Ilovaisk Tragedy. How Russian Soldiers Shot Ukrainian Military Captives
The second military column escaping the so-called Ilovaisk cauldron along the route: Mnohopillya – Chervonosilske – Osykove – Pobjeda – Novokaterynivka, had to face a tragic and heroic path. The column was headed by head of troops training division of the Staff Operations Command “Yuh” (“South”) Colonel Olexiy Hrachov, who previously commanded a battalion task group of the 93rd separate mechanized brigade.
The column included:
Battalion task group of the 93rd separate mechanized brigade (293 military men)
Group of the 3rd separate special operations regiment (34 military people)
Units of the 39th and 40th battalions of territorial defense “Dnepr-2” and “Kryvbass” (approximately 50-60 people)
Colonel Gordiychuk’s group, which came to Mnohopillya from Saur-Mohyla on the 28th of August (14 people);
“Donbas” battalion (around 200 people) with 12 soldiers attached from “Svityaz” battalion and 10 soldiers from “Kherson”.
Separate soldiers from other military units (for example the crew of the captured Russian tank T-72 consisting of the soldiers of the 17th separate tank brigade) – altogether around 30-40 people.
The total number of people in the column of Colonel O. Hrachov was around 650 soldiers. It had only two tanks: the trophy Russian T-72 being withdrawn by Colonel Evgeniy Sydorenko, and T-64 БВ from the 93rd separate mechanized brigade.
Russian troops, which took part in Ilovaisk events. In Mnohopillya the column built up the following way: first came a passenger car with journalists, then – an armored van of the acting “Donbas” battalion commander Filin (“Owl”), two mechanized infantry vehicles (MIVs) (one of them carrying Colonel O. Hrachov), Colonel E. Sydorenko’s tank, after them – some more MIVs, a tank, and finally – civil and military cars.
Unfortunately it is already impossible to determine the definite number of some units. For example – the number of people in unit of the 40th battalion of territorial defense “Kryvbas”. This unit started out from the furthest outpost of the Ukrainian Armed Forces north of Ilovaisk near Zelene village. It is difficult to say how many people the unit included, while its several soldiers are still considered to be captured. In addition to this at the end of August 2014 the searchers mission “Evacuation-200” (“The Black Tulip”) found the remains of two humans on the location where the outpost had been situated. The remains have not been identified yet.
The column of Colonel O. Hrachov set out on its route already after the main group headed by General Ruslan Khomchak had passed Ahronomichne. Tank Т-72 and almost all other armored vehicles from the “southern” column managed to pass through Chervonosilske village. The second part of the column (mainly the cars) stretched on the road between Mnohopillya and Chervonosilske. It was at that moment when the Russian forces opened fire with grenade launchers, mortars and machine guns. Later they were joined by tanks.
One of the first shot by the Russians was tank Т-64БВ from the 93rd brigade, which was leaving Mnohopillya together with the cars. The crew managed to escape from the tank. The crew of one of the MIVs from the 93rd brigade wanted to return to help them out, but there was a command: to move forward without stopping. Obviously, at that moment General Khomchak or Colonel Hrachov were still able to control the situation. They wanted to use the armored vehicles, which had already moved forward, to fight their way through Navokaterynivka. And two MIVs from the 17th tank brigade of the General Khomchak’s column were immediately sent from Ahronomichne village in order to help the column being under fire between Mnohopillya and Chervonosilske.
It is from that moment on that the column of Colonel O. Hrachov stopped its existence as one whole: it’s one part was “stuck” in Chervonosilske, and another one was rushing towards Novokaterynivka.
Osykove – Pobjeda – Novokaterynivka (the fate of the soldiers from the 93rd mechanized brigade)
Today, more than 30 soldiers of the 93rd mechanized brigade are still considered missing as a result of the Ilovaisk events. And there is approximately the same number of unidentified dead bodies brought from the place of destruction of the 93rd brigade’s armored vehicles.
So, the column of the 93rd brigade had passed through Chervonosilske village, then – through Volodarskoho village and entered Osykove. Between the villages of Volodarskoho and Osykove the enemy snipers and machine gunners began to cut off individual vehicles. Thus, before reaching Osykove ZIL-131 truck with anti-aircraft installation was shot. The snipers killed two soldiers standing near the anti-aircraft gun. Several more soldiers were injured or shell-shocked. The anti-aircraft gunners moved into another truck, but it was also shot near Novokaterynivka and the soldiers were captured. The two killed remained in the shot truck, which was blown the next day either by the Russian military or by the separatists.
One MIV and one passenger car were shot in Osykove. The soldiers escaping the vehicles were shot from machine guns and antitank guided missiles. Later the searchers found a collective grave in Osykove containing 5 bodies and several individual graves. Unfortunately only two soldiers of the 93rd brigade found in the collective grave have been reburied. The remaining three bodies are still under the process of identification.
MIV #319 was shot on its way out of Osykove (the car with the journalists and tank T-72 managed to leave before it). The majority of the MIV #319 crew and passengers managed to leave the vehicle and opened machine gun fire.
The fellows started to ask the bypassing vehicles to pick them up. The armored van of “Donbas” battalion and two MIVs of the 93rd brigade rushed by. Then the soldiers saw “Ural” truck with snipers and field engineers of the 93rd brigade. The truck stopped and three soldiers managed to jump in. Obviously this stop was doomed, since as soon as “Ural” started to move it was hit by several shells one after another. The vehicle caught fire and then exploded. At the moment it was carrying 10 snipers, 10 field engineers, 3 MIV soldiers as well as the driver and Major Pohorilyj. The remaining conscious soldiers started to jump off and hide in the nearby bushes. But they were shot by sniper aiming fire. Most of the people from “Ural” died.
Only few of those who were in “Ural” and in MIV #319, where at that time the ammunition exploded, remained alive. Among them was Major Dmytro Denysov, who was in MIV #319 and received a neck injury. One of the soldiers recalls that when the shooting started the major admitted that he wasn’t going to let himself be captured. Denysov was dragged away from the vehicle on fire. At that time he was shot into legs. The Major ordered to be left then he pulled out a grenade and blew himself…
Another soldier lived through the explosion of the MIV #319 ammunition: the top turret, which flew from the body of the vehicle, covered him. The enemies didn’t notice the soldier, and later he successfully escaped the blockade.
Five wounded and shell-shocked soldiers were trying to shoot back from the machine guns, but they were showered with bullets and mines. The injured were forced to surrender. The enemy demanded that they threw away the arms and lay down onto the ground. When the soldiers fulfilled the demands and came into the road, a grenade flew at them, and they were even more injured by the fragments of grenade. Then appeared seven enemy soldiers without identification marking, most of them having vivid oriental facial features.
The enemies were the Russian Federation soldiers. They added four more captured soldiers from “Kryvbas” battalion to the five wounded, ordered them to get undressed and took them naked on foot and sometimes running somewhere to the East. On the way the two fighters of the 93rd mechanized brigade nearly got shot. To be more precise – the execution was simulated. Even though it seemed very realistic, the soldiers stood brave and with dignity. At night the naked captives were put into some hole in the ground, and in the morning on the 30th of August they joined a group of other wounded and captivated Ukrainian soldiers. Soon they all were passed on to the representative of Red Cross
One of the most tragic events happened to the soldiers of the 93rd brigade, who were on truck GAS-66. The vehicle was shot several hundred meters near Novokaterynivka village. The truck turned around. Six or seven soldiers died in it immediately.
The accident left 10 or 11 soldiers wounded or shell-shocked. One of them started waving a white piece of cloth asking the enemy not to shoot. As an answer a military man in the uniform of the Russian Federation armed forces Senior Lieutenant ordered them to stand up and come out. As soon as they got up machine gun fire was opened at them.
Two soldiers died immediately, and the rest got additional wounds. The Russian Senior Lieutenant ordered those who were still alive to crawl towards him. Then he commanded them to get naked quickly. Soldier Klevchuk had both arms injured and wasn’t able to undress speedy, so the Russian officer shot him in the back and the head. Another young soldier also couldn’t get undressed quickly and the Russian officer also shot him. A captured elderly sergeant reproached the officer for his action, but he was also shot in the back and the head. One or two more soldiers were killed in this brutal way too.
On the 30th of August 2014 Colonel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Palahnyuk came to the place where this tragedy took place, he was collecting the dead bodies according to the agreement with the Russian party. He found five naked dead bodies lying side by side under the tree and one more nearby the scene of execution.
Only four soldiers who were in the car survived. One of them, Dmytro Kryvolap, gave a precise interview of what had happened:
“Our vehicle carrying 15 soldiers was the fifth or the sixth in the column. We had only a few hundred meters to go in order to escape the attack, when a mine hit our engine. The truck turned around. Almost all of us were already wounded. The Russians started the aimed killing of those who could not move or crawled from under the truck. There were seven of us left, we practically had no bullets, all of us were 20-22 years old, and Vanya Klevchuk wasn’t even 19. The Russian with a machine gun ordered us to crawl up to him and then made us undress. The Russian immediately did not like Vanya. Maybe because he was the youngest, or because he was wounded and did not hurry to get naked, he only took his bulletproof vest off.
The Russian started shooting at Ivan from a gun, but missed. Then he came up to him and shot him in the back and then made a finishing shot. Vanya Klevchuk is a real hero. Absolutely naked we were taken to the Russian positions. On the way one of the guys asked the convoy to call his mother from a mobile phone, so that she did not worry. The convoy shot him.
A sergeant, who was with us and was the oldest one, started outraging loudly, he shouted to the Russian not to humiliate us, to leave us, the young ones, alone, and to shoot him instead. The convoy did not hesitate to kill the sergeant. There were only four of us left alive. We were left on the rocks on a hill. The clothes were given back to us after three hours or so. The Russian major gave us a word of honor that we would not be killed… He also told us that it makes no sense to fight the Russian army exceeding the Ukrainian one in the number of people and arms. And he also told us that he knew nothing about the so-called green pathway.”
Out of the whole column of Colonel O. Hrachov only the passenger car with the journalists and the armored van of “Donbas” managed to escape the blockade.
The trophy tank Т-72 Б3 of Colonel Sydorenko went almost as far as the end of Novokaterynivka. It was shot, the crew evacuated and later successfully got to the friendly positions. The tank itself turned out to be a die-hard. It only got minor damage and was captured by one of the separatists units. Later this tank was shown on several Russian TV channels as a proof of the Ukrainian Armed forces possessing Т-72.If it survived Debaltsevo battles, the tank still might be used by some separatist unit of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.
The two MIVs going up ahead also were destroyed by the enemy on the outskirts of Novokaterinivka. Colonel Hrachov probably died in one of them – his body was found mutilated by fragments of anti-tank missiles.
There, on the outskirts of Novokaterinivka, also exploded the MIV, which tried to rescue several wounded. The body of one of them – a soldier of the 40th battalion “Kryvbas” was thrown onto high-voltage wires. It took two weeks to get his body down.
As of the 1st of November 2014 the losses of the 93rd brigade as a result of escaping the so-called Ilovaisk cauldron amounted to 182 soldiers: 22 dead, 72 wounded and 91 missing. Up to now only 5 people of the missing were found alive. All the rest, unfortunately, are gradually being identified among the dead.
While near Novokaterynivka several MIVs of the 93rd brigade were trying to break through the tight encirclement, on the road between Chervonosilske and Mnohopillya the Russian soldiers were firing at the column literally from all kinds of weapons. One of the first was destroyed an ambulance in the middle of the road, then – a minivan, which had a white shirt attached on a stick on its roof. Obviously the bodies of earlier killed soldiers were in this minivan.
Right in the middle of the road a ZIL truck was shot from the antitank system “Fagot”, six soldiers of “Donbas” battalion died in it. On the outskirts of Mnohopillya were burned a “GASelle” killing 3 soldiers of “Donbas” and KAMAZ truck with the soldiers of colonel Hordiychuk. One of them – a volunteer from Donetsk oblast, Volodymyr Brazhnyk, died. The others received injuries of varying degrees of complexity. Colonel Hordiychuk got severe injuries.
Obviously, the Russian military thought that the column will attempt to circumvent Chervonosilske and catch up with their armored vehicles. But the opposite happened: the surviving cars went straight at the Russian soldiers. Right in the middle of this unusual attack two MIVs #132 and #133 rushed in from Ahronomichne. Their crews consisted of the contract soldiers of the 17th tank brigade and passengers were the mobilized soldiers of the 93rd mechanized brigade.
On the outskirts of Chervonosilske the Russians met cars and armored vehicles with heavy shelling. The vehicles caught fire one after another. Russian tanks destroyed an armored KAMAZ, where 9 soldiers of “Donbas” were killed and a fire truck (6 more volunteers). Among the passengers of the fire truck was the commander of the 1st troop of “Donbas” battalion “Tour” – he was actually the oldest one from “Donbass” after the departure of Filin.
The Ukrainian MIVs were shooting at the machine gun nests of the enemy. One of them – #132 found its heroic death in Chervonosilske. Three charges of antitank guided missile were shot at it. Two of them missed, but the third one hit the target. The deputy commander of the combat vehicle died, he was from Luhansk oblast and his family now support the separatists. There also died two passengers of MIV #132. At least one passenger of MIV #133 (still not identified) was also killed.
Despite serious losses, the “Donbas” battalion soldiers destroyed in Chervonosilske at least three Russian tanks T-72 and one infantry vehicle БМД-2. Several Russian soldiers were captured.
“Donbas” battalion, groups of the 3rd special operations regiment, of the 39th battalion of territorial defense and the soldiers from other military units concentrated in Chervonosilske. Then their destiny was being decided upon for more than 24 hours. This period between the 29th and the 30th of August 2014 is one of the most mysterious pages of the Ilovaisk events. The main question is: what had been done and by whom in order to rescue from the encirclement in Chervonosilske the people who refused to put down their weapon and fought through the blockade?
Now we get the impression that someone had written off as lost the soldiers blocked in Chervonosilske.
On the 30th of August, according to the agreement with the Russian officers, the men from Chervonosilske had to surrender their weapons in the village and had to be passed on to the representatives of Red Cross. But the events went absolutely different.
The Chervonosilske group consisted of approximately 300 soldiers; more than 70 of them were wounded. The Russians claimed that they would let go all the military including the injured. As for “Donbas” fighters, they were claimed to be an illegal armed group and thus they should have gone to court. That is why the Russians soon gave 108 “Donbas” men away to the separatist troop of Motorola, who brought them to Donetsk. “Donbas” fighters were kept in the former main headquarters of Security Service of Ukraine in Donetsk oblast. Almost all of them were freed from captivity in December 2014 – January 2015. The last captive “Sam” was set free only on the 27th of August 2015.
On the 31st of August the soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the wounded, who had surrendered their arms in Chervonosilske, were really passed on by the Russians to the Ukrainian Red Cross column. The column commandant, colonel Palahnyuk returned to Chervonosilske with the help of newly freed from captivity soldiers and collected there the bodies and remains of the 44 dead, who mainly were the fighters of “Donbas” battalion. On the road between Mnohopillya and Chervonosilske there were also found more than 20 bodies of soldiers from different units. As for now 25 of these deceased have not yet been identified, so they were buried as temporarily unknown soldiers on the Krasnopillya cemetery.
Some words about the commanders
Unfortunately, some media still speculate the information that allegedly during the breakthrough from the so-called Ilovaisk cauldron the commanders left their men to the mercy of fate. Such information is untrue and painful for the officers themselves as well as for their families. That is why the Ilovaisk toll among the officers should be mentioned once more.
First of all, probably, died the acting commander of the 51st separate mechanized brigade Colonel Pavlo Pyvovarenko. He probably fell on the height, where Ukrainian units destroyed two Russian tanks T-72. There is information that his body had been mutilated, so there was no possibility to identify the colonel. The preliminary DNA tests have shown that the remains of the heroe’s body lie on the Kushuhumsk cemetery near Zaporizhzhya. He has been buried as unknown soldier…
Captain Oleksiy Shepelyuk – the battery commander of the 51st brigade also died as a hero. On the 25th of August 2014 the mass media spread information, that the two officers being encircled by the Russian troopers blew themselves up with a grenade. Later this information was refuted, while one of the officers turned out to be alive. But another officer – Oleksiy Shepelyuk, really died. And probably he did blow himself and other 12 troopers up with a grenade.
Captain Anatoliy Shylik, three Senior Lieutenants and one Lieutenant of the 51st brigade also were killed.
Oleksiy Hrachov died as a hero in Novokaterinivka while leading the “southern” column. The Colonel was born in Russian city Voronezh, but he died for the unity of Ukraine.
Not willing to surrender the chief of staff of the battalion of the 93rd mechanized brigade, Major Dmitriy Denisov, who had multiple wounds, blew himself up with a grenade. By the way – he was of Luhansk oblast origin, which territory is now occupied by the separatists of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic.
Besides Dmytro Denysov two more Majors, two Captains, three Senior Lieutenants and one Lieutenant of the 93rd brigade were killed.
The sector “B” staff officers Colonel Borys Kyforenko, Majors Yakiv Huba, Andriy Hladkov and Captain Borys Svitlychnyi were shooting back at the enemy till the last breath and died as heroes.
The total number of killed in the events near Ilovaisk on the 24th-30th August is approximately 350 people. More than 60 of them are still unidentified and have been buried as temporarily unknown soldiers. In fact most of them have already been preliminary identified with the help of DNA tests, however their families refuse to accept this for various reasons. They believe that their beloved ones have been captured…
The participation of Russian forces near Ilovaisk.
When on the 30th of August 2014 a group of Ukrainian doctors headed by Colonel Palahnyuk was allowed by the Russian party to visit the location of the Ilovaisk cauldron, they saw numerous army of the armed forces of the Russian Federation. All the Russian soldiers were persistently building fortifications: obviously they were expecting Ukrainian counterattack. At that time the Russians suffered severe lack of fresh water: they brought with them food and water only for 2-4 days…
With the help of the testimony of the Ukrainian soldiers, who were freed from capture, the material findings of the searchers and the photos in the pages of the Russian soldiers in the social networks it was easy to determine quite accurately the main participants of the Ilovaisk events on behalf of the, so to say, second party.
The most data has been collected about the participation in Ilovaisk events of the 98th airborne division of the Russian Federation armed forces (located in Kostroma and Ivanovo). This division captured 10 Ukrainian troopers during the battle near Dzerkalne village. The 98th division was represented by the following units: the most of the 331st parachute regiment, at least one artillery division (howitzer Д -30 and self-propelled guns “Nona”) of the 1065th artillery regiment, the 215th reconnaissance company. These are the units, which presence could be documentarily proven. It is possible that other units of the 98th division also were near Ilovaisk.
The artillery of the 98th airborne division was responsible for the shelling of the Ukrainian column in tract Chervona Polyana. The searchers have found on the battlefield the documents of the 1065th artillery regiment and military equipment of the Russian model with marking “military unit” 65391 – it is the 215th reconnaissance company.
The 331st parachute regiment (Kostroma, troopers) guarded the captured near Ilovaisk Ukrainian soldiers on the 29th-31st of August.
Together with the 98th division Ilovaisk was entered by the units of the 7th air assault division of the Russian Federation Armed Forces. The tangible proof of its presence near Ilovaisk has not been found yet. But the soldiers of this division “left tracks” in the social networks. They uploaded several memory photos, one of which can be clearly identified. The picture shows the destroyed Ukrainian armored personnel carrier of communication #004 (the same, in which the crew of Major Yakiv Huba died), and nearby – several airborne armored infantry fighting vehicles with the soldiers of the 247th airborne regiment of the 7th air assault division of the Russian Federation Armed Forces (located in Stavropol).
Artillery battalion of the 1141 th artillery regiment of the 7th air assault division was there as well. Its soldiers also uploaded into Internet various photos from Ilovaisk. Namely from this regiment there were self-propelled guns “Nona”.
“Donbas” battalion fighters, who were captured by the Russians in Chervonosilske, saw in the evening of the 30th of August 27 or 30 Russian “Nonas”. Probably it was the combined self-propelled artillery group of the 7th and the 98th Russian airborne divisions.
Russian landing troops near Ilovaisk were also represented by the 31st air assault brigade. It is permanently located in Ulyanovsk. In spring 2014 it took active part in Crimea events. Soldiers of this brigade were captured by “Donbas” battalion during the battles for Ilovaisk and in the last battle in Chervonosilske.
Ukrainian editions, including the official ones, also name among the Russian forces taking part in Ilovaisk events, the 56th air assault brigade (located in Kamyshyn of Volgograd oblast).
Apart from the troopers of the 31st air assault brigade in Chervonosilske “Donbas” battalion fighters captured several Russian tankmen from the 6th separate tank brigade (located in small town Mulino of Nizhegorodska oblast). There also the “Donbas” fighters hit and destroyed three T-72 tanks from the 6th brigade.
These events found coverage on the pages of social networks of the soldiers of the 6th separate tank brigade of the Russian Federation Armed Forces. The fellows from this brigade took pictures right near the sign saying “Chervonosilske”:
The same social networks contain a photo of one of the three tanks shot by the “Donbas” battalion fighter “Usach” (“Moustache Man”), who died heroically:
Between villages Chervonosilske, Volodarskoho, Osykove and Novodvirske the searchers found Russian positions, where there was a lot of daily trash with the marking of North Caucasus manufacture, namely – the drinking water from Pyatigorsk. It was here that the Ukrainians captured the modernized tank Т-72 Б3, on which Colonel Eugeniy Sydorenko was breaking out of the blockade near Ilovaisk. Obviously these were the positions of the 8th separate motorized rifled brigade of the Russian Federation Armed Forces. The battalion task group of this unit constantly worked in cooperation with the 6th separate tank brigade.
It was also possible to clearly identify two Russian tanks Т-72 БА destroyed by the group of Colonel P.Pyvovarenko near Oleksandrivka village. They belong to the 21st separate motorized rifle brigade of the Russian Federation Armed Forces, located in Totsk village of Orenburg oblast. The soldiers of this brigade also uploaded a lot of interesting photos into the social networks. In particular, there are the photos of tanks Т-72 БА heading to Ilovaisk region.
Some more words should be said about the two destroyed artillery system of volley fire “Uragan” (“Hurricane”), which stand near Kuteynikovo village not far from Ilovaisk. The separatists eagerly show them to the journalists and tourists, telling that with the help of those “Uragans” the Ukrainians carry out the shelling of Donbas civilians. But on the “Uragans’” surface can still be seen the remains of fresh green paint of specific shade, which is used for the Russian military machinery. And if we look at the map at the direction in which the “Uragans” were shooting, we can see that there fire was aimed at the Ukrainian column escaping the Ilovaisk cauldron along Chervona Polyana landmark.
It can be assumed that both “Uragans” were destroyed by the missiles of the same plane, which shelled the positions of the howitzer battery of the 98th airborne division of the Russian Federation. Obviously, the pilot was ordered to put every effort in order to destroy the artillery, which was shooting at the Ukrainian column in Chervona Polyana. And the pilot fulfilled the task.
Ukrainians had no “Uragans” on the territory of Sector B in the second part of August 2014. However, starting from the 18th August the separatist websites repeatedly stated that “the people’s militia used the trophy “Uragans” to carry out several successful campaigns against the punitives”. The text of the news itself reads: “We have recently mentioned the “Uragan” snatched from the ukrs. Well, the positions of the occupants in Novokaterynivka (near Starobeshevo town) were serviced by it at night.” It hadn’t been specified in any of the separatist sources, where and by whom the “snatched ‘Uragans’” have been mentioned.
The ATO press-centre commented on the “Uragans” being held by the separatists, stating that such powerful weapon has been used against the Ukrainian forces by the enemy for the first time.
Today the Ilovaisk events of 2014 have been quite thoroughly investigated. Each party has drawn their own conclusions out of it. We could have said that Ilovaisk is a bygone page of the history, both heroic and tragic. But we will be only able to say that when all the unknown soldiers of the Kushuhumsk and Krasnopillya cemeteries will be identified.
Author: Yaroslav Tynchenko, tyzhden.ua
Translated by Online Translation Center NOBBY