Upon his return from the massacre at Ilovaisk Head of the Medical Service of Interior Ministry Battalion Mirotvorets Vsevolod Stebliuk wrote: "I am alive and already in Kyiv. God save all those who prayed, believed and waited! God save my beloved Olena! Interesting and important details later."
- Who was in your team?
We could not get out on our own since we were in the encirclement. But by 29th of August we received the information that a corridor will be organized and the whole column will be released. We moved to the initial line on our buses.
- The whole battalion?
- Yes. There were all the troops who have been in this sector: the Ukrainian Army and the Donbas and Dnipro battalions as well as the part of Svitiaz and Kherson battalions. There were tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers and Engineeringvehicles from mechanized brigades... And we were driving by three buses in addition to one UAZ and armored commandChevrolet. Well, and our transporter, which we kindly called "Zhuzha". This is the front carrier vehicle LuAZ. My friends bought it for me to carry out assistance. Here, I went on this "Zhuzha". It is absolutely an open and flat car, very comfortable to assist in combat. And it turned out that the Soviet technique of 1986 saved our lives. Because "Zhuzha" was the only vehicle that survived from the whole column! The tanks and the infantry fighting vehicles were burned ...
The lucky "Zhuzha" and her owner before the events near Ilovaisk
- A lucky car.
- Yes, lucky one. And we will probably be happy because we pray and they pray for us. My prayer was read to the holes for those days...
"When our IFV was hit, its tower and pieces of torn apart bodies flew over our heads..."
- So your column moved ahead...
- The convoy moved, they started firing at us and bring to the Russians' positions. And we went through the fields through sunflowers, wooded areas ... I tried to hold on behind the armor, to catch up with some APC, IFV or tank - and be behind its side to avoid direct fire. I remember when the IFV was hit, the tower flew over our heads, pieces of torn apart bodies were falling and blood was all around ... It was horrible. I do not know how long it all lasted but there was only one desire: just to shout out prayers. And drive, drive, drive, push the accelerator, shift gears and drive "Zhuzha" further.
And all the time I was on the move they were throwing seriously wounded soldiers wright into the body of my vehicle. Then we got to a completely open space with no grass or anything else - like a desert. I tried to go behind pontoon KamAz truck and this very moment it was hit by something heavy. I think it was anti-tank guided missile, because there was a loud explosion. Then another one sounded and we were thrown out of "Zhuzha". I flew right through the steering wheel, I then suffered bruises...
- There was no windscreen?
- No, we have removed it. I discovered that "Zhuzha" had exhausts pierced in three places, two days later. It means that it just took over a mine blast wave and shrapnel.
- And you flew over the steering wheel to the hood?
- No, I fell on the ground. The engine stalled, the cooling fan though had been working for some time. I could not crawl and turn it off, because there was shooting. I worried that the battery will run out of power.
We were laying long in this field. I crawled bandaging the wounded as they were put to my vehicle being not bound up.
- Did the convoy also stop?
- No everything was broken, the was no column any more. Some people went down to the village and were finished off there...
- And you were staying in this desert. Who was with you?
- The wounded, who were going on "Zhuzha". Later after 4 hours Russian officer appeared. I put on the vest of the Red Cross, took the flag of the Red Cross and went to him. He asked who I was. I said, "The Ukrainian Red Cross" and showed the Red Cross identity card, I had an international certificate. I asked him to let me collect the wounded. He allowed, he said to take them to his position, which he showed. Well, I gathered the wounded - I put them even on the hood and screen. I brought them, and went back. I gathered and drove away 17 people on the first night, until it got dark.
- To the position that the officer showed?
- Yes, to the deployment. It was safer there in the bottom, they also suffered from artillery strikes.
I asked this battalion commander to allow me to nourish the soldiers. I found some tinned meat, food and blankets in the broken vehicles.
The first night was very hard without water; I did not have the necessary amount of drugs in the backpack...
- How did the Russians guarding you treat you?
- Different. The battalion commander was typical officer, a man of honor. And treated the wounded, like a realmilitary. Ordinary soldiers tried to threaten us, saying that they shall slay us. I think they were just themselves terrified of being there. They also suffered losses...
The night was terrible. Firstly, it was very cold. We have given away everything we had to seriously injured. (I have my t-shirt - the designer one, very beautiful, with the Trident and the inscription «Glory to Ukraine!», Presented to me by designer Christina Tsukur - I tore it apart when there were no rollers and bandaged the chest of a soldier from our battalion). The guys asked, "Doc, look, maybe there is already someone who does not need blankets any longer?".
- This must have been horrible.
- Yes. I went and looked - one soldier indeed no longer needed it... We put him on the ground, took a mattress out from under him, took a blanket and passed to living.
"The locals have hidden the wounded in a barn, giving them drink and food..."
It was scary without water. I had 2 liters of brandy in my "Zhuzha". It was impossible to drink for it makes you feel thirst again. But it was good for killing pain. I gave it to the wounded. The heavily wounded soldiers who have repeated "water, water..." we helped this way: we put a piece of rolled bandage in the mouth moistened with a little bit of brandy and some of our saliva and then this lump put in their mouths, that there was at least some moisture available.
We lost two of them the next morning and I said the battalion commander that will all die without water. His troopers also had no water. I went and found a large canister, took some bottles, containers and went to the village to fetch water.
- What village?
- Novokaterinivka. Local residents first took me for Russian and began praising Russians. And when I said that I am from the Ukrainian Red Cross, they told me where the wounded are. They hid a lot of them in their barn gave them to drink and fed them...
- May God bless them.
- ... And I started to take out the guys. I had collected another 35 people. Then I went to another position on the mountain, where there were captured and wounded soldiers. I also brought water to Russian paratroopers. For this they allowed me to take the seriously wounded servicemen.
- And if you would not have brought them the water would they give you the wounded Ukrainians?
- I do not know ... it was that battalion commander responsibility area and he said, "Here you can do whatever you want."
- Let's not call the battalion commander's name out of harm's way.
- Yes. And I don't know his second name anyway, just the name. But one way or another he was a man of piety.
And then a column of our ambulance came in the afternoon, Poltava medical company which was granted access. I guided ambulance cars to those places where the wounded stayed, took two heavy ones on a stretcher and we left. Then they were evacuated to field hospitals by heliambulances, and from there either to Dnipropetrovsk or Zaporizhia. A total of about 90 people.
- Did someone stay with the Russians?
- The prisoners. They were pulled up later. They were taken to Donetsk before, being mocked on. But only the DPR terrorists scoffed at them, not the Russians. Then they appeared in our field hospital, I saw them.
"It was very scary when single shots sounded at the distance. Someone was finishing off the wounded."
- Yes, you obviously lucky with battalion commander because I talked to the Dnipro-1 battalion soldiers who broke out of the pot hole and he told me that Russian Chechens finished off our wounded at other fronts near Ilovaisk, thrown grenades into the cellars and barns...
- I heard when they finished someone off. It was very scary when single shots sounded at the distance.
- How did wounded soldiers reacted to it?
- We prayed and, in general, were ready to die with dignity, not deminished.
- How did your family lived it out?
- Pretty hard. They prayed, arranged pickets here searching possibilities to take us out. I think that thanks to the family, thanks to my wife Lena and all friends who prayed for us I am still alive.
- Are there any plans for the future?
- To relax a little bit for a while, then check all the guys to determine who died, who is still alive. Our battalion, in general, has gone out of this situation well.
And then act like the command will order. My experience will be probably helpful.
- Ready to go back to the front?
- I am willing to work in a little bit different capacity - just use me at front line... well, yes, I did what I could. But I am still the Professor, Doctor of Medical Sciences. And I think I may be more useful with that experience in the organization of the military medical service. Because I got acquainted with all of its stages and walked through this whole thing myself...
Yevhen Kuzmenko, for Censor.NET