Censor.NET Chief Editor Yurii Butusov writes on Facebook about unknown heroes of the war for independence of Ukraine.
The high point 277, Savur-Mohyla became famous during World War II. It was the key position of the German defense at the Mius-Front. Several Soviet divisions intact perished storming it. The high ground retained its strategic importance during the Russian-Ukrainian War. There is a direct view of the surrounding area of up to 40 kilometers on a clear day, and clouds of dust from the movement of military convoys allow detecting enemy even at a greater distance. It was just after the occupation of Savur-Mohyla and the arrangement of the observation post there when the Russian artillery spotters became able to effectively block all movement on the roads and cut off from the supply the 24th, 72nd Mechanized, and 79th Airmobile Brigades in the D sector.
The withdrawal was possible only in case of Savur-Mohyla being under control. The high point had a strategic importance affecting the whole situation in the border area of the front, and the best squads of the Russian and Caucasian DPR mercenaries were thrown to defend it. They acted with the strong Russian artillery support, which unpunished hit our troops from the territory of the Russian Federation - the high ground is within the effective depth of fire. The high point was protected by the Russian air defense forces - Russian fighter jets were patrolling along the border, and two Ukrainian Su-25 fighters were shot down over Savur-Mohyla on July 24.
The Ukrainian command used the most powerful weapon being in service with the Armed Forces for the first time in the war to ensure the capture of the high ground - the high point was hit by two Tochka short-range tactical missiles launched by the 19th Missile Brigade on July 28.
The 51st mechanized, the 25th Airborne, and 95th Airmobile Brigades on July 28 engaged in combat for the high point, but only on Aug. 3 they finally fully recaptured the strategic locality from the Russian mercenaries. The enemy fought desperately for the high ground unsparing itself.
However, it was extremely difficult to keep the high point. There were only a few small shelters on the top of the hill. The Russian artillery was conducting massive shelling of the high ground precisely aiming the shelters with the help of drones. The Ukrainian detachments held the hill, but it was incredibly hard to keep it under heavy fire. Petrivske village at the foot of Savur-Mohyla was occupied by our troops, but the hill itself was left over and over again - the constant shelling of Russian artillery alternated with Russian troops' and Caucasian mercenaries' attacks. Russian tanks, snipers, grenade launcher operators had possibility of direct fire.
But the anti-terrorist operation command decided to keep the high point - the reason was that the Russian convoys on the southern front were in sight of observers atop of Savur-Mohyla and it was possible to hit them only if the hill top was under our control.
Commander of the anti-terrorist operation Viktor Muzhenko decided to take the high ground at any cost thus providing permanent monitoring and artillery fire adjustment against trespassing Russian convoys in the border area. An extraordinary leader was needed to perform this task - the one who will survive and be able to motivate the soldiers, organize the defense, and adjust fire in deadly conditions, considering huge enemy fire superiority. Muzhenko personally decided to send to Savur-Mohyla the commander from his headquarters whom he could rely on. That man was Colonel Ihor Hordiichuk.
The participant of many Special Forces combat operations at the front, he was known to many within the ATO by the callsign "Sumrak" (the Dusk). I spoke with his colleagues and comrades, learned some parts of his biography and combat activity.
Ihor V.Hordiichuk was born on Nov.12, 1972.
Hordiichuk began to prepare for the combat mission without hesitations, immediately upon receipt of the task from the ATO commander. There was not much time left, nor stamina.
One of Hordiichuk's friends, the authoritative Special Forces commander Colonel K. said: "It's hard to find words to adequately assess the act of Hordiichuk and his group. Ihor was well aware that it is a one-way ticket. The chance to not come back from this task was much greater than the chance of survival. But being a military, he realized the importance of Savur-Mohyla and knew that this order should be executed. "Sumrak" has received an order to hold the defense of Savur-Mohyla at any cost."
Hordiichuk's scouts team consisting of 14 people from the Krym (Crimea) Special Operations detachment broke through to Savur-Mohyla on Aug. 12, took control of the observation point at the hill top, and started to accomplish the combat mission of adjusting the artillery fire.
As one of our Ukrainian senior commanders noted, "Hordiichuk's work was fruitful and had a great impact on the entire situation on the southern flank of the front. The artillery hit the revealed convoys of military equipment, which illegally invaded the territory of Ukraine, for a countless number of times." The intelligence highly appreciated the accuracy of strikes. We did not have drones in this area, and the Russian Air defense did not allow using aircrafts. Hordiichuk's actions efficiency was equal to the ones of a reconnaissance aircraft squadron. While our planes have been shot down - no one succeeded in forcing Hordiichuk out from Savur-Mohyla.
The enemy assessed the menace at once. Substantial Russian artillery forces and Russian mercenaries with armor were involved to destroy the Ukrainian team.
The communication equipment was rendered inoperable by constant enemy artillery attacks. Hordiichuk continued adjustment of fire using cell phone. The communication worked poorly, but there were some areas on the hill that allowed usual mobile phone connection.
A small company-size detachment of the Ukrainian Army - the combined battalion task force of the 51st Mechanized Brigade - was deployed in Petrivske village at the foot of Savur-Mohyla hill, but their forces were enough only for defense and to cover supply vehicles which sometimes broke through to Savur-Mohyla. There was a source of water in Petrivske.
Hordiichuk's team was under constant shelling from heavy artillery, and enemy infantry stormed the top almost every day.
The shelters saved lives but soldiers were receiving injuries and most severe contusions from close explosions putting them out of action. Hordiichuk was wounded several times as well, but did not leave the position. Sometimes he was losing consciousness in a dugout, restoring in a short while.
Daytime storms were sometimes repulsed using artillery support, but most often using only small arms and rocket launchers. The mercenaries also made six night attempts to seize Savur-Mohyla. The defenders of the high point survived many close range battles. The servicemen suffered minimum losses thanks to the well-organized defense and personal combat training level.
One of his colleagues, Col. V. recalls: "We knew how desperate was the situation on Savur-Mohyla. Hordiichuk asked only for ammunition and headache pills, because under constant bombardment of artillery all the defenders got concussions of varying degrees. This was incredible. Starting from Aug. 12, Hordiichuk's detachment endlessly repelled assaults or was shelled by heavy artillery."
On Aug. 18, it became clear that there is a limit of human capabilities, and even these iron men have reached it. Soldiers at Savur-Mohyla needed reinforcement - at least to get some sleep and rest. Staff officer of the highly mobile paratroopers, Colonel Petro Potekhin got this task. Censor.NET has recorded an interview with Potekhin and will publish it soon. The situation became tougher - a small group of Ukrainian soldiers in Petrivske and at high point 277 was separated from the nearest Ukrainian position by more than 30 kilometers of the territory controlled by enemy's subversive groups. The situation in the D sector had long been out of control of the ATO command, the enemy had enough force in the sector.
To fight and cover on the border of 100 kilometers in the sector, there were a few weak infantry and artillery units, with a total number of less than thousand troops, including the rear, communications men, and repair workers. Most of the roads and traffic hubs were not controlled. Savur-Mohyla remained the main arena of fighting - the loss of the height would have deprived the Ukrainian command of information in the sector and the possibility of firing. Until Savur-Mohyla was in our hands, maneuvers of the enemy in the border region was constrained.
Potekhin led a group of eight men of the 25th Airborne Brigade to Savur-Mohyla. Along with them, a group of 17 volunteer scouts from the 4th company of the 42nd Battalion of the territorial defense of the Kirovograd region under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Oleksandr Melnychenko (callsign "Falcon") went to help Hordiichuk. Potekhin also had new communications equipment. Both Melnychenko and Potekhin were fully aware that they were going to the place from which there was almost no chance to return. "Falcon's" group consisted of volunteers, whom the command did not even include in the new unit - "Sumrak" urgently needed reinforcement, and those who volunteered to go on a deadly mission went to fight without any paperwork.
They were joined by a group of artillery spotters. Only volunteers who wanted to help comrades went to Savur-Mohyla.
Potekhin led reinforcement to Savur-Mohyla, and Hordiichuk carried out a rotation - the Crimea group went away. But the Colonel himself remained at the height and continued to carry out his mission and to provide information about the enemy.
During one of the massive assaults on Aug. 19, Potekhin was seriously injured and paratrooper Kandela died ... The injured were evacuated. Hordiichuk did not go away from Savur-Mohyla. The soldiers of the 4th Company of the 42nd Battalion of the territorial defence of the Kirovograd region under the command of Melnychenko also helped to keep Savur-Mohyla - they, too, stood up to the end.
On Aug. 20, after another artillery attack and an attack of Russian mercenaries, the bloodless units of the 51st Brigade walked out of Petrivske village without an order. The communication equipment on the height di not work, so they communicated by mobile phones. However, regular infantry attacks were repulsed by the defenders of the height.
From Aug. 20, the border area in fact was already occupied by Russian mercenaries supported by the Russian artillery. The defenders of Savur-Mohyla were completely surrounded - our nearest positions were in 40 kilometers. However, the Ukrainian special forces detachment continued to keep the height.
Sergeant Serhii Stehar of the 25th brigade, who also kept Savur-Mohyla to the end, says: "Hordiichuk told us that we are paratroopers, so we have to stand to the end. The enemy is coming, all who are fighting are on the front, and only cowards are running to the rear. We should not expect any help - we are obliged to do our duty. He is a man of steel."
On the afternoon of Aug. 23, Russian troops launched an offensive on the southern front in the D sector. In the morning of Aug. 24, "Sumrak" continued to send information about many columns of Russian troops that flooded the area of Savur-Mohyla. But our artillery could not strike according to the given coordinates - it had to move away from Savur-Mohyla under strikes of regular Russian troops.
On Aug. 24, there was another assault on the height - tanks were hitting by direct pointing, while a new unit of enemy's infantry, Caucasian mercenaries, were climbing to the height. And again, the assault was repulsed with heavy losses of the enemy.
Permanent massive artillery bombardments of Savur-Mohyla continued - Russian troops covered the height with shells and rockets.
Soldiers said to Hordiichuk that keeping the high point in such a deep rear of the enemy without artillery support is an inappropriate idea. But "Sumrak" was not going to retreat without an order of the ATO commander. So the Crimea special forces group and the Sokol (Falcon) group, and the group of paratroopers of the 25th Brigade continued to carry out the combat mission.
The order to retreat from Savur-Mohyla came on the evening of Aug. 24. By that time it became clear that Savur-Mohyla is tightly surrounded - a vehicle of the 3rd Special Forces Regiment, which broke through to rescue the wounded, was shot out by Russian mercenaries in Petrivske. One of the injured, Ivan Zhuravliov was captured, and the rest of the wounded were killed by the mercenaries. Tymur Yuldashev a.k.a. "Trener" (the Coach) died. He was an outstanding Ukrainian patriot from Luhansk.
At night "Sumrak" gave the order to retreat from Savur-Mohyla. Completely plowed high point 277 was abandoned by the Ukrainian soldiers after 12 days of continuous fighting. All these 12 days Colonel Hordiichuk did not give up the captured position under constant enemy fire, despite a wound in the arm and a concussion.
"Sumrak" led his group by nights. They headed to the closest positions of the Ukrainian troops - it was then already surrounded by Russian troops Sector B at Ilovaisk of General Khomchak, which set a defensive perimeter and repulsed all the attacks of the Russian units.
The scouts managed to secretly go about 60 kilometers of the enemy's rear and join our forces near Mnohopillia. They went for a breakthrough on Aug. 29 along with all the Ukrainian parts.
Sergeant Stehar recalls:
"We were going in one truck. Hordiichuk was in the driver's cab. We were suddenly fired upon, and then the car was shelled. An explosion occurred in the cabin, the car caught fire. We were falling out of the burning truck and couldn't help the Colonel - the enemy fire was incredibly dense, we needed to respond. The truck door opened and Hordiichuk got out of it himself. He crawled to us by himself. We picked him up and put a bandage. The wound was terrible - it was unbelievable that the man could move unassisted with such a wound and tried to continue the fight. A large frag hit the occipital part not protected by the helmet. The Colonel tried to continue commanding the battle, he even tried to rip off the bandage. But soon due to blood loss, he was left powerless. Russian paratroopers captured me, Hordiichuk, and a few other soldiers. The Colonel was unconsciousness. They gathered us on the field, and left Hordiichuk aside not allowing us to assist him. They said he won't last long. The entire day the Colonel laid by himself, without any help or care, with just the dressing that we put on. Then we were taken away. When I learned that this unbelievable officer survived, I had such pride in him! I thank him! In those terrible days he was an example of courage for us."
Ihor Hordiichuk, who was unconscious, was taken by a Red Cross ambulance to a hospital in Dnipropetrovsk two days after the wounding.
Since Sept. 1, for one and a half months now, Ihor Hordiichuk has been in intensive care of the neurosurgery department. Best Ukrainian neurosurgeons are trying to put him back on his feet. But the state of the Colonel remains grave. We should pray for the health of "Sumrak".
For the courage and heroism in battle, exemplary performance of military duty, Colonel Ihor Hordiichuk was presented to the highest state award - the title of Hero of Ukraine.
The nomination to the rank was supported by then Minister of Defense Valerii Heletei.
However, the department of the Presidential Administration responsible for awards decided otherwise and by Presidential Decree of September 8, 2014 Colonel Hordiichuk was awarded the Order of Bohdan Khmelnitskyi of the 3rd degree.
Ihor Hordiichuk did not fight for awards. His act of bravery does not need to be noted by him, but by us. Ukraine must know and remember the names of heroes, it is necessary to know how they defended our country. This is a story and a lesson for future generations.
Most of the heroes of Savur-Mohyla were never presented to any state awards or military ranks.
Therefore, I ask the Ukrainian society to support the demand to the Chief-of-Staff to approve the nomination of the General Staff and the Ministry of Defense and award the Colonel with the title of Hero of Ukraine. It will be the right and fair thing to do.
Defense of Savur-Mohyla holds a special place among examples of outstanding valor and courage performed by the Ukrainians in the war with Russia, reported about by Censor.NET. This was one of the most desperate operations ever conducted by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Censor.NET Chief Editor Yurii Butusov writes on Facebook about unknown heroes of the war for independence of Ukraine.