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Two Ukrainian officials have made statements today regarding the devastating battle of Ilovaisk, which took place almost a year ago.
Firstly, Anatoly Matios, the chief military prosecutor, announced that new data indicated that 366 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed and 429 wounded during the fighting around the town.
This is the lowest estimate so far, with previous claims of up to 1,000 killed, and Matios himself saying in April this year that 459 Ukrainian deaths had been documented in Ilovaisk.
The process has been difficult with the recovery of bodies continuing long after the battle.
Matios said that 200 Ukrainian servicemen captured during the battle had been freed in exchange for the release of 10 Russian paratroopers captured in Ilovaisk.
On August 25 last year, 10 paratroopers from Russia’s 98th Airborne Division, based in Kostroma, were captured near Zerkalny, around 12 kilometres south of Ilovaisk.
The Russian Ministry of Defence acknowledged that they were active soldiers, but claimed that they had only crossed the border “by accident” while on a patrol at night.
No explicit link was drawn by the Ukrainian government between the captured paratroopers and the events immediately to the north around Ilovaisk, but Zerkalny does indeed lie on the edge of the area of the encirclement.
The Kostroma paratroopers were returned to Russia on August 30, as Ukrainian soldiers were still struggling to escape the encirclement at Ilovaisk.
As Ukrainian troops left through a “humanitarian corridor” out of Ilovaisk on the 30th, which was called for the night before by President Vladimir Putin, they were attacked by Russian and separatist forces, suffering severe casualties.
That same day, Russia’s independent TV Rain reported that around 200 fighters from the Ukrainian Donbass Battalion had been captured in Ilovaisk.
Matios said that amongst those Ukrainian troops freed were members of the Ukrainian army, the National Guard (of which the Donbass Battalion is a part, and others.
Hryhoriy Ostafiychuk, head of the Main Investigation Department of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), who was speaking with Matios at the press briefing in Kiev today, said that the SBU had placed the chief of the Russian General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, on their wanted list, along with the ten exchanged Russian paratroopers, for their part in the battle of Ilovaisk.
“Independent servicemen following the orders of General Staff Chief Gerasimov organized training and triggered the conflict in the territory of our state… Well-founded accusations have been pressed against the General Staff chief, and ten military servicemen,” Head of the Main Investigation Department of the SBU Hryhoriy Ostafiychuk said at a briefing in Kyiv on Wednesday.
He added that as part of the investigation into the crimes committed near Ilovaisk, where hundreds of Ukrainian military servicemen were killed, Chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff Gerasimov and ten Russian servicemen, whose presence in Ukraine during the Ilovaisk events has been established, were notified of the suspicion against them. They were formally notified and appropriate responses were received, Ostafiychuk said.
According to him, at present one of the Kyiv district courts is considering a measure of restraint with respect to these people, as well as the possibility of the arrest of the Russian citizens.
Ostafiychuk claimed today that the SBU had evidence of the presence of 3,500 Russian soldiers in the Ilovaisk area last August.
This evidence included, he said, military and technical documents, as well as intelligence and combat reports.
“Furthermore,” Ostafiychuk said, “there is physical evidence in the form of the hardware which was abandoned by the Russian soldiers in our state territory, including outside Ilovaisk, results of analyses of which we expect in the near future.”
Matios added that three Russian battalion tactical groups, with 60 tanks, 320 military vehicles and 60 artillery pieces, had been deployed around Ilovaisk. All of the hardware had been stripped of Russian military markings. In their place, Matios claimed, markings resembling those used by the Ukrainian military had been added.
— Pierre Vaux
Russian-backed forces have continued to press attacks in the Donetsk area overnight, with fighting still reported to be under way this morning
A post on the Kyiv-1 Battalion’s Facebook page at 6:30 GMT said that the battalion’s fighters, located along the front line from Marinka to Krasnogorovka, were currently under mortar and sniper fire.
The State Border Agency (DPSU) announced today that three of their personnel and one soldier had been wounded in this same area in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
According to the report, a checkpoint in Marinka was shelled with around 100 mortar rounds. Russian-backed forces then used small arms, automatic grenade launchers, anti-aircraft artillery, guided anti-tank missiles and a tank against the Ukrainian position.
The DPSU said that Ukrainian troops had prevented an enemy advance by returning fire with small arms, as well as rocket-propelled and automatic grenades.
Colonel Andriy Lysenko, a military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, announced at noon today that seven Ukrainian servicemen had been wounded over the past day:
The Ukrainian military’s ATO Press Centre reported this morning that Russian-backed forces had intensified their attacks in the Donetsk area over the last 24 hours.
According to the report, a Ukrainian defensive position in Opytnoye, north of Donetsk, was shelled several times throughout the night by tanks and mortars. Vodyanoye, a little to the west, was shelled with 120 mm mortars.
Residential areas of Avdeyevka, to the north-east, were, the Press Centre claims, shelled with 152 and 122 mm artillery at around 21:00 last night.
Both Colonel Lysenko and the ATO Press Centre report that two attempts were made by Russian-backed fighters to break through the Ukrainian front lines north-east of Donetsk, near Verkhnotoretskoye.
After two skirmishes, at 20:30 and 21:15, the attacking sabotage and reconnaissance groups retreated.
Russia’s state-owned RIA Novosti news agency reported that one civilian had been wounded in the separatist-held village of Krasny Partizan, just south-east of Verkhnotoretskoye.
According to the report, Ukrainian forces shelled the village at 23:00 last night.
Lysenko reported further on fighting last night near Gorlovka:
In the Lugansk region, Lysenko reported fighting on the Bakhmutka highway, with Ukrainian positions near Orekhovo (Orihove) and Novotoshkovskoye (Novotoshkivske) shelled.
The Lugansk Military-Civil Administration announced today that a Ukrainian soldier had been wounded after the outskirts of Troitskoye were shelled with mortars at around 1 am today.
In Krymskoye, on the southern bank of the Seversky Donets river, seven cows were wounded by shelling, which also set off a fire that was not extinguished until late at night.
The DPSU reported that a Ukrainian checkpoint near Zolotoye was attacked yesterday with small arms and anti-aircraft artillery. Meanwhile, in Stanitsa Luganskaya, at the eastern end of the front line, two border guards were wounded after coming under fire.
In the south of the Donetsk region, Ukrainian military analyst Dmytro Tymchuk reports that positions east of Volnovakha, between Beryozovoye and Granitnoye, were fired-on by Russian-backed forces with mortars, automatic grenade launchers and anti-aircraft artillery.
Tymchuk claimed that Russian-backed forces had been noticed regrouping infantry along the front in this area.
Further south along the river Kalmius, Colonel Lysenko reported attacks near Chermalyk