26-year-old Roman Matviiets of the 8th Spetsnaz regiment was killed near Popasna, the Luhansk region, covering three gravely wounded soldiers: his commander, Major Yevhen Slominskyi and two scouts of the 11th Kyivska Rus Battalion Petro Korsak and Serhii Vovchuk.
July 29 was celebrated in our country as Special Operation Forces day for the first time. On that day, the command of this newly-formed organization again addressed the country's government with a request to award Roman, who was killed on July 23, with a star of the Hero of Ukraine. This young Spetsnaz soldier covered those who were near him in a skirmish near Popasna. Fighters who repulsed the attack told in details about it.
"Over the night Saturday [July 23 - ed.] our positions were actively shelled by the enemy artillery," Serhii Vovchuk ('Vovk') says. "In the morning, an assault started. We were firing back for about 30 minutes. When it quieted down, we approached the bodies of two killed soldiers. One of them turned out wounded, not killed. He threw a grenade at me. I was knocked senseless by the explosion. I regained consciousness in a trench, where I was dragged into by our guys. The one who threw the grenade was killed in the explosion. Those killed did not look like rebels. They had perfect teeth, similar haircuts, they even had manicured nails. And they were sharp dressed in the same uniform. According to the documents we found, it was the 9th regiment of the Russian army's marines. As long as the assault quieted down, we took away the two bodies, ammunition, weapons, and phones and brought it all to the battalion's staff.
"Upon return, we realized the enemy was again trying to break through our defense line. Russians - about 28 people, they say - were walking along the forest to the strong point called 'Sherman'."
"A group from the 8th Spetsnaz regiment commanded by Roman Matviiets was ordered to come to the aid to the 11th battalion," Major of the 8th Spetsnaz regiment Yevhen Slominskyi, call sign Hulk, continues. " I work here as an operations officer. Roma asked me: 'Major, will you go with us?' I was ready in a moment. Together with scouts of the 11th battalion we had to check the strong point that we lost communication with. By that time, it had been fired upon by two tanks and SP guns."
"We had three people wounded, one of them with a damaged artery," Serhii Vovchuk adds. "Later, this guy's leg was amputated… We aided those wounded and evacuated them. We checked the strong point, the trenches - no one was there. Then we advanced: we needed to see whether there were any mines or tripwires there. And then we were forced to take ground. Artillery resumed fire upon the strong point - we couldn't raise our heads. That allowed an assault group of the enemy approaching us, with a machine gun and four rifles firing. The enemy was 15 meters next to us.
"The rifles silenced really fast. But the machine gunner has a convenient position that prevented us from neutralizing him."
"It was a professional," Spetsnaz soldier Slominskyi says. "He was not aiming to kill us. He wanted to take captives. Boroda had his knee shot. My both hands were shot. And Vovk's arms were wounded as well."
His comrade Vovk adds about him: "Hulk's right hand bones were broken, his left hand crushed to pulp, but he somehow managed to fire a shot at the machine gunner. I still do not get how he did that."
Slominskyi was operated on four times. His right arm bones have been juxtaposed by doctors. Now they are trying to save his left arm.
Slominskyi goes on: "Roma saw it all and realized we had been wounded. He simply moved out in the direction of the machine gunner, covering the three of us. The guy realized he would not escape, so he tried to kill us, the wounded. He shot me again, hitting my chest with one bullet, and a grenade with another. Matviiets continued approaching the enemy and shooting. He silenced him after all. I suppose he did it hand in hand. Although he was wounded as well."
By his heroic act, Roman allowed the wounded to crawl to the trenches where two more soldiers were remaining, and then to the infantry. His comrades wanted to find Roma and get him out of the battlefield.
"Because of those damned Minsk accords, we were not supported by artillery; mortars were not firing, even grenade launchers were banned at this area," the soldiers resent. "Although the command was well aware of the breakthrough attempts - we informed them many times of the force build-up here… If artillery shelling of our positions was retaliated by our cannons, the assaulters would not have approached us this close. Matviiets would be alive. In addition, our anti-tank gunner Serhii 'Bulka' [Shadskykh - ed.] was killed the same day. Eight people were wounded!
"The killed Spetsnaz soldier was found soon after the skirmish. His lungs and liver artery were hit. He had no chances to survive… An enemy machine gun was found near him. The body of the machine gunner had been taken away by the enemy."
"Roma arrived in the company in May last year," Slominskyi says. "Prior to that, he had been fighting in the 1st unit of the 8th regiment. He was wounded in Debaltseve. 'Matvii' is one of those soldiers who are able to make decisions in the most difficult situations. He was always self-assured and knew exactly what to do. We lost a great warrior. Roman is survived by a wife and an 8-year-old son…"
It is clear from their talk that the soldiers have remembered the skirmish for many times, and thought what they could do differently and prevent Roman from being killed. Each of them has been operated on three times. All of them have to go a long way to recovery. They all are gravely shell-shocked and have poor hearing.
Serhii Vovchuk (left) and Petro Korsak are currently treated in a Kyiv hospital. Both serve in the 11th Kyivska Rus Battalion
Yevhen Slominskyi is a professional military. Prior to the skirmish in Popasna, he proved himself as a brave soldier.
"Major Slominskyi is the one who commanded a Spetsnaz group when our troops in the Luhansk airport needed to be unblocked in July 2014," says deputy commander of Special Operation Forces Center, Colonel Serhii Kryvonos. "Despite dense fire by the enemy, the major managed to seize control over a high point and repulse the enemy. After wounded and killed were evacuated, the unit advanced by two kilometers and hit a foe armored vehicle. In February 2015, during the 32nd check point events, two groups of Spetsnaz soldiers, one of them commanded by Major Slominskyi, broke through to our surrounded soldiers. During the breakthrough the scouts approached a strong point of the enemy, seized it, and destroyed about 30 separatists and an armored vehicle. I filed an application for Slominskyi to be awarded with non-governmental "People's Hero of Ukraine" order. "
Slominskyi himself says he has been serving in the army since 2010.
"I signed a contract after forced military service and was sent to the 25th paratrooper brigade. Despite serving in the Spetsnaz regiment at the moment, I still feel myself a paratrooper.
"Like other soldiers, I go mad because of these unnecessary cease-fires, during which our best guys are killed. If we were allowed to finish what we started, to cut the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, surround the separatists, close the borders to prevent humanitarian convoys and Russian equipment from entering, the situation would have been totally different, and we wouldn't have had so many casualties…
"Again, on July 23, two soldiers of the Ukrainian army were killed and nine injured near Popasna solely."
Violetta Kirtoka, Censor.NET