The ATO commandment accused “Aydar” battalion of the unauthorised attack on the enemy which led to grave consequences, and even wanted to disband the military unit. However the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko intervened, and secretary of the National Security and Defence Council Andriy Parubiy deemed the actions of the soldiers heroic.
On the night of June 18th near Luhansk, a battle began that lasted 17 hours. During the battle, 15 Ukrainian soldiers were killed, 10 were wounded, many were taken hostage. Among them was 33-year-old Nadiya Savchenko (call sign “Pulya” (Bullet)) from “Aydar” battalion, also known as “Ukrainian G.I. Jane.”
The blame for all these losses was put by the Defence Ministry of Ukraine on the commandment of the territorial defence battalion “Aydar.” They say the battalion made the decision without authorisation by ATO headquarters to attack the separatists in Luhansk. However they did not weigh their forces well and having encountered a strong resistance from the enemy, asked for help. The ATO commandment sent two operative groups to the location of battle, and they aided the soldiers of “Aydar” to get out of the zone under the mercenaries’ control.
Fakty spoke to the commander of “Aydar” battalion, and also spoke to other participants of the battle. Their version of the events is very different from the one sounded by the military officers.
“On the evening of June 17th, I, as usual, set up military security: car patrols and ‘secrets’,” tells commander of “Aydar” battalion Sergiy Melnychuk. “This is done in order to ensure the security of the soldiers of the main department. At dawn one of the “secrets” noted a group of mercenaries approaching the location of our soldiers – the airborne battalion. My soldiers opened fire and this way switched the enemy’s attention to them.
During the shooting the guys killed 16 separatists. However the enemy soon got reinforcements. The mercenaries surrounded my guys. But they managed to hide in the basement of the golf club (the battle happened on the outskirts of Luhansk) and barricade themselves. The Russian mercenaries tried to “smoke them out” from under cover by throwing grenades in. My guys spent three hours sitting and suffocating on the smoke, and then got word to me via walkie-talkie and asked for help.
As is customary, I immediately reported the situation to the leader of the headquarters. Then I took five soldiers by car to the golf club. We have no military equipment, therefore I usually transport the soldiers using my own car. The guys switched fire to themselves, distracting the mercenaries from their friends locked in the basement. Then they destroyed the equipment the separatists had driven there so that they were unable to hide.
Meanwhile I made another five trips, delivering the guys from our battalion to the location of the battle. Seeing that the situation was serious, I asked the leadership of the neighbouring airborne battalion to support us. The neighbours immediately responded. But the armoured carrier mechanics made a wrong turn and the column came right to the enemy’s anti-tank siege. The mercenaries easily diffused the armoured car with the soldiers. The soldiers, having communicated with us via radio, asked for help. We immediately went there. First, we had to immediately get the soldiers out from the siege and second, we cannot allow the enemy to capture our equipment. We have very little as such.
A cruel battle started. In the end we occupied 15 kilometres of the occupied territories, got two armoured carriers and two armoured cars from the separatists and captured then anti-tank position of the enemy.
Later the commandment of the ATO will call this “an unauthorised entry to enemy territory” and send reinforcements?
There were no reinforcements. We got a call from the ATO headquarters with orders to cease fire. According to the information we intercepted via radio, I already knew: the “Zarya” battalion that countered us suffered huge losses. Only eight mercenaries were left alive. They communicated with the ATO headquarters and asked for a truce. Had the commandment not given the order to cease fire, we would have entered Luhansk freely. At the moment the enemy’s forces were completely defeated.
But part of your soldiers were taken hostage.
Our battalion suffered losses during the storming of the anti-tank position. This is one of the reasons we ceased fire. The lives of my soldiers mean more to me than victory or glory.
I heard that six soldiers, not to be taken hostage, blew themselves up with a grenade.
I saw it… I can’t… Don’t ask me anymore.”
“When the guys were surrounded by separatists, they bunched together,” continues battalion “Aydar” soldier Kirill Sergeyev. “They whispered something and then took each other’s hands in a circle. One of the soldiers threw an F-1 grenade into the centre of the circle… They kept lying like that, hands clasped. When we took away the bodies, we barely managed to pry their fingers apart. The heroics of our soldiers shocked us all. At the same time it proved that only the strongly willed fight on the front line. Some of the soldiers of our battalion survived the Afghan war, served in hot spots. They said they have not yet seen such heroism.”
Some mass media, citing ATO commandment, stated: having made an unauthorised attack on the separatists from Luhansk, “Aydar” soldiers wanted to repeat the success of “Azov” battalion, which attacked a week mercenary garrison in Mariupol. However the attempt at glory cost too much.
“The ATO leadership is trying to blame us for its own mistakes,” says Kirill Sergeyev. “Aydar was created in the beginning of May, and we were only given weapons after a month. Already after we freed the city of Schastye from separatists. How did we fight for a month? With a crossbow and miner spades. I am not joking. Without any other weapons, the guys used files on spades.
On the day of the presidential elections in Ukraine our battalion fought with the Russian mercenaries near Novoaydar in Luhansk oblast. De facto we countered well-armed rebels with our bare hands. However we won the battle. But we had a couple of dozen rifles. We used them on June 15th in the attack – when we chased Russian mercenaries away from Schastye.
A strategic object was located in Schastye – the bridge over the Siverskiy Donets. The separatists mined it. However the guys managed to take the bridge, not allowing the enemy to blow it up. Besides we did everything possible to preserve the thermal power plant (it supplies Luhansk and adjacent districts with electricity). I think it was heroical on our part.
However we should not expect award. It’s good we at least got rifles. As they explained to us, they could not give us assault weapons because of bureaucracy (though the battalion signed the receipt forms three weeks before). All this time the weapons were in vans near our unit, under convoy. And we were filing spades…
The situation with uniform was a complete joke. The uniform was size 50 and over. Those who were unable to buy something normal have to wear the wrong size and look like inflated parachutes. 350 people got 18 pairs of boots. Many guys are wearing trainers they brought from home. This is nothing. Some, hoping they would get uniforms, came to the front line in flip-flops. This is what they are still wearing. Thankfully, the volunteers are helping. Recently “Army SOS” and “Wings Phoenix” supplied us with bulletproof vests, sleeping bags, supportive vests, optics and night vision.”
On monday it was discovered that the leadership of the Defence Ministry of Ukraine intended to disband the “guilty” battalion. On the same day, live on “Svoboda Slova” on ICTV, NSDC secretary Andriy Parubiy stated that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is personally in charge of the “Aydar” situation.
“The President suspended any action and orders regarding the battalion,” said Andriy Parubiy. “I am sure Poroshenko will make sense of the situation and will be able to make the right decision. The actions of the soldiers of the battalion were not just adequate, but heroic.”
On his part, the deputy Minister of Defence of Ukraine Igor Kabanenko stated that “Aydar” will continue serving “within the law.”
Meanwhile the commander of the battalion Sergiy Melnychuk accused the ATO leadership of giving information to the enemy.
“I am sure there are traitors among the ATO commandment,” says Melnychuk. “The hostage separatists are laughing in our faces: ‘We know about every flight your jets and helicopters make, we know all the orders. When bombings start, we simply leave our position and then return’.”
fakty.ua asked the workers of the ATO headquarters to comment on this statement.
“Only competent government bodies can blame such and such general of treason, for example, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine,” speaker of the ATO headquarters Valdyslav Seleznyov told us. “Otherwise these statements are ungrounded.”
Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina