Sept. 28, 2014. It was one of the most difficult days of the Donetsk airport defense. A small joint unit of soldiers from the 3rd regiment of the Special Forces, a company of the 93rd mechanized brigade, and the Right Sector, commanded by the 3rd regiment of the Special Forces Colonel Oleksandr T. (Redut) was defending in the premises of the old and new terminals of the airport. Their fire support and supply delivery, which enabled the defense, had been conducted by the 4th battalion tactical group of the 93rd brigade, commanded by Major Yevhen Mezhevikin (Adam). The enemy continued its assaults despite losses - thanks to their numerical superiority, Russian mercenaries managed to seize many administrative buildings of the airport within three weeks. Ukrainian defense was squeezing, but they had not left a position without fight. More forces, as well as control over the ground flanks, i.e. Spartak village and Donetsk suburbs, were needed to defend the airport in such conditions. They had no such forces. So the airport defenders had been in unfavorable tactical situation from the very beginning. The Donetsk airport had been consolidated thank to skills and bravery of a bunch of soldiers.
The clashes were occurring every single day. Reinforcements were insignificant; many refused to go to the terminal due to high risk.
On Sept. 28, the command managed to finally provide long-awaited reinforcement. Units of the 79th airmobile and the 93rd mechanized brigades were sent to the airport. … If not for this reserve, the defense would not have lasted.
Russian command did its best to prevent the paratroopers from reaching the destination. The enemy was faster than us - the paratroopers had not yet arrived when they assaulted the "Boks" position in the airport's C terminal with tanks support and numerous forces. "Boks" allowed controlling territory between the new and old terminals.
About 20 our soldiers in the C terminal had been cut off by the enemy, and they would not last long. It was clear that the enemy decided to seize the terminal, which was the defense center, by assaulting from all directions. Those encircled had to be rescued immediately. A counterattack was needed, as well as more forces to go into that hell.
Our positions were hit all day by artillery and mortars. It was obvious that the enemy was going to assault and seize two major buildings controlled by us - the new and old terminals. Obviously, the enemy wanted to seize the new terminal before reinforcement came.
The following was told by Lieutenant Kyrylo Nedria, assistant to Captian Kolodii on staff operations of the 5th company of the 93rd mechanized brigade, call sign Dotsent:
"On Sept. 28 in the morning, attempts to assault from various directions along the entire defense line began. … The enemy was intercepting our communication and spoke on our frequency, saying that there was no sense in waiting for reinforcement, called on us to surrender, etc… The ring was getting narrower. The guys started to ask reasonable questions. One boy came up to me screaming "Can you hear that!", while the radio was saying to give up. I told him: "If you know that you can punish someone, will you talk to that person and try to agree on anything?" He said "No." So we together began to talk to the mercenaries' commander Abkhaz what we thought of him. …
"… From a hangar behind the old terminal a T-72 showed up. [Our] IFV was fighting till the end - it was firing from a 30-mm cannon first, then from a machine gun. They almost managed to return, but right in front of the new terminal the vehicle was hit directly in front of my eyes. Its engine department caught fire immediately. Hudachenko and Prudych escaped miraculously and abandoned the vehicle on fire. Oleksandr was gravely cut with shrapnel, they left for the medical unit. And the IFV with my fried [inside] was burning in front of the terminal…"
At that moment, two Russian T-72 appeared at the landing strip from the "Boks" direction. The enemy caught us by surprise - never before did the enemy's tanks drove on the landing strip and acted so rudely. The first missile hit through our IFV. Captain Serhii Kolodii died a heroic death - he was killed immediately…
Our tank managed to shoot, having a common shell in its barrel. It hit the enemy's tank but didn't drill a hole in it. The second enemy's tank hit our IFV. Soldier from the 17th tank brigade, tankman-driver Denys Sokolovskyi was killed: a hollow charge shell drilled a hole in the tank exactly where the driver was sitting…
A convoy of paratroopers from the 79th brigade entered the airport during the day right when the engagement was underway. The enemy was busy with the battle, so the convoy proceeded without losses. Major Mezhevikin's tank entered the terminal with them. The enemy intensified the shelling of our positions.
Kyrylo Nedria goes on:
"The convoy from the 79th arrived at around 1 p.m. … I met them as the commander of the new terminal; we wanted to direct their vehicles to the new terminal immediately. However, an order came from their commander - to send two armored vehicles to the old terminal. That was when I met my old friend Oleksii Tyshchyk - we went to Dnipropetrovsk University together. We hugged and spoke for some 10-15 minutes… But the officer on charge of the 79th, who brought the convoy, ordered Oleksii to take the armored vehicles to the terminal. … We said good bye with Oleksii and agreed to meet again. They got into the vehicles but took some time to leave… And as soon as they left, I noticed a tank at the landing strip and heard a scream over the radio: "There's a tank at the landing strip!" The 72 [tank - ed.] stopped and started to target at our tanks, two of which were standing in front of the new terminal… But the same moment the first armored vehicle carrying Oleksii faced the tank. They speeded up and almost reached the old terminal, when the tank targeted them. One shot, and Oleksii's armored vehicle caught fire… It started to target the second armored vehicle, but it was luckier - Major Mezhevikin showed up with his tank, launched a point-blank close-in duel, and blew the T-72 up with its second hit. They were attacked from all barrels. No one survived there as well…"
The image shows the destroyed BTR-80 of the 79th airmobile brigade of Lieutenant Oleksii Tyshchyk.
The armored vehicle BTR-80 was hit and exploded. Lieutenant Oleksii Tyshchyk, Sergeant Major, unit commander Serhii Zlatiev, soldiers Oleksandr Pyvovarov, Anatolii Khronenko, Denys Bilyi were killed on spot. Another four soldiers from the armored vehicle could not be identified - they are listed as MIA…
The same vehicles from a different point of view.
IFV-2 and the Russian T-72.
In order to rescue the second armored vehicle, Major Mezhevikin's tank reached the landing strip, which saved the second armored vehicle. A fast moving close-in tank duel started - two tanks against one of ours. The T-72 that killed the armored vehicle missed, and was immediately hit with three missiles by Major Mezhevikin's tank. Infantry was also intensely shelling the enemy from the terminal. The Russian tank caught fire, its crew was destroyed. …
Thanks to the reinforcement and fire support of Kolodii's IFV, our encircled soldiers in the C terminal had been rescued - they incurred no losses. The enemy had been kicked out of the new terminal. Our artillery opened fire, and the enemy was covered with fire: no more attacks were conducted by mercenaries from the "Boks," and they could not consolidate at the terminal.
The following soldiers died heroes' deaths, being loyal to their military oath and the Ukrainian people till the end:
Serhii Kolodii - 33 years old, born in the Kharkiv region.
Took part in the Donetsk airport defense since Aug. 1, 2014. Acting officer of the Ukrainian army. Technically skilled expert in military equipment. Reliable, strong-willed, rough-tempered; was not afraid to conflict or to take the initiative. All his men were mobilized people. He spent a lot of energy so that they carried out combat missions. He was a real professional military and continued, despite all the conflicts, to perform combat missions. He was one of those on whom the defense of the airport rested. The Army was his life - he never managed to have a family or kids... There are only grief of the parents and our memory left, the memory of friends and those who have not forgotten the price paid for our independence.
Oleksii Tyshchyk - 30 years old, lawyer from Dnipropetrovsk. Enlisted in the army as volunteer soldier after the beginning of the war. … Oleksii arrived to the ATO with the first mobilization wave as part of the 25th airborne brigade. … His first operation was the 47-day defense of Kramatorsk airport. Smart and fearless mobilized officer was made assistant to Colonel Serhii Kryvonos, commander of the Kramatorsk airport defense. Tyshchyk participated in many combats, fought in numerous flash points as part of the 25th brigade. He was offered to be transferred to the military prosecution as a high-qualified lawyer, but Oleksii refused and transferred to the 79th airmobile brigade as platoon commander, having chosen a different path - the one in the armored vehicle heading to the Donetsk airport…
Oleksii Tyshchyk, lawyer, before the war. His mother Iryna is holding his newborn daughter. Oleksii's sister is standing on the left, wife Yulia - on the right, his father Oleksandr in front.
After Oleksii's death his mother committed suicide on Sept. 30, 2014.
Sergeant Major, unit leader Serhii Zlatiev - 23 years old. He lived in the village of Lenine in the Frunze district of the Odesa region. He had two children, the youngest daughter being two months old at the time of her father's death.
Soldier Oleksandr Pyvovarov - 27 years old. He comes from the village Kushuhum in the Zaporizhia region. He resided, studied and worked in Moscow but returned to Ukraine to be voluntarily recruited in March 2014 and defend his homeland from Russia's aggression.
Tankman Denys Sokolovskyi - 31 years old, originating from the village of Lozuvatka in the Kryvyi Rih district of the Dnipropetrovsk region.
Soldier Anatolii Khronenko from Mykolaiv - his two kids born 1992 and 1998 left fatherless.
Soldier Denys Bilyi - 22 years old, hailing from the village of Hornostaivka in the Kherson region.
Soldier Yurii Sokolachko - 43 years old, hailing from the village of Loza in the Irshava district of the Zakarpattia region.
Soldier Oleksandr Zaviriukha - 22 years, coming from the village of Kamiana Balka in the Pervomaiskyi district of the Mykolaiv region.
They all were people with unique fates, families and interests, who could realize themselves in various areas and in different countries - but all of them wanted to live in a new, happy, and independent country - Ukraine. And for this purpose, they unreservedly sacrificed themselves. Remember them - 11 heroes who died in battle in one day on a small piece of their native land - our freedom and our peaceful life are paid for with their blood...
Yurii Butusov, Censor.NET
This text is a shortened version translated from the Russian original available here.
Related materials: Episodes of the Russian-Ukrainian war