Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
On the 18th of January the Ministry of State Security of the LPR reported that a special operation was carried out to bring Ivan Khizhnyak – the former chief of command and control of the separate anti-aircraft division of the military unit A-1973 located in the city of Kramatorsk, who for three years was engaged in collecting classified information in the rear of the enemy – to the territory of the Lugansk People’s Republic.
On January 19th, Ivan Khizhnyak gave an exclusive interview, in which he gave answers to questions that reveal some details about the long-term armed standoff on the Donbass land.
In particular, he said that he began service in 2011, having arrived for service in Lugansk as a Commander of the anti-aircraft missile department, where he was until March, 2014.
“After this I was relocated with the entire military unit to the Dnepropetrovsk region, and was there until July, 2014. On July 4th, 2014, a division of the 1973 military unit, which was deployed in the city of Lugansk, was sent to the zone of the so-called ‘ATO’, namely to the city of Kramatorsk, at an airfield located near Kramatorsk where, at that time, the deployment of a HQ of the so-called ‘ATO’ was planned. We called it ‘base camp Sarmat’. I was there until May, 2016. The combat task was to defend the air space and to cover the airfield and the base personnel of the ‘ATO’ against air attacks,” noted the officer.
He said that at that time the Ukrainian command was afraid of airstrikes by Russian combat aircraft at the beginning of full-scale military operations.
Ivan Khizhnyak stated that the arms of the Ukrainian army and, in particular, of anti-aircraft divisions, became outdated and didn’t receive due maintenance.
“The equipment that we had in service was from 1972. They were still the ‘youngest’ types. Accordingly, no major overhaul happened during its operation. There were no bases of caterpillars or equipment. Maintenance was carried out by the forces of units responsible for this equipment, but it was insufficient. The materials necessary for maintenance – fuels and lubricants – aren’t fully supplied, the replacement of parts isn’t carried out. Parts aren’t produced in Ukraine any more. If earlier we could order parts from the defense industry of the Russian Federation, now we can’t do this anymore. Respectively, if the equipment already failed, we won’t be able to repair it any more,” he said.
Also, Ivan Khizhnyak shared information about the quality of the ammunition used by Ukrainian troops:
“Being in ‘Camp Sarmat’, I had to communicate with many people who directly fired ammunition. Upon communication there was information about ‘Smerch’ and ‘Grad’: everything that Ukraine had in its arsenal had already been fired. Especially ‘Smerch’. Further, it isn’t clear which warehouses this came from – everything that was stored away by the Soviet Union – up to the 1960’s”.
The officer emphasised that lately the Ukrainian military used ammunition that doesn’t conform to technical requirements and didn’t pass verification properly, which leads to accidents. Also, he noted that the Ukrainian media tries not to mention this sensitive issue.
Ivan Khizhnyak also didn’t ignore such a sensitive issue as large-scale plunders of arms and ammunition in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which already assumed a scale of an epidemic. Moreover, the Ukrainian command, for the purpose of concealing the plunders, starts fires in weapons and ammunition warehouses, which led to the detonation of not-yet-plundered military systems.
“This is Svatovo, warehouses with arms, and Balakleya, where explosions took place… We have the opinion that in these warehouses there was already practically nothing. A secret order was given by the Ministry of Defence for arson, fire provoking, and the concealment of proof of a crime: theft,” he stated.
Khizhnyak paid special attention to the fact of the presence of foreign mercenaries in the deployment of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
“I can say with confidence that I personally observed this being on the territory of the ‘Kramatorsk’ airfield, which was a HQ of the ‘ATO’. I repeatedly saw people in foreign uniforms who spoke in a foreign languages and gave training and classes with Ukrainian military personnel, and who were dressed in a special uniform that differed from the uniform of ordinary military personnel of the Ukrainian army. They had weapons; in principle I’m familiar with many small arms, but I hadn’t seen such ones before,” admitted the officer.
“Also I observed such a special instance – a group of foreigners with an eastern appearance were allowed on the territory of the airfield. This is a confidential object, the command of the HQ of the ‘ATO’ is on this territory. In general, access there is very strict. They stayed there for some time, and after their departure, SBU employees detained in divisions the officers of the command of these units, and then there was information that these officers were suspected of theft or the loss of weapons. There was the opinion that the equipment was simply sold to foreigners. They managed to reach an agreement,” he stated.
Also, the officer spoke about the systematic violations of the conditions of the Minsk Agreements by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and also about the imitation of shelling on the territories of Donbass temporarily under the control of Ukraine, which was staged by Ukrainian artillerists.
“As far as I know, secret orders were given. The Commanders of units and divisions gathered on the territory of the airfield, Commanders from the first and second lines also arrived there to receive tasks, and the order was given secretly: not to allow employees of the OSCE mission on certain territories and objects where there were arms that are forbidden by the Minsk Agreements; not to allow them at all costs, should this mission arrive — even form a cordon,” he noted.
“The Ukrainian military command foreknew about the arrival at this or that time of the OSCE mission and Ukrainian journalists, and in order to form public opinion the task was set to start shelling. In these instances, everything reached the point of absurdity. As far as I know, even many soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine – sergeants and ensigns – indeed confirmed that the Minsk Agreements were observed by the Republic [LPR – ed], that shelling wasn’t conducted. And even if they tried to provoke and to shell the Republics [DPR/LPR – ed] – they didn’t manage to achieve a response. All of this caused concern among the command of units of the ‘ATO’. Accordingly, it led to absurd cases: according to the stories of my colleagues, howitzer batteries or a mortar platoon were divided into two parts – all of this was done for journalists and the arrival of the OSCE mission. One part left for one position, which allegedly was aimed at the Republics, and another remained here, and shelling was carried out. This was supposed to show that it is the Republic that violates [the Minsk Agreements – ed]. All of this was recorded on camera. The OSCE Mission documented that shelling is being conducted, and further, the desire to find out more didn’t arise,” stressed Ivan Khizhnyak.
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