The Battle of Ilovaisk: A Turning Point in Russia’s War on Ukraine

September 15, 2014
Ukraine's 79th Brigade broke through after 3 weeks encircled. Photo by censor.net

Today September 14, Ukrainian Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey announced on TV Channel 5 the list of all those killed at Ilovaisk in the worst battle of the Russian-instigated war on Ukraine: 107 Ukrainians and 300 Russians, un.ua reported. And as we know from the Donbass Battalion’s web page and Facebook group and the pages of other battalions, there are many hundreds more wounded. As un.ua reported:

Six battalion-tactical groups armed with modern powerful artillery weapons penetrated into the rear area of the anti-terrorist forces from Russia, he noted.

To avoid heavy casualties on both sides mid-level officers agreed to provide two corridors for withdrawing the anti-terrorist forces, he said.

However, the Russian Defense Ministry’s General Staff commanded to shell the withdrawing anti-terrorist units and the captured Russian paratroopers going out with them, Heletei stressed.

According to the Ukrainian defense minister, the Ukrainian fighters flew on alert to prevent the aggressor and destroyed some artillery.

The minister highlighted the dissemination of the anti-terrorist operation details and the movement of the Ukrainian troops in the mass media had done a serious harm to the Ukrainian forces near Ilovaisk.

The Verkhovna Rada has set up a commission to investigate the tragic events and capture of volunteers.

Like other battles of this war, Ilovaisk was narrated on Facebook by Semyon Semyonchenko, commander of the Donbass Battalion, and many others in the regional press and social media.

Here are all the stories published by The Interpreter on the fighting in Ilovaisk, many of them translations from regional media and social media accounts. We began chronicling the conflict in Ukraine on February 18, covering the battle for Maidan and have continued straight since then through Day 209 today, and will go on.

Ilovaisk aug 19

Day 183 (August 19)

American Killed Fighting in Ukraine

Ukrainian Military Expert Warns That 1,200 Russian Troops Have Entered Lugansk

Russian Military Buildup On And Across The Border Escalates As Diplomatic Options Are Discussed

Ukraine Claims More Than 30 Incidents Of Shelling From Russia In Last Week

Slovak Citizen, Fighting For Separatists, Reportedly Detained in Ilovaisk

Ukrainian Flag Raised Over Ilovaisk

Day 184 (August 20)

‘We Fight Russia. We Don’t Fight Separatists, We Fight Russia’

Battle To Retake Ilovaisk Continues

Day 191 (August 27)

Moscow ‘Checking’ Information on Soldiers’ Deaths; Reinforcements Not Arrived in Ilovaisk

Russian Newspaper Asks Whether Russia is At War In Ukraine

Pictures Reportedly Show Russian Armored Convoy Destroyed Near Donetsk

Government Claims Reinforcements In Ilovaisk, Semyonchenko Denies This As Protesters Call For Action

Ukrainian SBU Holds Press Conference with Russian POWs

Russia Accuses NATO Of Destabilizing European Security As Russian-Backed Troops Capture Ukrainian Towns

Decisive Day In Ilovaisk – Semyonchenko

Day 193 (August 29)

Video Shows Motorola’s Battalion Fighting Through Residential Area of Ilovaisk

4 Journalists Escape Ilovaisk Encirclement With Volunteer And Army Troops

2 Wounded Ukrainian Officers Blow Selves Up With 12 Russian Paratroopers To Avoid Capture
Russian-Backed Separatists Set Condition for Humanitarian Corridor Urged by Putin

Putin Appeals to ‘Novorossiya Militia’; Separatists Agree to Humanitarian Corridor

Day 194 (August 30)

28 Ukrainian Troops Reportedly Break Out of Ilovaisk

Reports That 200 Ukrainian Volunteers Forced To Surrender In Ilovaisk

Tank With ‘For The Donbass’ Slogan Spotted On Russian Side Of Border

Reports of Russians and Separatists Shelling Ukrainians in ‘Humanitarian Corridor’

Donbass Commander Contacts Russian Forces to Extend Time for Corridor

Uncertainty About ‘Humanitarian Corridor’ for Ukrainian Soldiers’ Evacuation

How Ukrainian Troops Emerged Out of Russian
Encirclement at Ilovaisk

Further Reports Of Attacks On Troops Attempting To Escape Ilovaisk

Day 197 (August 31)

State Department on Russian Invasion of Ukraine; Invocation of ‘Nuclear Option’, New US Ambassador to Moscow

Large Russian Military Convoy Heading to Lugansk


Putin Declares NATO ‘A Major Threat’


Entire Pskov ‘Company’ Killed in Ukraine: Local Newspaper

Kremlin Advisor Blames Ukraine War on US

Russian-Backed Forces Rapidly Gaining Ground


Wall Street Journal on Ukrainian Forces Escape from Ilovaisk; Semyonchenko Reveals Himself on TV

Day 210 (September 15)

Bodies Of 24 Ukrainian Soldiers Recovered Near Ilovaisk

Here are some English-language stories in the Ukrainian press on the battle of Ilovaisk:

Ukrainian Army Repulsed All Attacks on Ilovaisk, Shelled by Russian Grad Divisions by Yurii Butusov, Censor.Net

Ukrainian Troops Killed at Least 100 Russian Soldiers and Terrorists Last Night by Dmitry Tymchuk, Censor.Net

Battle for Ilovaisk by Yurii Butusov, Censor.Net

The Story of Colonel Evgeniy Sidorenko Who Broke Out From Ilovaisk In a Russian T-72 Tank by Larry, Burkonews

We are Paying Very Dearly – But for What? by Maks Livin, Maidan Translations of Lib.ua

Here are some of the stories in the Western press on Ilovaisk:

Anatomy of a Blood Bath by Alec Luhn, Foreign Policy

Massacre at Ilovaisk by Timothy Ash, Kyiv Post

Ukraine Conflict: Fierce Battle for Town of Ilovaisk, BBC


Abandoned Donbas Battalion Fights on by Lily Hyde, Kyiv Post

Fears of Massacre After Accusations Russians Reneged on Safe Passage for Ukrainian Forces by Roland Oliphant, Telegraph

Ukraine@War: The Battle for Ilovaisk

Ukraine Town Bears Scars of Russian Offensive That Turned Tide in Conflict by Carlotta Gall, New York Times

Battle-Hit Ukraine Village Picks up the Pieces by Peter Leonard, AP

Pro-Russian Rebels Confident After Making Gains by Peter Leonard, AP

Aftermath of Fierce Battle Shows Rout of Ukrainian Troops as Russia Talks Tough by Peter Leonard, AP

Fleeing Ukraine Troops Routed as Russia Steps Up Tough Talk by Peter Leonard, AP

Bitter Survivors and Caravans of Coffins from Ukraine’s “Eastern Boiler” by Anna Nemtsova, Daily Beast

Fallen Ukrainian soldiers at Ilovaisk August 2014

Fallen Ukrainian soldiers at Ilovaisk August 2014



On the Ukraine Liveblog, we reported on President Vladimir Putin’s offer of a humanitarian corridor even as Russian forces invaded Ukraine on our Ukraine Liveblog, as well as the response of the Russian-backed separatists that they would only allow Ukrainian soldiers to escape if they gave up their armored vehicles and heavy weapons. In addition, we should cite this particularly cynical statement by Konstantin Dolgov, the Kremlin’s Human Rights Commissioner, who was deployed by Kremlin propagandists to try to make a claim of “human rights violations” by Kiev in addressing this disingenuous offer. Dolgov tweeted this claim, linked to an article by RIA Novosti:


Translation: Kiev’s unreadiness to use the humanitarian corridors for withdrawal of its forces is an indicative of the real “readiness” of the authorities to save the lives of their own people.

There remains the issue of the Russian soldiers who lost their lives in Ilovaisk, but with a Russian news blackout it is hard to reconstruct at this time and the figures of casualties cannot be confirmed. Most of the revelations that have come out about Russian soldiers’ deaths, such as those from the 76th Pskov Assault Guards, have concerned battles at other locations in Lugansk Region.

Ilovaisk under Russian rule. September 2014

Ilovaisk under Russian rule. September 2014



Here’s just a sample of some videos of fighting in Ilovaisk — see story links for more.

Donbass Battalion Surrounded And taking Casualties In Ilovaisk

The battle at Ilovaisk. Volunteer Battalions Failed to Take Over the City

German ARD on Ilovaisk

Anton Gerashchenko on the Ilovaisk “Kettle”

Breakthrough of Convoy from Ilovaisk Kettle


Ilovaisk: Motorola’s Division Hurled Grenades at the Punishers

As we get further information, we will add to this page.