How Russian Troops Entered Donbas on August 23

26 January 2015, 15:22

On August 25, near the village of Dzerkalne in Amvrosyivka District of Donetsk Oblast, Ukrainian troops captured 10 Russian paratroopers. What they were doing dozens of kilometers away from the state border, deep in the Ukrainian territory, has never been explained by any state official, and they still don’t feel like doing it.

If we looked at the totally honest schemes of the information and analysis center of the NSDC for the last decade of August, we would really come to a conclusion that finding Russian units near Dzerkalne was absolutely unrealistic. They would have had to fight their way there through the roadblocks of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Nevertheless, if we take into account that Marynivka checkpoint was taken by the separatists and the Russian troops already on August 13, and Uspenka checkpoint a few days later, everything falls into place.

However, Russian Federation forces did not enter Ukraine right after taking Uspenka checkpoint. First, the territory from Marynivka to Ilovaisk was cleared by Russian reconnaissance and sabotage troops. Already on August 15, a video was uploaded to the Internet displaying a large number of destroyed Ukrainian military equipment in the village of Stepanivka where our 30th Mechanized Brigade was based. Around the same time, on August 13-17, to the south and north of the village of Amvrosyivka (home to Sector D headquarters), cars with military servicemen began disappearing. During these days alone, about 20 soldiers went missing in that "Bermuda Triangle". Their fate is unknown to this day; however, the documents of the missing servicemen were posted on DNR websites already on August 24-25.

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On August 19, separatist units tried to take by storm Savur-Mohyla high ground, but the assault was shattered by a small garrison (of slightly over 40 soldiers). On August 22, the attacks on the high ground resumed, following a powerful artillery bombardment from the Russian territory that resulted in the memorial stele in honor of the Soviet soldiers who fought there during the Second World War collapsing like a card castle. Separatist troops attacked, supported by two tanks. The assault was defeated. In the garrison, two soldiers were wounded, and one was shell-shocked. Tymur Yuldashev received a head wound and lost eyesight. The injured were moved to the basement of a former coffee shop next to the memorial, the ceiling of which provided reliable protection from bombing. Luckily, there were no attacks on Savur-Mohyla in the following two days. However, for some reason, people in the rear did not hurry to evacuate the wounded. A few kilometers to the east of Savur-Mohyla, near the village of Petrovske, the units of the 51st Mechanized Brigade were located, but they provided no assistance to the defenders of the high ground. 17 commandos from the 3rd Regiment and units of Horyn 2nd Territorial Defense Battalion tried to break through to Savur-Mohyla, but were stopped by the enemy.Ukrainian units of Sector D actually still remained only in Kuteynikove, Amvrosyivka and at Savur-Mohyla, whereas the area around gradually passed under the control of sabotage units that systematically forced out our roadblocks.

In the meanwhile, Russian troops since August 17 (as stated by captured paratroopers) were preparing to a "training exercise" in the territory of Donbas. Paratroopers were given orders to daub the ID marks of their military vehicles in white paint, drawing circles (dots) on top. On the night of 23 to 24 August, the detachments of Russian 98th Airborne Division (and probably other troops as well) moved from Marynivka checkpoint in the direction of Ilovaisk across the fields along approximately the following route: Marynivka – Stepanivka – Manuylivka – Velyka Shyshivka – Rusko-Orlivka – Pokrovka – Ilovaisk. To ensure and conceal this relocation as much as possible, separatist sabotage squads went parallel to the column, covering it from the Ukrainian troops. For example, when the Russians passed near Manuylivka, sabotage squads occupied the village of Petrovske to the south of it.

Arriving in the morning of August 24 to Ilovaisk, Russian troops immediately went into combat with Ukrainian units located there. A T-72 tank with no ID marks and with numbers painted over (they probably didn't have time to paint a white circle) crashed into the railway depot where the detachments of Myrotvorets and Kherson battalions were stationed, and immediately fired at… the battlefield positions of the separatists. Later, after sorting out the situation, the tankers turned the tank turret towards the depot. In the meanwhile, Russian paratroopers along with sabotage squads started moving southwards, to Starobesheve and Kuteynikove, gradually taking up territory. It was during this operation that our troops captured 10 Russian paratroopers.

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To find the answer to this question, one would have to go to the fields in Amvrosyivka or Starobesheve districts in September to witness numerous traces of the Russian presence: piles of household waste, spent cartridges, and empty ammunition cases.But a few days still remained to the fateful date of August 29, when columns of Ukrainian soldiers retreating from Ilovaisk were shot down in the "green corridor". So what did the Russian units do all that time?

For example, between the village of Chumaky and Horbatenko farm, there is a large field with three burnt KamAZ trucks in the middle. Around it, there's a column of destroyed Ukrainian military hardware and civil equipment, as well as the wrecks of several armored vehicles and trucks. A Ukrainian column tried to pass there, moving along the "green corridor" from the villages of Mnohopillya and Chervonosilske to the town of Starobesheve.

Local residents could see the crippled military equipment accumulated there and even dig inside. These KamAZ trucks were markedly different from the other cars. The doors of the trucks, besides being burnt, also displayed the traces of badly painted white circles. Packages labeled "Voentorg. Meals ready to eat", torn pixelated camouflage of the Russian Armed Forces, paratroopers' striped vests, and other household waste made in Russia were scattered around. In particular, there were plenty of bottles of "Zelyonyi Gorodok" water ("Blessed by Amvrosiy, the Archbishop of Ivanovo and Kineshma"), manufactured by "Zhivaya Voda" LLC, Russia, Ivanovo oblast, the village of Lomy.

In the same field, there was a lot of empty ammunition cases, spent cartridges and artillery ammunition damaged when the trucks exploded. The cartridges were clearly marked with type and caliber: "Microcaliber ZH10A 122-D30". This is the type of shells used to shoot from long-range 122-millimeter D-30 howitzer.

In the Russian army, D-30 howitzers were officially discarded in early 2013. At least that's what the public sources say. However, this is not quite true: at the time of the reequipment of the Russian army, D-30 howitzers were retained by airborne forces.

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Near the KamAZ trucks, the positions of 12 or 13 guns could be visually identified. In one of the burnt cars, several documents were found unexpectedly, that implicitly indicated the origins of the guns and trucks. There was a "Booklet for gunfire, gun control and tactics tasks of the commander of the 1st howitzer platoon of the 2nd howitzer battery of the field artillery howitzer battalion of the military unit No. 62297" and "Form D-30A No. H545 of the 2nd howitzer battery." Translated into civil language, this means that these documents belonged to the 2nd howitzer artillery battery of the 1065th Guards Artillery Regiment of the Russian Federation. The "Form", under numerous notes, bears the signature of the commander of the above unit, Captain of the Guard Lyubimov.

1065th Guards Artillery Regiment is stationed in Kostroma and belongs, along with the 217th and 331st Parachute Regiments, to the 98th Guards Svir Airborne Red Banner Order of Kutuzov Division (with headquarters in Ivanovo).

In this way, this Artillery Regiment belongs to the same task force as the 10 Russian paratroopers captured by our troops on August 25. The captives served in the 331st Parachute Regiment. One of them, during the interrogation, the video of which was uploaded to the internet (to be later removed by someone), claimed that he and his companions entered Ukraine as part of the Battalion Task Force, which included paratroopers, combat engineers, reconnaissance officers, an artillery battalion and support units on 30 military vehicles, 18 self-propelled Nona mortar systems, and motor vehicles.

The 98th Airborne Division is now in the process of reequipment, but the upgrade applies mostly to APCs and airborne assault vehicles. The Soviet model of Nona mortar systems is still in the inventory. The 331th Regiment has exactly 18 of them. That is, all of them entered Ukraine.

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In the inventory of the 1065th Artillery Regiment there are 18 Nona 2S9 SP cannons and 12 D-30 howitzers. Whether the Nonas of the 1065th Regiment were used in the campaign against Ukraine is hard to say at the moment. However, all of their howitzers entered the country.

Typically, the 331st and 1065th Regiments are never relocated anywhere without the 217th Parachute Regiment from Ivanovo (for example, all of them took part in the invasion of Georgia). There is no direct evidence of the involvement of this Regiment in the Ilovaisk events yet. However, our servicemen who were held captive by the Russian troops on August 29-31 clearly indicate that they saw paratroopers from both Kostroma and Ivanovo.

Not far from the artillery positions, there is a well-built infantry fortifications line with communication trenches and machine-gun nests. Here, again, Russian camouflage, Voentorg MRE boxes and bottles of water from Ivanovo can be found. There are several bottles of "Gornyi Rodnik" water (manufactured by "Terek Springs"), which may indicate that not only Ivanovo paratroopers were there, but also some military units from the North Caucasus. At the edge of the Russian positions, there are two wrecked T-72M1 tanks (upgraded version). The turret of one of them has side numbers carefully painted over. Ukraine never had this kind of equipment in principle, because its manufacture started after the collapse of the Soviet Union, while the "accessories" production was only launched in the recent years. The 98th Division has no tanks at all in its inventory. However, T-72M1M tanks destroyed on the edge of the Russian paratroopers position are almost the same as the Russian tank that was used by our Colonel Yevhen Sydorenko and that belonged to the 8th Separate Mechanized Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces stationed in Chechnya. It is possible that these tanks also belonged to the 8th or some other Mechanized Brigade from the North Caucasus, and were sent to reinforce the paratroopers.

It is also possible that it was the 8th Brigade that left piles of empty wooden cases used for antitank missiles: Fagot, Shmel, and Mukha. In some cases, these containers still preserved Russian "packing sheets" dated 2005. They were signed by Lieutenant Colonels Moiseev, Tiunov, and Chief Warrant Officer Kubatov (head of warehouse is Chief Warrant Officer Dubnov). From the village of Chumaky and further to the east up to Ilovaisk, numerous field fortifications were built by Russian troops. Bottles labeled "Zelyonyi Gorodok" and "Gornyi Rodnik" make it easy to identify where the troops were located, almost without fail.

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Another interesting and large artillery position was located south of the village of Petrovske. Here, too, it is possible to observe stout positions built for rifle units, with parapets and machine-gun nests, and with pits filled with military and household waste. Voentorg MRE packages labeled "Army of Russia" (different from those of paratroopers) are eloquent witnesses of the fact that the soldiers of our eastern neighbor were here. Immediately behind the trenches line lie piles of spent cartridges, judging from the marking, from 152-millimeter 2A65 Msta howitzer. The latter are only used by ground troops, and therefore may belong to either moto-rifle or tank units.

Later on (namely, on August 29-30), the locals told Ukrainian prisoners held by the Russian military that Russian troops had been preparing for several days to meet them on their way from Ilovaisk: they dug trenches, built fortifications, and even set up military camps (there are at least four of them to the south of Ilovaisk). In particular, there was one near Dzerkalne, where the 10 paratroopers mentioned above were captured on August 25. It is interesting to note that before that, a unit of the 51st Brigade of the Ground Forces of Ukraine was stationed in the village. Unfortunately, as they were retiring, our servicemen left a lot of equipment behind. Later, the Russian paratroopers came to the village, as evidenced by the trademark Voentorg household waste and ragged and blood-stained Russian-produced pixelated camouflage.

Apart from the 98th Airborne Division and the 8th Separate Mechanized Brigade, the fact of participation in the shooting of the Ukrainian troops near Ilovaisk by two more Russian units has been established with some degree of certainty. One of them is the 31st Airborne Assault Brigade, two soldiers from which were captured during the fighting in Ilovaisk, and a video of them put online. The second unit can only be determined conventionally so far. It is the "Kursk Tank Division" (according to the soldiers of the Donbas battalion) that was stationed in the village of Chervonosilske on August 29, when Donbas battalion fought its way there. They were met with the fire… of several Russian T-80 tanks, and the captured 20-year-old contract soldiers told they had come from Kursk. Obviously, it was a unit of the 1st Separate Armored Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces. It is headquartered in the town of Boguchar, and one of its battalions (the former 6th Guards Motor-Rifle Order of the Red Banner Chelyabinsk-Petrakovsk Regiment) is stationed in Kursk. This unit actually has 13 T-80 tanks in its inventory.

It is worth mentioning one more interesting find: a downed Israeli drone No. 93 that was lying in the field near the village of Novozaryivka. This type of aircraft was purchased in large numbers by the Russian Ministry of Defense in 2012. Later they were reverse-engineered, and their production was launched at Russian enterprises.

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A large part of the Russian regular troops withdrew from the territory of Donbas around late August – early September of 2014, leaving behind a lot of garbage, among which some interesting documents could be found.

A large number of the materials confirming the presence of the Russian units in the Donbas fell into the hands of the officers of the Intelligence Directorate of the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (GUR). However, any requests for displaying them in museums and exhibitions are stubbornly blocked by Ukraine’s senior military leadership, for some reason or another. At least two video interviews with Russian paratroopers, where interesting details were revealed about the composition and the objectives of the Battalion Task Force of the 331st Parachute Regiment, mysteriously disappeared from the Internet. The general impression left by the latest developments is that not Moscow alone is interested in concealing the material evidence of the presence of regular Russian troops in Donbas.

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