: Ukraine's 12th battalion marks a milestone
Society17:34 May. 6, 2016

Ukraine's 12th battalion marks a milestone

Soldiers who fought in the east remember fallen brothers

To hell and back. Ukrainian 12th Battalion of Territorial Defence commemorates the second anniversary of its creation. These soldiers took part in some of the fiercest battles in eastern Ukraine. They were shelled by the Russian Grad rockets, they fought the Russian-backed separatist forces in the centre of their stronghold Luhansk.

Mykola Bilosvit, Ukrainian 12th Battalion commander: "On August 2, we entered Luhansk and put the Ukrainian flag up on a police building. For three weeks we stood our ground in the city."

The soldiers pay tribute to their fallen brothers today. The losses of the battalion are estimated to be 13 dead and 82 wounded. Most of them died when the Russian troops crossed the border in the summer of 2014.

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Oleksandr Vovk, Ukrainian 12th Battalion former soldier: "When the Russians came, we had to retreat up north closer to the border. That's when their Grads hit us from their territory."

Oleksandr is no longer in the ranks of the battalion. Multiple wounds and concussions prevent him from returning to the battlefield. He and many others are trying to recover from the consequences of the war. Only 30 people from the original squad are still serving under the battalion's insignia. They are the core of the division.

Read also Two Years of War: Human cost of Russia's undeclared war in Ukraine's Donbas (Infographics)

This is the second war for this soldier with a call sign "Gardez". He bears the name of the city in Afghanistan where he served in the 80s. "Gardez" is now fighting against his former comrades. One of them is in charge of a Russian squad in Luhansk. Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev, Russian soldiers prosecuted in Ukraine, served under his command.

Gardez, Ukrainian 12th Battalion soldier: "I wanted to call him and tell his men were imprisoned, but couldn't reach him. Oh, well."

The celebration doesn't take long. In the end, the servicemen have to return to the occupied Donbas. Even though originally the battalion was meant to serve in Kyiv.


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