Image: John Moore/Getty Images
2014-05-13 17:13:59 UTC
DONETSK, Ukraine — Seven Ukrainian paratroopers are dead and seven others are wounded after pro-Russian separatist forces ambushed their convoy in a rural village near the flash point city of Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine.
The surprise attack occurred just after 1 p.m. local time on Tuesday as soldiers of the 95th Ukrainian airborne brigade were transporting ammunition on the outskirts of Oktyabrske village — about 12 miles from separatist-controlled Kramatorsk — when more than 30 rebels opened fire from the surrounding forest with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons, Ukraine's Defense Ministry said in a statement.
With the first shot from a grenade launcher the terrorists hit the engine of an armored personnel carrier, which came to a bridge. An explosion followed. Another APC tried to push the damaged military vehicle, which caught fire, away from the village. After the first salvo, terrorists with heavy weapons killed two soldiers, wounding another three. Overall, as a result of prolonged clashes, six members of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were killed. Eight (suffered wounds) with varying degrees of severity.
During the assault, "a bus came to the aid of the 30-40 militants. By helicopters came paratrooper reinforcements," Ukrainian military veteran and security analyst Dmitry Tymchuk said. But the damage was already done.
Separatist forces on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the destruction of two Ukrainian armored personnel carrier (APC).
"It is true that there was an armed clash. We destroyed two enemy APCs. However, unfortunately, one of our militiamen was killed. The enemy has retreated," the Kramatorsk separatist headquarters told the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
The Ministry said all of the soldiers killed and wounded during the ambush were evacuated safely from the area. The brigade was using rural Oktyabrske village as a base camp from which they launched the counter-terrorism operations that began three weeks ago.
As of Tuesday evening, many details remained hazy. A video that was purportedly filmed during the ambush was published on YouTube and circulated on Russian state media. If accurate, it gives some idea of the events that preceded the ambush.
It shows an APC similar in design to those used by Ukraine's armed forces cruising down a village road and what appears to be several rebels in military fatigues adorned with the orange and black St. George's ribbon, a pro-Russian separatist symbol, armed with automatic weapons sneaking through a wooded area.
In the next cut, an APC and several people can be seen advancing to a small bridge in a rural area similar to the village described by the Defense Ministry. Above them soon after appears a military helicopter, which lands amid a forest area as another buzzes overhead. None of the camouflaged men are seen or heard firing their weapons in the video, which Mashable could not independently verify.
Another video purportedly shows smoke rising from the Ukrainian armored vehicles destroyed by the rebels. The explosions are likely caused by the ammunition inside the vehicles.
The gunfight marked the most recent surge of violence in Ukraine's restive eastern regions, where separatists have seized control and carried out an illegal referendum on secession in order to create the so-called Donetsk People's Republic.
The separatists have armed militia in nearly a dozen cities who have clashed violently with Ukrainian forces for nearly a month. As a result, tens of people on both sides have been killed in a conflict teetering on the brink of all out civil war.