Kyiv, February 2, 2016. In February 2015, about 4.7 thousand Ukrainian military servicemen concentrated in the town of Debaltseve. They resisted 19,000 Russian soldiers and militants. The enemy also had the advantage of heavy weapons: three times as many tanks, four times as many artillery. After Ukrainian units lost Vuhlehirsk, militants could use high-rise buildings to adjust artillery fire. The loss of Lohvynove, in its turn, greatly complicated supplying Ukrainian soldiers with ammunition – Ukrainian positions were attacked on three sides. “Our withdrawal from Debaltseve was the key point that pulled away the best enemy forces. There were no serious, large-scale attempts to carry out an attack after these battles. The enemy suffered heavy losses,” said Oleksandr Syrskyi, former Chief of ATO Staff, at a briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
After a three-day attack on Lohvynove, it was decided to establish a place-of-arms near Luhansk in order to be able to remove the wounded and direct convoys with supplies for our military in Debaltseve. To do this, Task Force “Bars” were formed from the available forces. This was to keep the road parallel to the main road between Luhansk and Debaltseve.
According to Major General Syrskyi, Ukrainian positions were not besieged as communication and supplies did not stop completely due to the parallel road. “Yes, it was dangerous. The enemy sabotage and reconnaissance groups carried out attacks. We beat them off. Communication was maintained till the end,” he stressed. “There were days when we went alone, without convoys. We launched a UAV and only after video shooting, we made a decision about moving on. If there was a threat, convoys did not go on that day,” added Second Lieutenant Oleksandr Sych, Team Commander.
During the attack of Vuhlehirsk, all Ukrainian forces consisted of the first battalion tactical group of the 30th mechanized brigade, independent special forces units, the platoon of the NGU Battalion named after General Kulczycki and the NGU Battalion “Donbas” units. According to Major General Oleksandr Syrskyi, part of the military came to the city from the rear and extracted the unit “Svitjaz” from encirclement. However, after receiving information about the approach of an enemy tank convoy (consisting of 15 tanks) the command took a decision about retreat. “These were separate detachments [of the 95th, 25th and 128th brigades], composite units – those that we managed to take off from other front sections,” pointed out Major General Syrskyi.
On the night of 16 February the military were ordered to retreat from Debaltseve. Ukrainian troops occupied the high grounds above the “road of life” and held them under enemy fire until complete withdrawal of Ukrainian units. Lt. Col. Vasyl Zubanuch, Brigade Commander, informed that the withdrawal was organized to an extent tat was possible under those conditions. “Surely, there were difficulties. Communication was difficult because of heavy shelling. Many technical devices were made ineffective. But we did not abandon those which were serviceable. Sometimes we made decisions about the destruction of ineffective equipment. We even had to travel certain distances on foot. We also encountered the enemy’s subversive reconnaissance units on our way. The main thing was that we had the order,” he said.
Now the events and circumstances that caused such situation are being analyzed in detail. The report will be published soon.