August 2015


Kremlin puppets whitewash Stalin’s crimes in Ukraine

26 August 2015

The Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin: only a fraction of his victims' remains have been disinterred from mass graves around the ex-USSR

Joseph Stalin

‘Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.’ George Orwell’s grim commentary on the nature of political propaganda applies in few parts of the world more than in today’s Russian-backed, separatist-controlled republics of eastern Ukraine – the self-declared Donetsk and Lugansk ‘People’s Republics.’ In their zeal to obey Kremlin orders to eliminate any reminders of Moscow’s legacy of terror in Ukraine (and elsewhere), the rubber-stamp ‘parliament’ of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ has voted unanimously to dismantle and destroy all monuments to the victims of Stalinist repression in general, and – in particular – of the manmade famine that decimated Ukraine from 1932-33. Having seized control of the present, Russia’s proxy separatists are erasing the past, consolidating their power for an indefinite future.

Ukrainian victims of the 1932-33 terror-famine

Ukrainian victims of the 1932-33 terror-famine

As most people should know, in the early 1930s the Soviet regime forcibly starved the inhabitants of fertile areas of Ukraine, the North Caucasus (now part of Russia) and Kazakhstan, all regions that were once largely ethnically Ukrainian. By starving productive Ukrainians to death, the Kremlin furthered two of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin’s policy imperatives: ‘dekulakization’ (liquidating affluent and better-off farmers who were recalcitrant toward Soviet power) and ‘collectivization’ (replacing private property in land with ‘collective farms’ controlled by the Soviet Communist Party).

The late historian Robert Conquest wrote this in the introduction to his study of this episode in history, The Harvest of Sorrow:

Book CoverFifty years ago as I write these words, the Ukraine and the Ukrainian, Cossack and other areas to its east – a great stretch of territory with some forty million inhabitants – was like one vast Belsen. A quarter of the rural population, men, women and children, lay dead or dying, the rest in various stages of debilitation with no strength to bury their families or neighbors. At the same time, (as at Belsen), well-fed squads of police or party officials supervised the victims.

This was the climax of the ‘revolution from above’, as Stalin put it, in which he and his associates crushed two elements seen as irremediably hostile to the regime: the peasantry of the USSR as a whole, and the Ukrainian nation.

In terms of regimes and policies fifty years is a long time. In terms of individual lives, not so long. I have met men and women who went through the experiences you will read of as children or even as young adults. Among them were people with ‘survivors’ guilt’ – that irrational shame that they should be the ones to live on when their friends, parents, brothers and sisters died, which is also to be found among the survivors of the Nazi camps.

At a time when the capitalist United States was experiencing the Great Depression, the communist Soviet Union – ruled by the autocrat Joseph Stalin – sought to reap the global propaganda benefits from exporting grain in vast quantities, making it appear that the new ‘workers’ state’ was flourishing with a surplus of food while the ordinary people of the exploitative West suffered from privation and poverty. In fact, hunger plagued the Soviet empire at the time, and Western countries did make attempts to render aid. But Stalin refused any outside help. Conquest continues:

[I]n 1932-33 came what may be described as a terror-famine inflicted on the collectivized peasants of the Ukraine and the largely Ukrainian Kuban (together with the Don and Volga areas) by the methods of setting for them grain quotas far above the possible, removing every handful of food, and preventing help from outside – even from other areas of the USSR – from reaching the starving. This action, even more destructive of life than those of 1929-32, was accompanied by a wide-ranging attack on all Ukrainian cultural and intellectual centers and leaders, and on the Ukrainian churches. The supposed contumaciousness of the Ukrainian peasants in not surrendering grain they did not have was explicitly blamed on nationalism: all of which was in accord with Stalin’s dictum that the national problem was in essence a peasant problem. The Ukrainian peasant thus suffered in double guise – as a peasant and as a Ukrainian.

Starving Soviet children

Starving Soviet children in the early 1930s

None of this history has ever been convenient for subsequent governments in Moscow, whether Soviet or post-Soviet. The official Kremlin line today is that – if indeed there was a famine at all – it was a tragic accident, and in no way deliberate. How, indeed, could Russian President Vladimir Putin admit that the Soviet authorities committed de facto genocide by starvation in the 1930s at a time when he is attempting to encourage popular nostalgia for the Soviet era? More specifically, as the current Russian regime implements a policy of destroying all imported food in reaction to international sanctions, it would be counterproductive to shed public light on the history of hunger in Russia itself during the last century. As the journalist and author Masha Gessen writes in a recent article, ‘A Country Haunted by Starvation Burns Its Food,’ in The New Yorker magazine:

Child victims of the 1932-33 terror famine

Child victims of the 1932-33 terror famine

The entire history of the twentieth century in Russia is possibly best told through a chronology of hunger. There were the post-Revolutionary manmade famines that killed millions in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and what is now Russia. The famine designed by Stalin was followed by one invented by Hitler: the single most traumatic and best remembered narrative of the Second World War in Russia comes from the Siege of Leningrad, during which hundreds of thousands died of starvation. The postwar years in the Soviet Union were hungry. A brief period when most people seemed to have enough to eat followed, only to give way to the crippling food shortages of the nineteen-seventies and the rations introduced in the late eighties. Then came the hell for many people that was the nineties, with its multitude experiences of hunger. Some people remember the utterly barren store shelves in 1991. Others recall the salary arrears of the mid- and late nineties, when state-enterprise workers would not see payments for many months at a time and the lucky ones lived off their land allotments, where they planted potatoes.

Then there were the unlucky ones. In 1999, I interviewed squatters who were living in a dilapidated building in the Far East; they had come there from a nearby village in search of food. Prior to moving, they, like the rest of the people in their village, had spent a month eating supplies salvaged off a ship that had wrecked nearby. A young woman said that her sister had lost a two-month-old baby after she had given him powdered milk from the ship. She had no breast milk because she was so malnourished. If any of my interlocutors at the time are still alive, they are among the majority of Russians of all ages who have personal experience living with hunger or the immediate risk of hunger. Since the beginning of this century, Russia has experienced unprecedented prosperity, but the memory and threat of hunger is less than a generation away.

Soviet police load corpses of Holodomor victims onto a train

Soviet police load corpses of Holodomor victims onto a train

Thus, the political mood in Russia today, as in the time of Stalin, is that the country and its people have such an overabundance of food that foreign imports are not only unnecessary; they are unwelcome. The wiping from history of the 1932-33 famine, which Ukrainians call the ‘Holodomor,’ is part and parcel of this mood. But whatever the Russian people and their government may decide for themselves, the rest of the world has a duty not to let an unspeakable tragedy and wide-scale atrocity committed by the Soviet regime in the 1930s be forgotten. As the date for the dedication of a new memorial in Washington, DC, to the victims of the Holodomor approaches in November, it falls upon the civilized world to ensure that the brutal indifference currently gripping Russia does not succeed in rewriting this horrific chapter of human history, and in whitewashing tyranny and mass murder.

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‘The Heirs of the Stalinist Slaughterers’: Rebels of the ‘DNR’ (Donetsk People’s Republic) have decided to destroy the monuments to the victims of the Holodomor and political repression.

Censor.NET ~ 17 August 2015

The ‘DNR’ militants have decided to cleanse the territory under their control of monuments to the victims of the Holodomor and political repressions.

Such decision was taken on August 16th at the plenary session of the so-called ‘People’s Council of the DNR,’ Censor.NET reports with a link to the ‘Fourth Estate.’ The initiative for the destruction of monuments was made by DNR ‘MP’ Valery Skorokhodov.

Video of Valery Skorokhodov introducing his bill in the DNR ‘People’s Council’

‘This proposal arose in connection with the fact that the monument was erected without the approval of the territorial community, and with the aim of establishing historical justice. In addition, we propose adoption of additional measures in the prescribed manner to dismantle monuments and memorials to the victims of political repression and the Holodomor in the town of Snezhnoye,’ he said.

Other ‘members of parliament’ present in the courtroom supported Skorokhodov by unanimous vote. They called the destruction of monuments to victims of famine and repression a ‘restoration of historical justice.’

The Holodomor Memorial in Kyiv, Ukraine, features a bronze statue of a starving young girl

The Holodomor Memorial in Kyiv, Ukraine, features a bronze statue of a starving young girl

‘The ideological descendants of the Stalinist mass-murderers believe that victims of hunger do not have the right to be remembered and should be forgotten. It’s in any case amazing how there can be so much stupidity and malice in humans. And then they also say that the Holodomor was not a genocide of Ukrainians… Well, of course, this is evident too. They’re trying to kill still more, even than those who died 80 years ago, to dance on their bones. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know whether there will be a day of remembrance of the famine victims organized by the ‘DNR’ and ‘LNR’ as a holiday feast with a barbecue?’ Ukrainian blogger and journalist Denis Kazansky commented on the news.

Source: “Наследники сталинских живодеров”: Боевики “ДНР” решили уничтожить памятники жертвам Голодомора и политических репрессий.

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Putin’s Russia: Point of No Return

16 August 2015

Russians queue for cash at an ATM

Russians queue for cash at an ATM

The bad economic and political news for Russia’s president and government continues to mount. Not only have international sanctions remained in force over Russian actions in Ukraine, but global economic developments appear increasingly to the Russian Federation’s detriment. Falling oil prices, the reintegration of Iran into the international marketplace, the turbulence in the Chinese stock market, forest fires in Siberia – all are having an adverse effect on the Kremlin’s fortunes. Yet in the Western press, Russia’s woes are not dwelt on or analyzed in depth. The world knows the Russian economy is hurting, but it is largely ignorant of the possible catastrophe for Russia’s regime and its vast state as a whole.

In Russian- and Ukrainian-language online media, by contrast, much commentary has appeared concerning Putin’s apparently impending demise and the increasingly dire circumstances of ordinary Russians. When it comes from Ukrainians, it is understandably presented in an acerbic and sarcastic tone. Below is one such piece from a Ukrainian author writing in the online publication Russkiy Yevrei {‘Russian Jew’) and addressing the Russian people. It is rife with idiomatic expressions, and an attempt has been made to explain some of these in footnotes. The implications of the commentary are clear, however. The world may be witnessing the collapse of the Russian Federation, and the cataclysm could come as early as the end of this year.

In Russia, the most momentous events will begin in October and end quickly in December

Viktor Shevchuk ~ Russkiy Yevrei / 8 August 2015

Well, the ‘Gathering of Lands’ play is in its final act. Everything became clear after oil fell below $50 a barrel, and imported products in Russia were being crushed under tractors. What next?

Putin greeting the people on the one-year anniversary of the annexation of Crimea

Putin greeting the people on the one-year anniversary of the annexation of Crimea

In a surprising way, in early August, several events coincided. Let’s put them in order. Iran enters the oil market and obtains access not only to credit in the West, but also to large-scale investments. What this has changed isn’t important: Iran wants to live like the Emirates, and in 10-15 years it will happen. China has allowed a branch of the railway to bypass Russia on a ‘new Silk Road,’ and it’s no surprise that plans are being made in Odessa to significantly expand transportation terminals. Ukrainian ports are ready to work in two directions: from Europe to Asia and from Asia to Europe. Terminals are expanding against a backdrop of tractors destroying sanctioned food products in Russia.

And here’s how out of place Russia is. In the United States, oil reserves are suddenly overflowing, so that the oil urgently needs to be sold – and sold to Europe. And Saudi Arabia, amid falling oil prices, isn’t planning to reduce oil production, but rather to increase it. This is understandable as well: the fall in energy prices represents a long-term trend of 5-10 years. Why is this happening? Because in the United States, analysts have calculated the benefit from ‘printing’ oil extractions on US territory. This will significantly revive the economy. Obama wants to leave office not only as a peacemaker, but also as the president who led the US economy out of stagnation, and it seems he’ll get what he wants. And suddenly China’s stock market collapses! Let’s see how it was toppled and by whom. Yes, that’s right, by the one who heated it up, but that definitely isn’t the Chinese government. For a moment we thought: why are they doing that? Very simply, it’s so that investors rush from China to the United States while the US economy is growing. True, this will be an interesting trend over the course of the next decade. Is it happening against a backdrop of new energy technologies and industrial 3-D printing? Believe me, the technological surprises are just beginning.

A cartoon of Vladimir Putin featuring Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, a former deputy speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and close personal friend of Putin, up his sleeve

A cartoon of Vladimir Putin showing Viktor Medvedchuk, former deputy speaker of Ukraine’s parliament and Putin’s close friend, up his sleeve

And what’s happening in Russia? Gazprom and Rosneft are in fact bankrupt, and the event horizon for them at the end of 2015 is beyond the horizon. The fact is, there are no prospects for the lifting of sanctions against Russia, just as there is no possibility of increasing the sale of oil and gas in the next 5 years. Prices are dropping, and new pipelines will be built in 7 years, if of course the money is found. [Rosneft CEO Igor] Sechin has already informed the President that there are going to be problems in Russia with the production of gasoline, because ‘when the price of oil is at $40, it isn’t profitable to produce gasoline in Russia.’

And the army is becoming ever greater. Apart from that, all of Siberia is burning, and the fire probably won’t be extinguished any time soon, because someone keeps reigniting it. I wonder who? In Siberia, China has a 50-year lease on land that’s larger than Crimea and Donbas combined. The annual rent on that costs less than one (1) American fighter. And suddenly Russian property starts getting seized in Europe after a judgment in the Yukos case. The champion of the seizures is France, ‘our old reliable friend.’ It’s not hard to guess why: because snow machines in Moscow ‘accidentally’ struck down the president of France’s biggest energy company, TOTAL. The French aren’t fools: this wasn’t [the late Polish President] Kaczynski’s plane. Somehow, they didn’t believe the explanation of ‘bad weather conditions.’

And the cherry on the cake – of sanctions, oil prices, the seizure of property of the state and the oligarchs – is the state debt. The peak of corporate and government payments comes at the end of August, beginning of September and December. That is to say, round sums will have to be paid. But part of the money overseas has been seized, and the Stabilization Fund of Russia isn’t $300 billion, but $150 billion. And everyone wants to eat. At the same time, Russia isn’t only fighting in Ukraine, but has also opened a ‘second front’ in the Caucasus, where the number of rebels in Dagestan and Chechnya is increasing. ISIL, born not without the help of the FSB [Federal Security Service of Russia, domestic successor to the Soviet KGB ~ Ed.] and the GRU [Main Intelligence Directorate, or the Russian military intelligence agency ~ Ed.], has suddenly appeared in southern Russia.

A Russian citizen picks through a garbage heap

A Russian citizen picks through a garbage heap

What will happen in Russia in the fall can be labeled a domino effect, and in Russian they say, ‘I really want to eat, but somehow everything has disappeared.’ This will be especially noticeable in remote regions of Russia in relation to fat Moscow. Dear Russians, everything will happen like this. After another holidaymaker in Chita1 (incidentally, the outskirts of the city have already burned due to fires) arrives in a zinc coffin, the parents of ‘Krymnash’2 will one morning not find the food items they’re used to in the shops. And ‘vacationers’3 in Ukraine at the end of 2015, thanks to help from the ‘aggressive NATO bloc,’ will already be wreaking destruction using the new technology – remotely.

a 'Krymnash' propaganda t-shirt, celebrating the annexation of Crimea

‘Krymnash’ propaganda t-shirt, celebrating the annexation of Crimea

But don’t worry about ‘vacationers’ and ‘parmesan cheese.’ As a consequence of the budget gap and the panic in the food market in Siberia, in the North and in the non-black earth areas, by October there won’t be any parmesan. And when the dollar has reached 120 [rubles], potatoes imported from Belarus will be a delicacy. And the first hunger riots will start in December on the periphery. Moscow certainly isn’t going to send troops to both Siberia and the North to suppress everything, but it will have to make some kind of decision. And already the main question won’t be about withdrawing troops from the Donbas. The main question will be ‘Krymnash,’ and Putin will stop blowing his horn about this, in as much as suddenly returning Crimea to Ukraine would be a general capitulation and catastrophe. As an option, they will offer reparations, and it won’t be $100 billion as in May. It will be much more – about $200 or $300 billion. And Ukraine will haggle, but won’t agree, because – after all – what will still lie ahead will be more interesting.

I want to immediately dispel the naivete of 86% of the ‘krymnashys,’ who believe that everything can go back to the way it was if it itches with the words of my favorite author:

‘Sometimes I read all sorts of analysts, and I especially like those who write about the ‘Anaconda’ strategy that the civilized world is conducting in relation to Katsapstan4: slow strangulation, with no sudden movements. However, we at the Department are smarter than any analysts, and so we describe what’s being done to Russia without mincing words. It isn’t the ‘Anaconda.’ It’s the ‘Monitor Lizard.’ This is to snatch a piece of the victim’s buttock, then go a safe distance behind the wobbly horse as it staggers from loss of blood and sepsis, and wait until the thing quietly bleeds to death.

Sanctions aren’t sledges. You can’t turn them around with a rope. And what, does someone really think that if Raisa Vladimirovna5 becomes well tomorrow, cuts her hair and clips her nails, they’ll tweak the price of oil especially for her, to keep her from coughing? Or will the loss of reputation be immediately refunded? People will gather together and say, ‘Well, screw the Norwegians, let’s buy from Russia again. They’ve become such nice people over there!’ They’re such goodie-goodies…

Sanctions, when analogized to amputation, at first cause inconvenience to both sides. Only after a while, one side heals and grows, and the other rots and poisons. And in this situation the convalescent isn’t interested in changing anything. In the obviousness of katsap consciousness, it is assumed that a severed leg can be sewn back on as much as one likes. The most important thing is to bite the nails off one’s toes and get a pedicure.

Valentin Pavlov

Valentin Pavlov

My dear, beloved ‘Russian liberals,’ who correspond with me periodically with emotion and compassion, no one is going to open the valve back up for you (this is already not so easy to do) or return the money – at least for the foreseeable future – even if you give back Crimea. By the time that’s done, Russia will again be in 1991, after the reforms of Pavlov6 and the State Committee for the State of Emergency 2.0MMM. And more accurately, you already passed the point of no return last year near Ilovaisk and Torez.7  Therefore – good luck. Save your salt and matches for December. A big hello from London, where my partners and I are discussing a new project, ‘Intermarium.’8

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Chita is a city in Siberia.

2 ‘Krymnash’ (a truncated form of ‘Crimea Is Ours’ in English) is the name for the Russian government’s PR campaign for the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

3 ‘Vacationers’ refers to the Russian government’s public explanation of Russian citizens participating in the war in Ukraine. It said they were fighting while ‘on vacation.’

4 ‘Katsapstan’ is a derivation of the slang pejorative for Russians – katsap – used here to refer to Russia as a whole.

5 Possibly a mocking reference to Vladimir Putin in the form of a feminization of his name.

6 Valentin Pavlov was a prime minister of the Soviet Union who joined the attempted coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. The putsch attempt was led by something called the ‘State Committee for the State of Emergency in the USSR,’ of which Pavlov was a leading member.

Ilovaisk and Torez were the sites of battles that turned the tide of war in Ukraine in Russia’s favor in late summer 2014. The Ukrainians obtained proof of the involvement of regular Russian army units during and after the fighting there.

8 Intermarium was the name of a plan pursued by Polish Leader Józef Piłsudski after World War I to unite the central and eastern European states into a federation under Poland’s aegis. The federation would have included Belarus, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Ukraine and Yugoslavia.

Самое главное в России начнется в октябре и быстро закончится в декабр

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In-Depth: The Battle of Ilovaisk

14 August 2015

In the summer of 2014, the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) under the direction of its new government were making rapid progress in reclaiming territory that had been lost to separatists in southeastern Ukraine in preceding months. Maps of the lines of control issued by the National Security and Defense Council (RNBO) of Ukraine, while often inconsistent with maps from other sources, indicated that the UAF and the volunteer ‘battalions’ fighting alongside them were close to reestablishing control over Ukraine’s border with Russia, having surrounded the separatist rebels on Ukrainian territory to the north and south. Then, suddenly, everything began to go horribly wrong, and in a massive push along a broad front, the Russians forced Ukrainian fighters back west in a series of bloody battles.

Detail of the area around Ilovaisk (the topmost oval area outlined in blue). The green line in the lower right is the Russian border. The pink area is Russian-controlled.

Detail of area around Ilovaisk (topmost oval outlined in blue). Green line is Russian border. Pink area is Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine.

Perhaps the most significant of all these episodes was the Battle of Ilovaisk in August and September 2014. Ilovaisk, a town of perhaps 15,000, lies in the southern part of territory now controlled by the rebels, about 40 km east of the city of Donetsk. At Ilovaisk, Ukrainian forces were completely surrounded by both proxy and regular Russian armed units, who issued an ultimatum to surrender or die. When the Ukrainian command believed it had secured a safe passage out for its troops under a ceasefire, fighting suddenly broke out as the columns moved through the lines of encirclement, and Ukrainian forces experienced the brunt of the casualties. The tragedy left many demoralized and prone to cynicism. In what became a public scandal that attracted international attention, accusations of incompetence, mismanagement and corruption swirled through Ukrainian society in the aftermath.

In fairness, and with the benefit of hindsight, the UAF never really stood a chance of pushing Russian forces beyond Ukraine’s southeastern borders. The Ukrainian units were operating within their country’s limits, while regular units of the Russian Federation Armed Forces were hampered by no such constraints. Crossing Ukraine’s borders from the Russian Federation’s Rostov Region, Russian artillery, airborne and other units bombarded and easily surrounded the Ukrainians. Accusations of malfeasance directed at the nascent Ukrainian military command were undoubtedly misguided in many cases, despite several suspicious occurrences during the fighting. In the post-Soviet era, Ukraine’s armed forces had deteriorated drastically in relation to Russia’s, both in terms of the quality of military hardware and the quantity of properly trained soldiers. Furthermore, any shock or outrage at the way the Dnipropetrovsk regional government attempted to incentivize volunteer battalion commanders to go to Ilovaisk feels very much like false indignation in light of the emergency situation at the time. That military intelligence on the Ukrainian side was poor is only another reflection of the parlous state of Ukraine’s armed forces and security services as a whole in the summer of 2014.

Members of the volunteer 'Donbas' Battalion, training near Kyiv in 2014

Members of the volunteer ‘Donbas’ Battalion, training near Kyiv in 2014

The many Ukrainian volunteer ‘battalions’ that appeared in the aftermath of the Maidan Revolution, while often fighting bravely, were in reality much smaller than what Americans understand a ‘battalion’ to be. Most were the size of companies or even large platoons in many cases. Under equipped and understaffed, they stood no chance against the seemingly endless flow of weaponry and manpower coming over the Russian border in what amounted to – in fact – a Russian invasion.

Now, Ukrainian investigative reporters have shed light on what happened, and answers – or at least plausible explanations – are surfacing. Below are excerpts from a lengthy and detailed article published on the ‘Peter and Mazepa’ website on August 12th. The piece is helpful for a closer understanding of the battle that turned the tide in the war in late summer 2014. 

Ilovaisk: The Whole Story

Serg Marco ~ Пётр и Мазепа / 12 August 2015

This article has been written with a single purpose: to give a coherent picture of events at the front near Ilovaisk, as well as in areas directly or indirectly connected with the events, and to provide a picture of Ilovaisk and the environment in which Ukrainian formations were operating – a picture woven into the fabric of the confrontation. And furthermore, it aims to show the consequences that followed.

So, here we go.

Hennadiy Korban

Hennadiy Korban

On 5th August, the Dnipropetrovsk Regional State Administration Deputy Chief Hennadiy Korban gathered the commanders of the battalions ‘Azov’ (Andriy Biletsky), ‘Shakhtarsk’ (Andrey Filonenko), ‘Dnipro-1’ (Yuriy Bereza) and ‘Donbas’ (Semen Semenchenko). Also at the meeting were General [Ruslan] Homchak and the journalist Yuriy Butusov.

According to the testimony of people who were at the meeting, Korban informed them that an illegal armed formation numbering about 50-60 people was in Ilovaisk, and there were no fortifications.

Journalist Mark Gres describes what took place in Korban’s office

Lt. Gen. Ruslan Homchak

Lt. Gen. Ruslan Homchak

There is also evidence that Korban motivated the battalion commanders to take Ilovaisk with a rather impressive sum (the figure of $300,000 for each volunteer battalion commander has been cited). Arriving later, Homchak confirmed the absence of fortifications and discussed with those in attendance a scheme by which the volunteer fighters could interact with the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF).

As Korban later explained, the meeting was purely advisory.

In addition, a separate such meeting was later held in Kurakhove, attended by officials with no direct relationship to the conduct of the ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation of the Ukrainian Government ~ Ed.].

Patch of the 'Peacemaker' Battalion

Patch of the ‘Peacemaker’ Battalion

Volunteer battalions were moving around Ilovaisk (such battalions as ‘Peacemaker,’ ‘Ivano-Frankivsk,’ ‘Kherson’ and ‘Svityaz’ joined the above-mentioned battalions, total number of personnel of which was: ‘Donbas’ – 192 people; ‘Dnipro -1’ – 78; ‘Svityaz’ – 23; ‘Peacemaker’ – 52; ‘Kherson’ – 27; ‘Ivano-Frankivsk’ – 25; only 397 fighters in total), and two (39th and 40th) Territorial Defense Battalions [BTrO]. The BTrOs’ specified task was to form the headquarters of the ATO in two commanding heights around Ilovaisk, taking control of the surrounding territory and setting up roadblocks. They were supported by a unit of the 51st Mechanized Brigade. The ‘Azov’ and ‘Shakhtarsk’ battalions were not included in the composition of the above, because they voluntarily left the place of fighting after the first unsuccessful battles near Ilovaisk and refused to return. As the commander of ‘Shakhtarsk’ said, ‘Shakhtarsk’ and ‘Azov’ received permission to leave the sector from Ministry of Internal Affairs [MVD] adviser Anton Gerashchenko and Special Police Units Organizational Department Chief V. A. Chalavan.

The total group around Ilovaisk initially numbered about 940 people. Subsequently, the group was joined by units of the 51st and 28th Mechanized Brigades, and a tactical company of the 93rd Mechanized Brigade, who were located in Sector ‘D’ and had lost combat readiness as a result of the fighting in Sector ‘D’. At the time of the departure from the vicinity, the group numbered about 1,400 in total.

President Petro Poroshenko greets servicemen of the 51st Mechanized Brigade in Kyiv

President Petro Poroshenko greets servicemen of the 51st Mechanized Brigade in Kyiv

The BTrOs took up positions on the commanding heights and checkpoints, and the volunteer battalions went to Ilovaisk. Gen. Homchak, who was then in charge of Sector ‘B,’ was located at the sector’s headquarters.

Once it became clear that the illegal armed formations in Ilovaisk greatly exceeded estimates, and that powerful fortifications had been built in Ilovaisk itself, Filonenko and Biletsky refused to bring their battalions to the city after initial, unsuccessful battles (‘Azov’ and ‘Donbas’ suffered losses in killed and wounded while trying to enter the city). According to Mark Gres, the money Biletsky received in the office was given to Korban, as Biletsky refused to move his battalion into Ilovaisk. Semenchenko and Bereza and still brought their battalions to the city. Units of volunteer fighters were tied down in battle, and Semenchenko himself received light wounds and was evacuated from Ilovaisk. Vyacheslav Vlasenko (Owl), an officer of the ‘Donbas’ battalion, assumed the leadership of the volunteer battalions in Ilovaisk, and volunteer battalions occupied half of the city. On August 20th, the National Security and Defense Council (RNBO) reported taking full control of Ilovaisk.

In the second half of August 24th, information was received concerning the movement of an armored column near Ilovaisk with no identifying marks [readers will remember the Russian units that seized control of Crimea in March 2014 bore no identifying insignia, and were thus identified by the regime in Moscow as local militiamen ~ Ed.]. The force was engaged with open fire. Subsequently, information was received by the Ukrainian side that these were Russian troops consisting of 4 BTGrs [battalion tactical groups ~ Ed.]. One of these units, BTGr 331 of the Russian Federation Airborne Forces was broken at the village of Dzerkalne, and 10 Russian paratroopers were captured. In fact, border crossings by regular units of the Russian Federation were starting to be confirmed.

Troops of Ukraine's 30th Mechanized Brigade in the ATO zone in late July 2014 (Photo: Oleksandr Klymenko)

Troops of Ukraine’s 30th Mechanized Brigade in the ATO zone in late July 2014 (Photo: Oleksandr Klymenko)

In Sector ‘D,’ events unfolded as follows. On the night of 13-14 August, following delays in occupying certain areas and positions, and improper equipment of forward points and lines of defense, a panic ensued upon exposure to enemy fire. Personnel of the [Ukrainian] 30th Mechanized Brigade (without the 1st and 2nd Battalions), part of the 51st Mechanized Brigade and the 7th Company of the 72nd Mechanized Brigade made an unauthorized withdrawal from the occupied positions around the mound of Savur-Mohyla, Stepanivka and Hryhorivka. This withdrawal, according to witnesses, was uncontrolled, chaotic and actually turned into a rout. It led to the formation of gaps in the outer line of the blockade, which could not be controlled by remaining troops and artillery fire.

Most of the 30th Brigade were in a state of panic, refusing to carry out any orders and setting out independently for the base camp, located near the settlement of Myrne in Zaporizhia region, and places of permanent deployment (Novohrad-Volynskyi). The headquarters of the sector was trying to keep control of parts of Sector ‘D,’ but the withdrawal of the above-mentioned units greatly complicated the situation in the area. In addition, about 400 members of the 72nd Brigade and about 50 from the 51st Brigade moved onto the territory of the Russian Federation due to the constant attacks from across the border. Because of the incessant bombardment from over the Russian border, the groupings were depleting and withdrawing. Subsequently, for the above reasons, on the night of 6-7 August, five BTGrs totaling about 3,000 personnel withdrew.

On August 24th, after damage had been inflicted from the territory of Russia, the 5th BTrO left its position, having fulfilled its task of strengthening the state border areas at the outskirts of Kuteinykove and Mokroelanchyk by setting up roadblocks in threatened areas. Thus, our troops’ right flank was bared. Its personnel managed to make it all the way to Ivano-Frankivsk region before stopping. Actually, the ‘Prykarpattya’ battalion set a record, covering about a thousand kilometers in less than two days. We were only able to catch up with it at Mariupol, where the battalion commander wrote by hand – on the order for his return to fighting positions – that his battalion could not carry out combat missions and was continuing its movement to Ivano-Frankivsk.

Troops of Russia's 98th Guards Airborne Division on parade

Troops of Russia’s 98th Guards Airborne Division on parade

In connection with the abandonment of borders, the difficult situation in the war zone, as well as reports of Col. P. D. Romygaylo on large groups of armored vehicles and trucks with personnel crossing the border, by midnight on August 24th Sector ‘D’ had ceased to exist. Units were ordered to withdraw from the sector. Taking advantage of the withdrawal of UAF forces were 9 [Russian] battalion tactical groups, of which five (from the 10th Airborne Regiment of the 76th Airborne Division, 19th Independent Motor Rifle Brigade, 331st Airborne Regiment of the 98th Guards Airborne Division and 247th Airborne Regiment of the 7th Airborne Division) (battalion tactical group of the 104th Marine Regiment) moved smoothly onto Ukrainian territory in the direction of Luhansk, and up to four (from 331st Airborne Regiment of the 98th Airborne Division, 19th Independent Motor Rifle Brigade, 8th Motor Rifle Brigade, 31st and 56th Independent Airborne Battalions) – toward Donetsk. From that moment, the balance of forces and resources of the respective parties shifted in favor of the enemy.

Google Earth map indicating advance of Russian forces to Ilovaisk

Google Earth map indicating direction of Russian advance on Ilovaisk

Due to the road to Ilovaisk having been opened, a division of the Russian Federation came into the vicinity of Ilovaisk and began forming a ring around the Ilovaisk group.

The leadership of the battle was carrying out its mission in the area of Ilovaisk, and Gen. Homchak was stationed there at that time.

The active phase of the fighting took place on 25-26 August, as a result of which the 4th Company, 2nd Battalion of the 51st Mechanized Brigade was broken. A large proportion of the blame for this defeat lies with the impact of the media’s reports on the situation. Military activities, together with pressure generated from media reports, provoked units of the 51st Mechanized Brigade to abandon their positions, leading to a weakening of the left flank of our group and the surrounding of the Ilovaisk troops.

A BTGr [battalion tactical group] of the 92nd Brigade went to Ilovaisk to help, but on August 27th it came under fire: drones monitored the column and experienced gunners worked on it. The approaching aid did not reach its destination. The 92nd suffered great losses of hardware, although – as it turned out – this was the least bloody option in as much as combat personnel were not lost, and the men of the BTGr of the 92nd were unable to put up substantial resistance in view of the composition and structure of the Russian units’ BTGrs.

Debris of houses in Ilovaisk after the battle (AP)

Debris of houses in Ilovaisk (AP)

Furthermore, given that the attacks from the side of the insurgents and units of the Russian armed forces did not stop, that our units’ ammunition had come to an end, and that the commanders of the volunteer battalions – not wanting to conduct combat activities by ultimatum – were demanding immediate withdrawal, the idea developed at ATO headquarters of unleashing the groups of forces and resources of Sector ‘B.’

This idea for unlocking the group in the area of Ilovaisk was supposed to attract the 79th and 95th Airborne Brigades, defeat the Russian armed forces group and complete implementation of specific actions around Ilovaisk.

But considering that the units (3rd BTGr of the 72nd Mechanized Brigade) that arrived to strengthen Sector ‘B’ did not fulfill the task of capturing and holding the designated area, and that the approach of the 79th Airborne Brigade reserve was delayed, it was decided that this operation should be carried out on 1-2 September 2014. At that time there were one and a half airborne battalions in reserve. These were involved in the restoration of combat equipment, which required some time.

At the same time, the delay in the operation of unlocking was associated with the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Luhansk region, where, as a result of the invasion, three BTGrs of the Russian Federation armed forces posed a real threat of blockade of our troops in the area of Lutuhyne and Heorhiivka, and access to the rear of our groups near Debaltseve.

At this time, because of the ultimatums of the volunteer battalion commanders for early withdrawal and the reluctance to conduct combat operations in the area, plans for unlocking the group of forces and resources of Sector ‘B’ in the area of Ilovaisk were not implemented.

Since Russian troops had faced stiff resistance and suffered heavy losses, they perceived no advantage in getting involved in protracted fighting on foreign soil. The Russian Federation therefore applied diplomatic measures for the cessation of hostilities and shooting. In the media, the President of the Russian Federation made appeals to the militants concerning a ceasefire and demands to release the Ukrainian units from the cauldron.

Col. Gen. Viktor Muzhenko (L), appointed Chief of the General Staff in July 2014, with military advisor Dmytro Yarosh

Col. Gen. Viktor Muzhenko (L), appointed Chief of the General Staff in July 2014, with advisor Dmytro Yarosh

As a result, an agreement was reached between the Russian and Ukrainian staffs on the withdrawal of troops from Ilovaisk. Once the conditions began to change from the unilateral withdrawal of troops from the cauldron at the initiative of the Russian Staff, Ukrainian Armed Forces Chief of the General Staff V. N. Muzhenko deemed the guarantees given to be inadequate and ordered Homchak to take the group out to the breach at 3:00 a.m. on August 29th, leaving with small dispersed groups. Homchak replied that the battalions did not want to conduct an assault in this situation, and he would provide guarantees for an exit at his level through interaction with the Russian units.

In this regard, the following agreement was reached: at dawn on August 29th, 2014, with the arrival of 2 units of armored personnel carriers from the Russian armed forces (one in Mnohopillia, the second in Agronomichne) by two routes the remaining columns of our units would be escorted to the border of Starobesheve-Novokaterynivka.

Map of exit corridors (in red) for Ukrainian troops out of Ilovaisk (top center) on 29 August 2014

Map of exit corridors (in red) for Ukrainian troops south from Ilovaisk (top center) on 29 August 2014

On the morning of the 29th, two columns and units were formed and awaited the order to exit. At about six o’clock in the morning on August 29th, one armored personnel carrier (APC) came to the settlement of Monopillia from the armed forces of the Russian Federation, where a Russian officer reported to the intelligence chief of operational command ‘South’ that the conditions for exit had changed, and they would allow the exit of the units along the same route through Sector ‘D,’ which they pointed out to us and without weapons, ammunition or military equipment.

In answer to the question, ‘What is the reason for the change to the agreement?’ an officer of the Russian armed forces began making a call somewhere and delayed the time by half an hour a few times (recall that the exit was planned for 6:00 a.m.). After learning about the changed conditions, Homchak ordered columns to proceed with weapons along the initial route. As it turned out, the Russians delayed the time to be able to dig in along the original route of the column. At 8:15, the column appeared along the initial routes.

UAF Armored Column

UAF Armored Column

The first blockade ring was crossed relatively quietly. When approaching the second ring, however, the columns began to come under fire. The Ukrainian units began to return fire and to try to break through the Russian positions. It must be said that in areas where the machines had not yet had time to dig and arrange fortifications, the Russian units suffered quite significant damage, taking hits to several tanks, APCs and infantry fighting vehicles, and the enemy sustained losses in manpower. But as the column approached the dug-in positions, the Ukrainian units were shot at, the columns were dispersed, machinery was destroyed, and soldiers began to flee from the battlefield on foot.

Homchak and Bereza, who were traveling together, did not coordinate the actions of the fighters in the columns. Having driven into the forest plantations, the vehicles were abandoned. And Homchak with Bereza began to move to the forest belt with driver and journalists, who until this had been in minivans.

After that night, having got rid of the journalists and a soldier (the injured driver), the two of them left the vicinity on foot.

Leaving the journalists, Homchak and Bereza disappeared from the radio airwaves for three days, did not transmit anything, and no one could confirm where they had been for these three days. Appearing in a settlement controlled by the UAF, Homchak refused to go to the headquarters for debriefing, saying that he had to put himself in order, and left for Kyiv. Bereza did not come to the headquarters to provide a report on his activities either.

A Ukrainian fighters stands next to a destroyed UAF Grad missile launcher after the Battle of Ilovaisk

A Ukrainian fighters stands next to a destroyed UAF Grad missile launcher after the Battle of Ilovaisk

At that time, the General Staff was trying to stabilize the line of contact, to create resistance to the enemy BTGr and reach agreement with the Russian HQ on the extradition of prisoners.

Through agreements between the general staffs of Russia and Ukraine, in the area where the columns were broken, groups of people moved around to pick up the wounded and the dead. The delegated group was sent under the command of Col. [Ihor] Palahniuk. The unit was disarmed at the checkpoint near Starobesheve by the ‘DNR-ovites’ [‘DNR’ is the abbreviation for the separatist entity, the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic,’ and ‘DNR-ovites’ is a slang term referring to the entity’s ‘citizens. ~ Ed.], who did not know about the agreement between Russia and Ukraine. Col. Palahniuk voluntarily disarmed and, risking his freedom and lacking security guarantees, was escorted by the ‘DNR-ovites’ to the ‘Minister of Defense of the DNR’ in Starobesheve to convince him to give up the wounded and the dead. A few hours later, the Russians confirmed to the ‘DNR-ovites’ that the agreement had been reached, and the group came and began to pick up the dead and wounded on the routes.

Burned-out T-72BA tank in Starobesheve (Sept. 2014)

Burned-out T-72BA tank in Starobesheve (Sept. 2014)

According to the results, about 160 dead were removed, half a dozen of which later proved to Russian soldiers. Also taken out were more than two hundred wounded. Negotiations commenced on 380 captured Ukrainian soldiers. The Russian side returned almost all the captive Ukrainians. Col. Palahniuk himself estimates the losses of the Ukrainian side at about 200 total killed from both the UAF and volunteer battalions. Fighting in other areas did not stop while these procedures were taking place.

Using the forces of a rocket unit from the 19th Missile Brigade; an artillery unit from the 55th Artillery Brigade; three reactive batteries from the 27th Reactive Regiment of 72nd Mechanized and 17th Tank Brigades; and a self-propelled artillery battery of the 17th Tank Brigade, a barrage of fire was directed at a Russian BTGr located on the former base of Special Operations Unit 3. Taking known coordinates and terrain into account played a positive role in the adjustment of artillery. As a result, the Russian BTGr suffered great losses – more than a hundred dead personnel, as well as major losses in armaments and equipment, and one of the leading operations groups of the Russian GRU [Main Intelligence Directorate, or Russian military intelligence ~ Ed.] was destroyed.

There were other successful battles on the new line of contact as well.

Ukrainian Airborne Troops in Donetsk Region (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Ukrainian Airborne Troops in Donetsk Region (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

So, on the night of 2-3 September, the 79th and 95th Airborne Brigades marched from the areas of Kramatorsk and Slovyansk, respectively, to the launch areas for the shock-search operations: 79th Airborne Brigade to the area of Dobropillia; 95th Brigade – to Berezivka.

During the course of September 3rd, assault units of these brigades conducted shock-search operations in designated areas and cleaned such settlements as Vuhledar, Volodymyrivka, Blahodatne, Olenivka, Mykolaivka, Dokuchaievsk and Novotroitske. During these actions a lot of militants, weapons and military equipment were found and destroyed. Further, under cover of darkness, the assault units pinpointed the initial focus areas for demonstratiive activities (79th Brigade – Pryvillia; 95th Brigade – Mykolaivka) and prepared to implement them there.

From about nine o’clock in the morning, these units conducted demonstrative activities in the direction of Volnovakha-Mariupol and back. After carrying out these actions, by the end of the day the assault units of the 79th and 95th Airborne Brigades were concentrated in the starting areas for raids on September 5th: 79th Brigade – Privolye; 95th Brigade – Hranitne.

To support the actions of the 79th and 95th Airborne Brigades (up to 1,500 thousand troops) during raid operations, shock-search actions were planned in the direction of Mariupol-Novoazovsk by units of the 23rd Territorial Defense Battalion and the National Guard, with the support of the second battalion tactical group of the 17th Tank Brigade and actions of units of the 1st Operations Brigade of the National Guard (up to 100) to sweep the area of ​​Telmanovo from the district of Hranitne.

From the morning of September 5th, using the results of the fire damage, with indirect and direct artillery support, assault units of the 79th and 95th Airborne Brigades made the transition to Kalmius and began to conduct raids.

At the same time, units of the 23rd Territorial Defense Battalion, in conjunction with a tank company of the a second battalion tactical group of the 17th Tank Brigade and units of the National Guard, began shock-search operations in the direction of Mariupol-Novoazovsk.

During the course of raid operations by assault units of the 79th and 95th Airborne Brigades in collaboration with units of the National Guard, damage from shelling was caused to the Nikopol Feroalloy Plant and units of the Russian Federation armed forces, damaging their communications. A sweep of Telmanove was carried out, and a significant number of fighters and weapons were destroyed.

Map of ATO raid operations carried outkraine's 95th and 79th Airborne Brigades from 2-5 Sept. 2014 (routes shown in pink, orange and yellow0

Map of raids conducted by Ukraine’s 95th and 79th Airborne Brigades from 2-5 Sept. 2014 (routes shown in pink, orange and yellow)

In this case, there were attempts to inflict damage on the Ukrainian units engaged in raid actions, but they achieved nothing. Much credit for this lies in the skillful actions of the brigade commanders, who personally took part and directed the actions of their subordinates, fulfilling their assignments with virtually no losses (only the Brigade Commander of the 79th Brigade, who personally took part in the next battle, was wounded).

At the same time, a decision taken at a high level on a ceasefire from 16:00 on September 5th did not allow our units to complete their tasks during the course of raid operations, namely to move towards Novoazovsk and finish mopping up.

In connection with the loss of units of the Russian Federation in the direction of Luhansk (in the area of Luhansk, Heorhiivka and Khryashchevatoye, and more losses in the battles for Luhansk Airport), losses in the direction of Donetsk (in Ilovaisk, Kuteinykove and Starobesheve), and the likelihood of engagement with the Ukrainian units performing raid actions in the neighboring sector, the progress of the Russian BTGrs onto the territory of Ukraine was halted, and the troops have remained there to this day, at the same positions – in fact – at which they were then stopped. And then came the ceasefire.

During the ceasefire the General Staff began organizing a new line of defense, based on the changing conditions at the front and taking into account the presence on the territory of Ukraine of Russian BTGrs.

And in Ukrainian society, unrest was building over ‘who is to blame.’

Commanders of volunteer battalions and Korban charged the ATO leadership with ‘holding the Ilovaisk bag.’ Homchak blamed the Ilovaisk defeat on [Lt. Gen. Petro] Lytvyn, who broke out of Sector ‘D,’ leading to the exit of the Russian BTGrs around Ilovaisk.

Korban said that he didn’t know the commander of the ‘Shakhtarsk’ battalion, who had spoken about the meeting in the Regional State Administration, and that the meeting had more of a consultative character.

As for the commander of the ‘Shakhtarsk’ battalion who was unknown to Korban, before that Filonenko had called Korban the ‘godfather’ of the ‘Shakhtarsk’ battalion. But who said that ‘goddads’ don’t experience sudden memory loss…

Lt. Gen. Petro Lytvyn

Lt. Gen. Petro Lytvyn

Bereza accused Lytvyn of fleeing from Sector ‘D,’ which was later contradicted by the investigation. Actually, Bereza accused Lytvyn of what he himself had done.

One of those present at the meeting, journalist Yuriy Butusov, also blamed the defeat at Ilovaisk on Muzhenko

And Mark Gres, who began to expose participants in the Ilovaisk tragedy, appeared in hospital after an assassination attempt.

The Verkhovna Rada conducted an investigation in which the generals of the General Staff evaded investigation, in contrast to Homchak, whose information was later partially disproven. Basically, the most interesting question before the commission was the following:

The question to which the Commission has not received a logical answer is why, in ‘the military operation to crush the main forces of the illegal armed groups in Ilovaisk and take control,’ units of the Armed Forces took part in the blockade of the city, but the defeat of the main forces of illegal formations was entrusted to volunteer battalions, which are designed to perform second-tier police functions and have weapons appropriate for these functions? Who, specifically, confirmed this decision and why?

It is necessary to establish why the planning of the operation to seize a main transport hub of strategic importance did not give rise to doubts about the enemy’s insignificant powers, why was no additional exploration of the situation in the city carried out, and why was the possibility that the terrorist groups would increase in strength by using the railroad not taken into account?

The first attempt to enter Ilovaisk from two directions took place on August 10th, and clashed with a disguised fortified area of the separatists and mined areas. Casualties in the ‘Donbas’ battalion amounted to 4 people.

The ‘Shakhtarsk’ battalion advanced in a second column, reinforced by two anti-tank guns.

Such an organization of the advance raises more questions than it answers.

Why, if there were about 30-80 separatists from the local population, was the offensive reinforced by two anti-tank guns?

Why, if there were doubts about the intelligence, was the first echelon not composed of units of the Armed Forces with heavy weapons?

These questions remain unanswered.

But the answers have not yet been received…

In order to dispel some of the questions on Ilovaisk, we talked to officers involved in those hostilities that were so tragic for Ukraine, asking questions for which it would be interesting to get answers for the public.

An interview with the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Viktor Mykolaiovych Muzhenko

Dear readers: The interview with the Chief of the General Staff of Ukraine will come out a little later, we think within a day or two.

This delay is due to the fact that the information expressed by Viktor Mykolaiovych has a certain resonant context that would entail a certain reaction from our enemy. To be ready for it, we have requested a temporary postponement of the interview in order that damage does not result from a good purpose. The initial request was to postpone the article, but then it was decided to postpone only one interview.

The Chief of the General Staff of the UAF himself categorically does not see anything unlawful in that which he has voiced and would like to announce the facts and the names listed in this article. He insists on it.

But let’s wait. For its part, we will ensure that the interview is released either in the form in which he voiced it, or not at all.

We apologize for the delay.

Ukrainian troops bury their comrades after the Battle of Ilovaisk

Ukrainian troops bury their comrades after the Battle of Ilovaisk

Иловайск: Все точки над і

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