the majority to withdraw with the wounded. Vitaly and other fighters drove away several hundred meters, but decided to return to help the guys at the checkpoint. They guarded positions until morning. Only two survived out of six people at the checkpoint. They had a battered old car, on which they transported the bodies of friends. Vitaly’s friend who survived with him in Ilovaisk, at that time was only 16 years old. And this child saw something that other adult uncles did not even dream about.

Having miraculously survived this, Vitaly and his several brothers in arms picked up along the road Ukrainian soldiers - dead, wounded, survivers. They transported about forty bodies to a safe place. Later Vitaly was to be judged as a deserter. They tried to sew him the killing the civilians. But in the end he was released. Almost for the whole two years he did not take part in military operations. And it was only in the spring that he returned to \war as a fighter of Right Sector.

Related: Eight Ukrainian servicemen who fought in Ilovaisk in August 2014 remain captive in Donbas

Three years have passed since that time, but he still cannot forget this massacre.

- When they say that about 500 people died in Ilovaisk, this is a complete lie. I can say with certainty that Azov, Donbas, Shakhtarsk battalions lost more than 500 fighters in those battles. And there are other volunteer battalions. And do not forget about the Armed Forces. They had a terrible panic there, many fled in different directions, and they were shot in batches. Therefore, the number of the dead must have reached far beyond thousand. It is unprofitable for the authorities to voice these figures. They do not need people to know the truth. It’s too painful.

I was a couple of kilometers from Donetsk with my brothers in arms. However, we retreated after we were shelled by enemy artillery. We could accomplish the task, but the command could not provide us with reinforcements. Then there was Ilovaisk, an artificially created trap, which could also be avoided.

Mykhailo Ukhman

Related: 45,000 Russian soldiers, 160 tanks were at Ukraine’s border during Ilovaisk battle

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