Remembering the Victims of Putin’s Ilovaisk Treachery
Photo: Serhiy Nuzhmenko, Radio Svoboda
On August 29, Ukrainians honoured the memory of all those soldiers killed exactly two years ago in the Ilovaisk Battle in which Russian President Vladimir Putin played a major – and treacherous - role.
According to official figures, 366 Ukrainian soldiers died during those last days of August, with a further 429 wounded. 128 were taken prisoner and 158 are missing, believed dead.
After widespread expectation in July 2014 that the Ukrainian military would soon totally defeat the Kremlin-backed militants in Donbas, the situation changed dramatically in August. Attempts by the Ukrainian military to regain control of the city of Ilovaisk from fighters linked to the so-called ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ began on Aug 7, 2014 and went badly wrong, with government forces becoming encircled by the militants. The latter were from the outset reported to be heavily backed by Russian forces. By Aug 28, the situation was dire and in the early hours of Aug 29, 2014, an
This noted that the “insurgents have achieved great success in countering Kyiv’s military operation which presented a deadly threat to the population of Donbas and had already led to huge losses among the civilian population. As a result of the insurgents’ actions, a large number of Ukrainian soldiers who were not taking part in the military operation of their own will, but obeying orders, were besieged.
I call on the insurgents to open a humanitarian corridor for Ukrainian soldiers who have become encircled to avoid senseless losses, and provide them with the chance to leave the military zone without obstruction to be re-united with their families, to return them to their mothers, wives and children and urgently provide medical aid to the wounded.”
Within hours this ’call for mercy’ had resulted in an agreement for the creation of such a safe corridor. Government forces began leaving in a column of 60 vehicles, with the first carrying dead and wounded soldiers and flying a white flag.
The agreement was a trick and the vehicles immediately came under attack with the use of mortar fire and heavy ammunition. A minimum of 100 soldiers were killed, and many others taken captive as a result of that treachery.
Among those taken prisoner near Ilovaisk was Yehor Vorobyov, a TV Espreso journalist who on Aug 28 had interviewed two Russian paratroopers caught by the Ukrainian army.
The first report in Russia of Russian soldiers being killed in Ukraine came on Aug 25, and many swiftly followed. By Aug 27, 2014, the independent newspaper Vedomosti was asking: “If Russia is not at war, then who is in those freshly dug graves?” Lev Schlosberg, the Pskov journalist and politician who revealed the first deaths of probably most of a Pskov paratrooper regiment was savagely attacked just days after he made the information public. Even if we leave the question ofwhy Boris Nemtsov was murdered open, a number of human rights activists and others who probed Russian military deaths have faced criminal prosecution or attacks.
Polish television crews had, by then, long been showing Russian armed personnel carriers, artillery and anti-aircraft weapons turning onto a road leading to the border. See for example,
On Aug 22, NATO