Heavy Casualties Among Ukrainian Volunteer Fighters After Artillery Attack North Of Donetsk

June 13, 2016
The Butovka mine, scene of the attack. Screenshot from TSN news video.

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Heavy Casualties Among Ukrainian Volunteer Fighters After Artillery Attack North Of Donetsk

There are reports of heavy casualties as a result of shelling attacks by Russian-backed forces in the Donbass yesterday.

While the Ukrainian General Staff claim that only three Ukrainian soldiers were wounded, there are multiple reports of severe casualties, amongst both army soldiers and Pravyi Sektor volunteers, to the north of Donetsk.

Volunteer medic Yana Zinkevych, reported on her Facebook page yesterday that four members of the Pravyi Sektor Volunteer Corps (DUK) had been killed and another 11 wounded at the Butovka mine, an exposed position south of Avdeyevka.

Andriy Stempitskiy, commander of the DUK, confirmed that four fighters, known by their call-signs as Gutsul, Dok, Legat and Yarik, had been killed, publishing their photos

There were other, as yet unconfirmed reports of casualties, with Ukraine’s TSN news channel relaying volunteer reports of 12 dead – four of them volunteer fighters and eight Ukrainian army soldiers, and the channels special correspondent, Oleksandr Zagorodnego, reporting six dead and around 20 wounded.

Roman Titus, head of a front-line surgical team, told the channel yesterday evening that 14 soldiers had been brought in wounded and that another was still missing at the scene of the attack.

From the TSN report:

“The militants have been using their most powerful weapons – 152 mm artillery – since yesterday evening. They broke through the reinforced concrete ceilings and literally tore the defenders of Butovka to shreds. A fighter asks why the Ukrainian guns were silent, why no one supported them. 

“The self-propelled guns were firing, ours were silent. Thanks to the guys from the 128th [Brigade] – they ignored their orders, swooped down and got us out. But why is our artillery silent, what is our government watching? The first shell that fell knocked us down, then the second came right away.”

After an hour of shelling a long burst of machine-gun fire was fired towards the enemy – more out of rage and despair, as machine guns can’t reach the enemy artillery. 

Soldiers also showed TSN video footage, recorded on their phones, of the attack on the mine:

This morning Serhiy Ryzhenko, chief doctor at the Mechnykov hospital in Dnipropetrovsk, reported on Facebook that 12 wounded fighters were being treated at his hospital. Three of them are on life support.

He posted a photo of one of the wounded, 35-year-old Aleksandr, who held a note identifying himself as a DUK member.

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Ryzhenko said that surgeons are attempting to save his leg. One of his friends was killed in the attack.

However at noon today, Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, said that according “officially confirmed data” only three soldiers had been wounded, with none killed.

With regards to the DUK volunteer fighters, Lysenko said that an investigation was now under way into the presence of “people who are not related to the Armed Forces of Ukraine who are at the front line without the proper authorization.”

Nevertheless, Lysenko added that “every Ukrainian who is killed defending their homeland with a weapon in their hands is a real hero.”

Earlier, the Ministry of Defense had denied that any volunteer units were fighting on the front line at all.

Soldiers were not the only reported casualties.

Vyacheslav Abroskin, chief of the Donetsk regional police force, reported on his Facebook page this morning that a civilian woman, born in 1932, had been killed when Russian-backed fighters shelled the village of Artyomovo, northwest of separatist-held Gorlovka.

According to Abroskin, artillery shells fell on Gornyatskaya street between 00:20 and 00:50 this morning, damaging several houses.

Photos from the police

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On Saturday evening, TSN reported that an 11-year-old boy had received gunshot wounds to the legs in Ukrainian-held Avdeyevka after Russian-backed fighters fired into the town from woodland on the outskirts.

Video uploaded on pro-separatist YouTube channels clearly records the sound of outbound artillery fire from Donetsk last night:

Another video from one of these accounts records what appears to be the sound of exchanges of fire (both inbound and outbound) on Saturday night in separatist-held Makeyevka, east of Donetsk:

According to this morning’s ATO Press Center report, Russian-backed fighters conducted 40 attacks across the front line yesterday, most of them in the Donetsk area.

Military press officer Arkady Radkovsky told the 112 news channel this morning that there had been another six attacks between midnight and 8 am today. Notably, positions near Novotroitskoye, on the Donetsk-Mariupol highway, were reportedly attacked once more with 120 and 82 mm mortars.

Meanwhile the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) claimed today that Ukrainian forces had fired on separatist-held territory 411 times over the previous 24 hours.

According to the DNR, this included 93 artillery shells, as well as 187 mortar rounds, with the majority aimed at the outskirts of Donetsk and Gorlovka, as well as the southern settlements of Dokuchaevsk, near Novotroitskoye, and Kominternovo, east of Mariupol.

— Pierre Vaux