The battle became well-know a year after, when a video shot by infantryman of the 17th tank brigade Oleksandr Yukhymenko went online: http://censor.net.ua/…/lyudi…/sortby/tree/order/desc/page/7…
The soldier filmed bodies of Russian mercenaries in a field, and he took off the boots from one of them for he was wearing sneakers in winter. The video became a huge internet hit. It turned out later that Yukhymenko did not participate in the battle - he shot the video a day after the battle, on Feb. 2, when they were cleaning up the place and taking away bodies and weapons.
There is another video proof shot by the enemy. Russian mercenary with callsign 'Chechnya', who had been fighting in the Donbas within a group of militants belonging to the National Bolshevik party, was wounded in that battle and told about the engagement as seen from the other side.
'Chechnya' is a typical 'fighter for the rights of Russian-speaking population' - he only uses thieves' talk, his ears are broken, his jail past obvious. Such genetic trash is usually the core of battle teams of the occupational troops, so beware of rude language [in Russian - ed.]:
Here is an update of what 'Chechnya' speaks about: the militants captured one, not three dug-outs. They did not destroy three tanks, but only damaged one. Two Ukrainian soldiers were killed, not 120, as 'Chechnya' fantasized. It's important that the criminal confirmed some details of the battle that we knew. According to data available to the Ukrainian side, 32 militants were killed, while 'Chechnya' speaks of 36. I believe his number is more accurate for he continues to serve in the same unit.
The battle is an example of competent actions by our tank reserve in defense. It's also an example of an audacious attempt by the enemy, which could turn successful if not for fast and decisive actions of our guys at the strong point and the reserve group.
Troitske was at the hatch of the Debaltseve bridgehead and has an important strategic role for connectivity of the entire front line near Popasna. 'Sasha' platoon strong point was two kilometers from Troitske, and the village could be easily approached by the enemy. Seizure of the strong points near Troitske would have allowed the enemy to penetrate into our defenses and cause drastic consequences for the subsequent battle.
The engagement was described by its participants. Here is the story of then commander of the 7th tank company of the 17th tank brigade Serhii Yurievych Fedosenko, callsign 'Fedos.' Serhii was mobilized; he used to serve in the army as a tank troops officer, graduated from Kharkiv Tank College; he was 38 at the time of the battle:
"So here is what happened at 'Sasha' strong point, also called 'Stanytsia' platoon strong point. This strong point was located at the outskirts of Troitske. There were two of our tanks at 'Sasha'.
"What helped us in the battle?
"First, our battalion commander Hennadii Myrokhin is a competent officer; he realized the importance of a mobile tank reserve, so he created a reserve attack group of two tanks and one IFV with an infantry squad in Popasna. We had a clear task - if the enemy attacked, we advanced for a countercharge.
"Second, we were training to fulfill the task all the time; searching for approaches and cooperation; thought over possible scenarios; war-gamed the situation of possible 'Sasha' assault. We were able to make decisions quickly.
"Third, the two tanks had well-trained crews who used to serve prior to the war and were reliable.
"Fourth, our tanks were totally combat-ready and operable, which was a rare thing at that time. We managed to achieve this due to help from volunteers. They bought all the needments for our tanks from some 'army dealers' - accelerating nozzles, wicks, triplexes, and even night sights for tanks! It turns out that all of that could be bought from private sellers.
"But that's not it! Our tanks would not be able to run with army fuel. The army fuel is shitty and killing a tank's engine. So volunteers supplied us with special fuel agents we were adding to the fuel. That's how our reserve tanks were always runners.
"So I'd like to note that the outcomes of the battle depended also on our volunteers, friends of my battle comrade Sursiakov.
"Now to the engagement itself. The platoon strong point was located on the outskirts of Troitske. There was a deep ravine outside Troitske from the enemy's side.
"We have to do justice to daring and calculated risk by the enemy. There had been no close combats at this area; it was mostly artillery operating. The enemy conducted additional recon and found that the draw was covered by neither mine fields nor patrols.
"An assault team of up to 100 persons gathered unnoticed in the ravine in a forest near Troitske. After that they skulked to our position's rear. They sowed mines along the only road to the strong point. Their plan was to employ the element of surprise to the maximum and to attack the strong point at the most propitious moment and from the most unexpected direction - the rear. 'Sasha' was not prepared for the perimeter defense; the same problem persisted there just like everywhere - excessive drinking, which lowered fighting capacity. So the enemy decided to assault at dawn, hoping for everyone to be asleep and that no one would notice them approaching from the rear, where there had been no fortification. This is why there had been no artillery preparation.
"They attacked at 6 a.m. At first, they succeeded. The enemy's calculations partially came true. None of the security noticed a large group of infantry advancing for an assault. They managed to seize one of our tanks without striking a blow. But then they were revealed. Russian mercenaries surrounded the tank crew dug-out and threw two grenades inside. There were several people there, but they were saved by blankets covering the dug-out's entrance. The grenades went off, but the entrance was Г-shaped, so the explosion occurred in the hallway, preventing the grenades from reaching the room. The fire was opened, and our guys managed to stop the enemy's advancement and signal an alarm. Our tankman Fedir Holovin was killed in a combat near the dug-out's entrance - he didn't make it to the tank. The guys in the dug-out survived - the enemy did not have time to mop up and finish them.
"We did not move out immediately. Our IFV with infantry went wrong. We were losing time waiting for them to start. Meanwhile, the battle was underway and our comrades needed help. Anyway, I made a decision to help them without infantry, with two tanks. It was a significant risk for us, but the guys repulsing the attack risked much more. Knowing the area, I expected to cover the strong point with an unexpected assault, fire at it, and stop the attack.
"I suggested that the enemy sowed mines along the road in case our reserves approach. As we reached the battle, we swerved off the road and went along the fields. Our insight was right - the enemy did sow mines along the road; after the battle, our multi-purpose armored tracked tower tripped mines at the road when evacuating those wounded. Thank Heaven, no one was killed.
"It happened that two our tanks reached the enemy's rear at 7 a.m., an hour after the battle started. Tank of Maksym Miroshnychenko was breaking through implantation in front of the strong point, and two enemy soldiers got under his tank.
"We were immediately caught by the enemy's punishing cannonade - they were well-equipped with anti-tank supplies. We were seeing flashes and fire from every single direction and started to crush firing points. We had to act with caution because our old problem manifested itself - communication. We had no cooperation with our camp that was involved in the combat.
"Our old radios P-173 were allowing communication among tanks and with the battalion headquarters, but there was no communication with the strong point itself. There was no target indication. The enemy was hiding in our entrenchments. It was our problem, which prevented us from inflicting more losses on the enemy.
"We were lucky that the entrenchments were not good for battle due to thaw - they were filled with water. As a result of our maneuver, the enemy's assault team had nowhere to retreat; they had to continue the battle in unfavorable conditions. We asked through the headquarters that our soldiers hide, and started to shell from all weapons. The fighting range was short, some even got under the tanks.
"I feared anti-tank weapons, but at the same time I was aware of their possibilities - it is not that easy to destroy a maneuvering tank. In order to hit a speeding and firing tank from a grenade launcher, one needs guts and a lot of skills. If you miss, tank is able to home much faster, and a 125-mm missile does not need special accuracy to cover an entrenchment.
"I saw the battle's description by the enemy, which said that they hit our tanks, but those are nerves speaking. They actually did not hit us, although many frags caused us scrapes. We were not standing still and conducted aimed fire. If tanks are competently used at a battlefield and have freedom of maneuvering, infantry would have difficulties forcing them out of action.
"I found the positions of our military and we approached the tank of Mykhailo Moskalenko; he explained the situation to me. His tank was forced out of action - a grenade burned through the tube, another grenade locked the turret and the gun-layer's manhole. Anyway, the tank could only fire from automated guns. Due to the thaw, the tank was in a deep puddle that replaced a caponier.
"Mykhailo showed us that the enemy had seized our second tank. I understood we had to reconquer it before they used it against us. So we started to nick our tank - Maksym was covering for us. The enemy attempted to use the tank but wasn't able to.
"Soon we ran out of ammunition. We rushed to the rear for reload. Battalion commander Myrokhin organized arrival of vehicles with fuel and ammunition directly to the front line. We reloaded quickly and returned to the combat. The enemy would have retreated if not for the open ground. We shot another allowance of ammunition. Certainly, the resistance was crushed.
"I have to say that the enemy was turning to bay. One of the mercenaries received wounds and blew himself with a grenade so that he wouldn't be captured.
"None of us were awarded for that battle. Possibly, the two guys who got killed were honored. However, I am not surprised. There were guys in my company who were reported about back during the Ilovaisk battles - for instance, tank driver Martyniuk, who broke through in a Russian T-72; they have not been awarded thus far."
Here is another story, by Fedosenko's tank gunner - Kyivite Oleksandr Sursiakov, who was 39 at the time of the battle. Sursiakov served in tank troops for five years; he then left for civvy street and worked as a sales department chief in a car center in Kyiv. Now, after he was demobilized, Sursiakov returned to his office work.
"I was a tank gunner in Fedosenko's crew. Our tank driver was Ihor Pyrohov. The second tank: Maksym Miroshnychenko was platoon commander, Oleksandr Andrieiev was tank driver, and Maksym Chernenkyi was gun spotter.
"All of the guys were combat ready and reliable - all unprepared had been separated in advance.
"'Sasha' platoon strong point was a relatively calm spot periodically covered by artillery, but there were no close battles there. So [the guys - ed.] relaxed and allowed a large group into their rear without noticing. Separatists approached them the day before. They also overslept the assault - the battle began when the enemy was at our positions.
"We were part of the 3rd battalion of the 17th tank brigade. We were alarmed and had 30 minutes before advancing. However, we lost some time because the infantry at IFVs was not ready. Actually, it was a problem because combat-ready infantry is needed for sound cooperation with tanks; now we only have the most motivated contract soldiers sent to our strike force. But we left Popasna anyway. We did not approach along the road, but through fields, and it was a surprise for the enemy. We jumped out of the implantation directly at the strong point, where the combat was underway some 600 meters from us. Our guys were outflanked to the left; a part of the strong point was seized. But the guys were fighting well, although the strong point was not prepared for perimeter defense and the enemy attacked from the rear. We approached the enemy from their rear and they forgot about the attack.
"We had difficulties because of lack of communication with the strong point. We had communication with battalion commander Myrokhin and communicated via him.
"What was the most difficult thing in the battle? We were using large-caliber machine gun at the tank turret, which is a great gun with a major disadvantage - its coffer only holds 150 bullets. We used them all quite fast and needed to change the coffer. I had armor-piercing bullets for sweeping the implantation. But replacing the coffer under the enemy's fire during a battle is an impossible task.
"I have to do justice to our units from 'Andrii' strong point which started to blanket implantations at 'Sasha's front line with flanking fire to prevent the enemy from build-up and front line attack.
"It's important that the guys at the strong point managed to hold until our arrival and did not choke up when the enemy seized some of the positions.
"We killed a lot of mercenaries there. Our losses are as follows: One tank at the strong point was damaged. The second one, which was captured by the enemy, survived - they didn't manage to use its weapons.
"We captured several wounded militants, but only Belarusian soldier Yevgeniy Patsyuk survived. We might have saved more, but our multi-purpose armored tracked tower tripped mines sowed by the enemy at the road and the doctor was wounded.
"Russian mercenary with call sign 'Kosmos' was killed; his body was later exchanged for 10 of our alive captives.
"Unfortunately, we lost two our comrades at the close combat at the 'Sasha' strong point: Holovin and Chelovskyi. 15 persons were wounded. The doctor's wounds turned out to be the gravest of them all.
"I want to say a word about our volunteers, without them our company would not have been able to fight.
"… Many locals were also very helpful… Our victory was aided by dozens of people, and successful defense of 'Sasha' strong point is their achievement as well. If volunteers hadn't supplied our tanks with everything they needed, the battle outcome would have been different."
Feb. 1, soldiers of the 17th tank brigade died a heroic death; they were faithful to the oath to Ukrainian people until the end:
Dmytro Chelovskyi, sergeant of the 17th tank brigade, aged 34, from Kryvyi Rih, the Dnipropetrovsk region. Chelovskyi died a heroic death in the battle with Russian mercenaries at 'Sasha' strong point near Troitske village on Feb.1, 2015. Before the war, Dmytro was a miner at 'Hvardiiska' mine. He was probably the only real Russian-speaking miner, whom Russian mercenaries came to save from the 'junta.' Dmytro is survived by his wife and seven-year-old daughter.
Dmytro Holovin, senior soldier of the 17th tank brigade, aged 33, from Volodymyr-Volynskyi, the Volyn region. Holovin died a heroic death in the battle with Russian mercenaries at 'Sasha' strong point near Troitske village on Feb.1, 2015. Dmytro terminated his vacation early and rushed to help his comrades when he learned about aggravation at the front line. Dmytro was alone raising two underage children, who are now brought up by his parents.
Rest in peace…
Battle spot at 'Sasha' strong point on Feb. 1, 2015.
Killed Russian mercenary at 'Sasha' strong point during the battle of Feb. 1, 2015.
Bodies of killed and wounded Russian soldiers from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus are loaded onto a truck. Feb.1, 2015.
Wounded Russian mercenary at 'Sasha' strong point during the battle of Feb. 1, 2015.
T-62 tank of the 8th tank company of the 17th tank brigade; crew: platoon commander Serhii Fedosenko, gunner Oleksandr Sursiakov, tank driver Ihor Pyrohov at the positions near Popasna, winter 2015.
Commander of the 8th tank company of the 17th separate tank brigade Serhii Fedosenko, employee of the security service of a Kryvyi Rih mining plant.
Tank gunner of the 17th separate tank brigade Oleksandr Sursiakov, Kyiv resident, head of sales department of Avtotsentr company in the capital of Ukraine.
Tank platoon commander of the 17th separate tank brigade Maksym Miroshnychenko.
Group of soldiers and commanders of the 8th tank company of the 17th separate tank brigade near Popasna in 2015.
Yurii Butusov, Censor.NET
Related materials: Episodes of the Russian-Ukrainian war