What was the role of Ukrainian volunteer battalions in the battles for Ilovaisk? And what is know a year after the bloodbath? Read an exclusive investigation by Yuriy Butusov, contributing editor in censor.net.
One year ago on August 19,2015 volunteer battalions together with the Armed Forces of Ukraine broke into Ilovaisk to fight for the city. The volunteer battalions, and the battalion Donbas became the main striking force. The battalion Dnipro played an important role in the battle. The battalions Azov and Shakhtarsk suffered losses on the first day. Tanks from the 17th tank brigade and armored vehicles from the 93rd mechanized brigade supported the infantry.
Despite all the monstrous and despicable lies in the official propaganda spread by senior officials including Muzhenko who the at the time was serving as commander of the ATO forces, it was he, Muzhenko, who had issued the order to attack. The parliamentary Commission of Inquiry has established and documented that fact. No proof was found that the Donbas Battalion had acted independently. The directive to block access to Ilovaisk and to withdraw to Zubres was issued on August 4th by the commander of the ATO forces. After the offensive was halted a new decision was made. On August 11th the directive to “sweep Ilovaisk clean” was issued by Commander Muzhenko and delivered to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. By the way, the “sweep Ilovaisk clean” was not authorized. And there was no “cleaning operation” in Ilovaisk. There was the storming of the city and there were the battles in the streets. The volunteer battalions were subordinate to the commanding officers of Sector B. Confirmation of all the orders can be found in the cryptograms that are at the disposal of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the headquarters of Sector B. I hope there will be a trial and I hope the documents will be publicized. People must know who gave the order to attack Ilovaisk and the lies spread by government public relations need to be exposed.
Originally, it was a joint operation of the army and the Interior Ministry and the battalions under the National Guard.
Why were the volunteer battalions cast into the offensive operation? Because at that time the army had no battle ready infantry capable of repelling the enemy. As a result of the losses suffered by Sector D on August 18th five army brigades were called in one after the other. The perimeter was exposed and there were no reserves. The 40th Battalion of Regional Defense posted four strongholds around Ilovaisk but taking Ilovaisk was out of the question – shelling from the enemy forces was unrelenting and they counterattacked with superior equipment. Thus the volunteers were put in to the battle zone. Intelligence operations and contact battles around Ilovaisk were conducted by the 40th battalion in conjunction with divisions of Right Sector under the command of Valentyn Manko. Without armored vehicles and without the support of the artillery it would have been impossible to enter Ilovaisk. The support was provided by the divisions of the 51st and the 93rd mechanized brigades.
Without them the volunteers could not have advanced. The battalion Donbas attacked together with the 93rd mechanized brigade and the 17th tank brigade. The flanks of the battalions Dnipro and Donbas protected the 40th Battalion and without them, too, it would have been impossible to break into Ilovaisk. The battles around the strongholds were fierce – the opponent counterattacked with artillery and tanks. Our surrounding units shielded the divisions of the 39th Battalion of the Regional Defense.
The battle was under the control of Sector B and all the orders were consistent with the ATO command, at least verbally.
Having attacked and taken hold of the city of Ilovaisk an important railway hub and transport channel was now under the control of the Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian troops put in jeopardy the last highway that was in the hands of the opponent, the strategic highway going through Khartsizk that connected Donetsk with routes the Russians used to supply arms.
It was that very real threat that Donetsk would be surrounded, as well as Luhansk, which is what had actually happened, that had forced Russia to bring in the regular army.
All the men who went to battle knew what a deadly risk they faced in Ilovaisk. They rook the risk, true to their sense of duty to their country.
On August 18th our soldiers liberated half of Ilovaisk. Fierce battles raged all around the city. From the first day there were losses…
According to the data released by the military prosecutor’s office from 12 to 30 August 366 soldiers lost their lives in and around Ilovaisk and 158 are listed as missing. The lists of the dead and the missing have not yet been published…
EMPR, O. R. contributed to this publication
Original version in Russian is available here.