Captain who changed course of war

Yurii Butusov

This officer, I am certain, has changed the course of the Russian-Ukrainian war. He was simply conducting combat tasks; he just did not panic; his soldiers just did their combat job. The results of their expert activities are known to the world. Ukraine as well should be aware of its courageous soldiers and their commander.

On Aug. 24 and 26, 2014, decisively and bravely, the 2nd anti-tank battery of the 51st mechanized brigade destroyed at least five units of Russian armored equipment, a large number of invader soldiers were killed, but the number one thing is that 13 Russian military were captured. It was the first time when Russian aggressors were captured! Who performed this exploit?

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Russian paratroopers from crews of airborne assault vehicles destroyed by Captain Koval, who were taken captive by Sergeant Volodymyr Kozak's unit in Dzerkalne village on Aug. 24, 2014, are shown here at a press conference in Kyiv after being captured.

Thanks to these soldiers Ukraine now has trump cards at international stage - this whole group of Russian military was presented as evidence of the Russian aggression. This was indispensable in the modern informational war. This proven fact of Russian invasion allowed Ukraine actively involving the international community and changing the foreign policy situation. The fact of Russian soldiers' captivity was also extremely important for morale of the Ukrainian army and the Ukrainian people, for it showed that the enemy could be defeated, that our military are professionals enough to inflict damages on the enemy.

Hundreds of officers and generals receive honors and medals. But the people of Ukraine have to know that not a single operation has been conducted by the General Staff to capture at least one Russian military.

The largest number of Russian soldiers was captured in this war for the first time thanks to efforts by Captain Kostiantyn Koval and his soldiers. Most of them have not been awarded. The captain himself remains in the same rank; he received a modest Bohdan Khmelntyskyi order of the 3rd degree - although this plain gunman did what no one else did.

But the people of Ukraine and Kostiantyn's two little daughters, born in 2011 and 2014, have to know: this quiet and extremely modest 32-year-old guy, whose family lives in a small rented apartment and who still commands the battery as a captain, is a real hero of Ukraine, who changed the course of the war with his Volyn guys from the 51st brigade.

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Captain Kostiantyn Koval, commander of the 2nd anti-tank battery of the 51st mechanized brigade near Kuteinykove, the Donetsk region, August 2014.

Below is the story of Captain Kostiantyn Koval about those important events for the Ukrainian history that will be placed into history books:

"My 2nd battery of the antitank artillery division of the 51st mechanized brigade consisted of drafted soldiers exclusively. I am a career officer… We arrived to the anti-terrorist operation (ATO) in August [2014 - ed.] and took no active part in combat activities.

"In the morning of Aug. 24 the full battery with five pieces of ordnance was based in Kuteinykove. … We had been hearing artillery rumble for many days by then; the plant we based in and the vicinity were covered by Grads in the evenings. But we were under cover at the plant.

"At 8 a.m. I was ordered by the division's commander to leave intact for a combat mission. The commander informed that Russian tank and mechanized units had crossed the border; we had to deploy to repulse possible Russian attack against Kuteinykove. We had neither detailed information about the enemy's direction nor communication with other units. We had to decide on our own where to cover Kuteinykove.

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Area of the Russian troops' invasion

"Was I scared of the Russian invasion? There was nothing good about it, but I was ordered so I had to go. That is my job. We left at 11:30 a.m. and traveled a short distance. … Reconnaissance of the 28th mechanized brigade was deployed nearby in a forest - they informed that a convoy of Russian armored vehicles was heading to Kuteinykove from the south. As soon as we deployed, something strange happened - all equipment of the 28th was started, left the forest and headed towards Kuteinykove.

"No other Ukrainian units were here. Infantry left and we had no cover. It was very weird. I had a bad feeling. A Jeep of the Donbas battalion drove by at high speed; someone from the car told us that a convoy of armored vehicles without insignia was moving towards us with Russian flags.

"Many of my guys were nervous - it was our first battle. The retreat of the units of the 28th brigade left us alone, our machine guns were not mobile - if the enemy flanked us, we would only have machine guns to fight back.

"But I decided we would not panic and take Kuteinykove lying down. It was about 12:15 p.m. when three combat vehicles without white stripes [insignia of the Donbas separatist forces - ed.] showed up from the forest at a crossroads between Kuteinykove and Dzerkalne at some 1,100-1,200 meters. There were no Ukrainian troops in the area. It could only be the enemy. The 28th brigade left its IFV with a Ukrainian flag at the crossroads. Russian armored vehicle approached the crossroads and stopped to assess the situation.

"The distance was about 1,100-1,200 meters. As soon as the enemy's armored vehicles approached, I ordered to fire.

"The first volley was a long hit. I corrected - "distance 1,200!" The second volley - "fire!" It was a direct hit at two armored vehicles. The third vehicle of the enemy returned to the forest. Crews of the hit vehicles ran into the forest. One of the vehicles caught fire and blew up. I ordered to charge with fragmentation projectiles, and we covered the forest with fire.

"The battle was over. After some 30 minutes the enemy must have reported on the situation, and the area was covered with artillery fire. … It became clear that enemy did not know our exact position. However, they could bring up additional reserves, conduct some reconnaissance, and adjust the fire. We were deployed amid a field and had no time to entrench. Besides, we were not covered, the flanks were open. The situation was dangerous.

"So I decided to retreat to our major forces of the tactic battalion group near Ilovaisk. Having no information about the enemy and no cover, I decided to retreat along the railroad from Kuteinykove where the enemy was not expecting us. Unfortunately I had to leave two units of weapons upon retreat. They could have been evacuated only in a peaceful situation. But in our conditions, I could not risk the personnel and the remaining equipment. Russian units could show up at any time."
Here is the story by Junior Sergeant Vladimir Savosteev, captured Russian military who took part in the battle on the other side. Savosteev is a section commander of the 331st parachute regiment of the 98th airborne division [of the Russian army - ed.] who was commanding one of the airborne assault vehicles blown up by Koval's battery fire:

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Airborne assault vehicle of Junior Sergeant Vladimir Savosteev from the 98th Russian airborne division, destroyed by Captain Koval's battery fire near Kuteinykove on Aug. 24, 2014. Photo and location by employees of the National military and historical museum of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

"We have reached the crossroads… [After having lost the convoy they were part of - ed.], three vehicles stopped… That was a moment when the first explosion sounded. But the missile did not hit anyone. We jumped off the vehicles and entrenched. Right after this the second explosion sounded. The missile hit the tank [the airborne assault vehicle; the sergeant must have missaid - Y. B.]. Everyone was thrown away for some distance. I lay down for some time, maybe some 10 minutes, regained consciousness and crawled as far as I could from the vehicle, for its ammunition load started to explode. … There were several people crawling together with me. A machine gun started to fire at us. … There was artillery working, but I cannot say from which direction it was firing… At such moments you don't look from which side the missiles are flying. You realize that you have to survive and keep crawling. There was a field and a small wood there. We started to cross the wood and noticed more of our military running along the road. We started to move towards the crossroads. There were trenches and some sort of a dug-out there. … Everyone was scared and lost, no one could understand where to go and what to do. We were supposed to be having drills, but this was not shown at any drills. I realized there were no officers and took command. I ordered to entrench and help the wounded. … [After picking up those remaining at the burning vehicles - ed.] we started to get out of there. We didn't know what to do. None of the drills taught us this. And no one of us ever participated in any combat activities. … We reached a bridge and saw several military persons, people in military uniform with weapons. They noticed our wounded, approached us, and offered to help him. We agreed for he began to lose consciousness. … They asked who was commanding, I said 'me.' They took me to their headquarters, something like a barn or a farm. There were military with insignia there, with everything… and those were not our insignia. I was explained that we were on the Ukrainian territory and captive."

Looks like both descriptions of the battle match in detail.

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This is the place where Russian airborne assault vehicles were destroyed. The location identified by the National military and historical museum of Ukraine

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This image was taken by employees of the National military and historical museum of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. This truck is allegedly from the 40th Kryvbas battalion near Kuteinykove. The truck was shot at in the morning of Aug. 24, during the parade in Kyiv [Ukraine's Independence Day - ed.]. This is not far from the place where Koval's battery destroyed Russian airborne assault vehicles.

Another important conclusion can be drawn from the testimony by the captive Russian paratroopers - as a result of adjusted fire by Koval's battery and the following shelling of the forest with fragmentation projectiles, where the crews of two hit airborne assault vehicles ran to hide in, Senior Lieutenant Mikhail Milenko, commander of the 3rd platoon of the 1st parachute company of the 331st regiment, got scared and lost command of his soldiers. Due to separation from contact with their command, 10 Russian paratroopers led by Sergeant Alexey Generalov and Junior Sergeant Savosteev went in the direction of Dzerkalne village, where they were taken captive without fight by a reconnaissance unit of the 51st mechanized brigade under Sergeant Volodymyr Kozak:

"At 5 p.m. I took my soldiers to a secret post in a forest near the village. Soon we noticed 10 soldiers approaching us along the road from Kuteinykove. They were like "calves at a pasture." They were not in battle formation, and were not ready for an engagement.

"We captured them unopposed. They were shocked with what was going on. We spoke Russian with them. They said they were Russian soldiers from the 98th airborne division. They were sent for maneuvers in the Rostov region. In the night of Aug. 24 they crossed the Ukrainian border. In the morning their unit was shelled in a forest 3 km from Kuteinykove. An airborne combat vehicle had been destroyed, one of the soldiers received light wounds. Two of their comrades were killed. Having lost the equipment and communication support, the paratroopers went to search for medical aid. They were shocked by the fact of being in Ukraine and with the war that was happening here.

"They did not expect to meet us and surrendered unopposed.
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Photo of Russian soldiers' unit, some of who were captured right after arriving in Ukraine. Pay attention to lack of insignia

This is how Russian paratroopers from the 98th airborne division were captured: Arkhipov Sergey, Generalov Alexey, Goryashin Andrey, Kuzmin Artem (mechanic driver of an airborne assault vehicle, wounded by the direct hit), Melchakov Ivan, Mitrofanov Artem, Pochtoev Yegor, Romatsev Ivan, Savosteev Vladimir, Seleznev Sergey, Smirnov Sergey.

After Kostiantyn Koval's battery weapons arrived near Ilovaisk, he received another task to cover the road from Kuteinykove to Ilovaisk from subsequent enemy attacks. On Aug. 26, the captain led his soldiers to another well-known battle, which resulted in capturing three more Russian military.

Koval came into a position and disguised the battery's weapons right at the road. Fire was adjusted by Sergeant Lukashchuk. The artillerists' activities are described here by a battle participant, brigadier of the armored corps of Pivden operational command, Colonel Yevhen Sydorenko:

"On Aug. 26 at around 3 p.m. a convoy of Russian armored vehicles was revealed at the road from Kuteinykove to Ilovaisk. It comprised 16 units, including tanks that were heading directly at our positions that had been shelled. I heard of the convoy via radio. I was near a Russian tank without a crew. I knew that the position covering the road had only one anti-tank Rapira cannon of the 2nd antitank battery of the 51st mechanize brigade, I took the tank driver's seat and drove to the endangered direction. The weapons were operated by Commander Kostiantyn Koval himself. He and the gun layer were acting brilliantly and professionally. The first shot destroyed the enemy's major vehicle - an MT-LB 6M, being in service with the Russian army exclusively.

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Weapons of the senior gun layer Lukashchuk from Captain Koval's battery at the Kuteinykove-Ilovaisk road on Aug. 26, 2014. Several hours after this the battery will be attacked by a convoy of the Russian 31st airborne assault brigade, and private Lukashchuk will destroy three MT-LB. Commander Koval was running the battle. The gun was disguised professionally, which helped attacking suddenly. Artillerists waited until the enemy approached by 200 meters and hit them point-blank, not being scared of retaliate fire.

"At that moment I realized that our weapon had to be covered for the time of recharge and attention to be diverted from our ambush; so I drove to the road, took the commander's seat and opened fire from a large-caliber machine gun against the enemy convoy and running soldiers. It was a bit anxiously, of course, for I did not know who was covering my back - they could have been shelled with fire or run away, which would leave me alone at unenclosed ground without chances. But the guys turned out to be real heroes and professionals. They hit two more vehicles of the enemy.

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Three Russian-made MT-LB, which are not in service with the Ukrainian army, hit by soldier Lukashchuk's fire from Koval's battery on Aug. 26, 2014, near Ilovaisk.

"The Russians opened chaotic fire and ran away covered with smoke and fire of three vanguard vehicles, leaving behind their killed and one gravely wounded soldiers of the 31st airborne assault brigade."

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Russian paratroopers Rulsan Akhmedov and Arseniy Ilmitov of the 31st airborne assault brigade, captured near Ilovaisk on Aug. 27-28, 2014 (the collage is possibly made with a mistake). They belonged to units of the 31st brigade, whose three MT-LB were destroyed by soldier Lukashchuk's fire from Koval's battery, but taken captive some time later after the battle.

Due to professionalism and personal courage of Espresso.TV filming crew comprising Yehor Vorobiov and Rostyslav Shaposhnykov, this event is now known to entire Ukraine.

Senior gun layer, private Lukashchuk was conducting fire in the Aug. 26 battle over open sights, he also deserves the highest honor - look how short the fire distance was! His weapon was on the road, under the enemy retaliate fire, but he did not stop fighting until destroying three vehicles of the enemy!

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Destroyed MT-LB of the 31st airborne assault brigade of the Russian Federation, as viewed from Kuteinykove. Koval's weapon was positioned a bit higher at the road turn. Note how short the distance was.

The list of personnel of the 2nd anti-tank artillery battery of the 51st separate guards mechanized brigade, who exceled in combat with the enemy's vanguard unit near Ilovaisk on Aug. 26, 2014.

1. Captain Koval K.V.
2. Lieutenant Poliukhovych P.P.
3. Lieutenant Shvank O.M.
4. Junior Sergeant Rad Y.S.
5. Private First Class Bodeichuk V.M.
6. Private First Class Holinei M.I.
7. Private First Class Kaliuzhnyi Y.V.
8. Private First Class Kovalchuk Y.P.
9. Private First Class Kotyk V.V.
10. Private First Class Lavrishyn B.I.
11. Private First Class Liashchuk M.M.
12. Private First Class Piatkivskyi R.M.
13. Private First Class Samchuk T.O.
14. Senior Seaman Karpiuk A.M.
15. Private Abramenko D.V.
16. Soldier Akhmetov O.S.
17. Soldier Zhuk A.O.
18. Soldier Kryvoruchko N.S.
19. Private Lukashchuk V.O.
20. Private Pedchenko M.S.
21. Soldier Russov O.A.
22. Private Franchuk Z.V.
23. Soldier Tsalai D.S.
24. Private First Class Kasianchuk S.Y. (under detail).

Gun detachment personnel who destroyed two enemy MT-LB combat vehicles in the Aug. 26 battle:

1. Senior gun layer Private Lukashchuk V.O.
2. Crewman Private First Class Russov O.A.
3. Crewman Private First Class Kasianchuk S.Y.
4. Tank driver Private First Class Kovalchuk Y.P.

Captain Koval battled through the entrapment in Ilovaisk. He went through hell but did not surrender and managed to break through the entrapment with a group of soldiers. At the moment he continues to serve. In the same rank, at the same position, in the same rented apartment… Other heroes from Koval's battery are in the same condition. Their entire 51st brigade has been accused of breach of order and disbanded! Thus, they will not be heroes - if only the people of Ukraine decide otherwise and help to restore justice.

Our duty is to pay our largest respects to this hero and fighters of the 51st brigade, who did impossible in those terrible months of 2014. They showed that the enemy could be defeated. Thank you, guys, hats off to you …

I thank military historians from the National military and historical museum of the Defense Ministry of Ukraine for help with this material.

Yurii Butusov, Censor.NETИсточник: https://en.censor.net.ua/r364226