Colonel Eduard Shevtchenko commander of special force detachment, shares his experience of Illovaysk actions.
-My special forces were not directly involved in combat for Illovaysk or in the process of leaving the town – told us Eduard Shevtchenko. – But we did have a chance to observe the situation that was taking place behind enemy lines. Special forces worked in the area of IIlovaysk after the 24th of August. We clearly saw the convoys moving towards Illovaysk. There is no doubt those troops were Russians, though with no insignias. First of all, signal intelligence proved those people were Russians. Secondly, it pretty easy to tell a group of local guerrillas or soldiers of fortune even if they used to be professional servicemen from a regular force unit.
The first thing that hits the eye is the way leaders distribute tasks to their subordinates in formation, besides that the way discipline is respected in terms of behavior, how they align the vehicles the same way, organization of the ground, reinforcement of the positions, the way the carry out radio communication. Among other things you could always see that vehicles were painted the same way and dozens of other details very noticeable for an experienced eye. Thirdly, the information about Russian troops was proved by our captives. One of them, captured in the Granitneh region, even complained that Russians wouldn’t let them (local guerrillas) anywhere near there location. And that was the reason why instead of “polite people” the terrorists called them “evil people” respectively. Moreover, Russians could open fire if the separatist troops approached them. When we examined their camps after they had left we found leftovers from Russian MREs and sometimes medicines.
When special forces acted in the region of Komsomolske, Shyrokeh and Telmanoveh they always told a significant difference from those armed gangs they dealt with before. Similar number of airborne combat vehicles in Ukraine could have been only in the 25th airborne brigade.
These are not the ten vehicles taken away from the airborne at the very beginning of the ATO, - says the special force commander, - besides there’s discipline, language, organization, well everything showed those people were not miners and tractor drivers.
- I’ve had an opportunity to talk with the 10 paratroopers, the ones, as Putin said, “had been lost”. He was lying, - colonel continued. They were captured after our artillery had dismantled the convoy of 331st airborne regiment. I asked them: “Did you not see that your cell phones were in Ukrainian roaming?” They told me that their company commander had taken their cell phones and IDs back in Rostov region, not to be lost during the exercise. I checked the list of confiscated items, there were no IDs or cell phones on them. The started thinking they were in Ukraine when they passed road signs with Ukrainian letters “ і ” and “ ї ” on them. As the special forces commander says, the volunteer battalions panicked in a way.
They had minor casualties. Russians regardless of the fact that they outnumbered our troops in manpower and heavy weapons still suffered considerable casualties. Raw soldiers were scared after the first artillery strikes, - stated colonel Shevtchenko. Our guys new the terrain better. Under these circumstances the could have used the situation more successfully. They should not have left Illovaysk. They could have organized defense in the town and remain there for a long time. Wall protect you. We were in a similar situation in Dzerzhynsk. Our group was blocked in a building, we were under heavy fire, the tank only had shot 21 rounds at us. The walls covered us, but if we had decided to leave, we would have been shot like hens.
According to the officers words Russian units suffered considerable casualties. After a slight shock from the Russian invasion, Ukrainian intelligence did start providing accurate information about the movement of Russian troops, their camps and location. By the end of August, ATO command had pulled up enough artillery in the region.
- The artillery was awesome, - said colonel. – They worked really accurately that time. Our artillery gradually destroyed the invader. I could see it with my own eyes, how by our coordinates the artillery covered Russians. Usually they took the bodies of their soldiers, but sometimes maybe because of panic, they left them on the ground. The bodies were then buried by locals in big large collective graves. In the Sloviansk region we saw freshly dug graves with the word “Soldier” on their grave plates. Thanks to the heavy resistance of Ukrainians there was no second wave of Russian troops. Second wave has to be sent when the first wave has achieved something. But Russian first wave didn’t have any significant success. Probably their biggest success was in near Illovaysk, but it was not their tactical or combat victory. It was the result of the Russian backstabbing and the number of Ukrainian casualties. In tactical and operation perspective there is absolutely nothing remarkable. They just peppered our units with mines and projectiles. So let them not be proud of what they’ve done. For them Illovaysk is not a victory. They simply executed the competitor who believed in the agreement and didn’t resist – that is dishonor. Strong ones don’t act like that.