As a result of attacks staged against the Donetsk airport, units of terrorist fighters suffered heavy losses, including the destruction of several tanks, and especially the elimination of a special forces formation, according to a news report of a Russian internet forum. Their stated sources were “those wounded and those who came to see them.” The author of the post also noted that his chronology of events “from today’s battle for the airport,” might be incomplete, not being in possession of all the information about what transpired.
Nonetheless, he presents a clear picture of the fact that this has been a day of serious losses on the part of the separatists and their Russian special forces who reinforced their offensive against the Donetsk airport on October 2.
The following is our presentation of this report, without any further editorializing.
“I have recently returned from kalinin (the oblast region hospital), have gotten cleaned up and am now ready to recount the chronology of events from today’s battle for the Donetsk airport. Let me just say at the start that I might miss some details, not having 100% of the information. So please don’t criticize the details. The following information has been gathered from the wounded and from their comrades who came to visit them.
To begin, it was 5 am when the announcement was made that a combined battle group would move forward into the airport raion district. The battle group would be very mixed, whatever was left of the formations Oplot/Vostok, depleted as they had become and with no new members, accounting now for a few companies of a Slav battalion, and also young men from the Russian Federation. These were fresh reinforcements, but I don’t know their unit names, other than they were not regular army.
The total number in this group would have been slightly more than 400 soldiers. They were met at the gathering point by nearly 60 fully equipped “cosmonauts”, possibly from Alpha, although I am skeptical of this since Alpha is involved more with counter-terrorism and the release of prisoners. The commanding officer introduced himself as a Major. The assembled military equipment included 8 tanks (72s and 64s), 3 armoured personnel carriers, several other armoured weapon carriers, which were joined later by 4 transport vehicles with anti-aircraft weapons. Nearby a battery of mortars was deployed, together with many (stockpiles of mortars).
At around this same time the howitzers located at Makiivka opened up, along with barrages of the airport from Hrads and Hurricane weapons.
Immediately after this “softening up” by the artillery the first attack of reconnaissance soldiers went in. A third used the two tanks for protection, and the transport trucks advanced towards the terminal. Up until this time the reconnaissance information we had was that all weapons had been removed the day earlier. Within 15 minutes, however the tanks were almost simultaneously disabled by weapons firing a kilometer away. One lost its turret, and the other started on fire as it retreated. They followed that up with large caliber rifles and snipers, forcing the infantry to hit the ground, but then they couldn’t move when the mortar fire began. If they made any attempt to get up, they were at risk of sniper fire. Our tanks moved forward, two tanks, two armored personnel carriers, and the anti-aircraft transport trucks, to offer them protection. As the weapons on the trucks opened fire, the infantry ran for cover behind the armour. The howitzers also covered them, firing very accurately, perhaps 500 meters from the old terminal. They also managed to fire some shells into the new terminal where the Ukrainians were located, though it doesn’t seem to have harmed them. In the end, half of those who went in returned, ammunition boxes scattered everywhere as they retreated, coming back only with the armored personnel carriers. One truck driver grabbed the large caliber gun from the sniper, who was left behind.
The plan was to wait until 11:00 at which time the second group was committed to the battle, together with a group of armored vehicles (T-72), but some of them were hit by artillery fire at the start line, resulting in one tank burning up, and two had to be towed further back. These were covered by the firepower of 8 self-propelled howitzers and the mortar battery. Two howitzers opened fire, with shells landing in the Makiivka raion, then they fell silent. To make a long story short, this second group, where a friend of mine was also included, faced some serious surprises. They were being protected by six tanks when they were startled to a stop by an artillery torrent. Then SUDDENLY, airplanes appeared, causing immense carnage (the airplanes gave them the advantage of not fighting hand to hand combat but the ability to battle from a safe distance without risking defeat.) The result was that 14 men remained from a total of 130, and among those who survived, most were wounded, such as my friend who suffered machine gun wounds in his feet. The burning hardware made for a hellish sight. The air was filled with cries for help from the wounded, but they, like the dead, were abandoned.
At 13:00 hours, the Russian regular army arrived, everyone well equipped and sporting modern equipment like the T-72. The entire ensemble totaled 50 transport trucks and thirty tanks. Now a real concerted effort began, first with a huge barrage from all sizes of artillery, then followed by infantry moving forward and protected by the tanks. There were paratroopers among them, and they reached the old terminal only to face bombardment from hrads, hurricanes, and mortars, followed by the swift arrival of Ukrainian tanks from Pisky The paratroopers held their ground at the old terminal, occupying the hotel and garage buildings. They advanced as far as the first floor of the new terminal. I do not know what happened next, expect for the fact that no one left that new terminal alive. Similarly, the original group of “cosmonauts” were never seen again. Later the body of their Major was returned (by the Ukrainians) An hour later, the Ukrainians pushed back the paratroopers held up in all the buildings, the old terminal, the garages, and the hotel. Currently a prisoner and body exchange is taking place (of those 495 who had gone into the battle). Practically speaking, the corpses are everywhere, and the Ukrainians control the battlefield to such an extent that they freely patrol the area. No vehicles are made available to the defeated army to evacuate their men, and presently the entire airport is under the full control of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. They have granted permission to three unarmed groups to collect the corpses. The exact number of losses is still unknown, but I am certain it will be not less than two hundred, based on the fact that all that remained from the morning group numbered fewer than one hundred, including the wounded. To add insult to injury, the Ukrainians will probably exchange the bodies for transport vehicles, because they don’t have enough.” (Constantin Tryfylyevych)Photo via Andrew Roth @ARothNYT