Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ukraine: A Catastrophic Defeat by Tim Judah | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

The scale of the devastation suffered by Ukrainian forces in southeastern Ukraine over the last week has to be seen to be believed. It amounts to a catastrophic defeat and will long be remembered by embittered Ukrainians as among the darkest days of their history.

A week ago a major rebel offensive began. On September 3 on a sixteen-mile stretch of road from the village of Novokaterinivka to the town of Ilovaysk, I counted the remains of sixty-eight military vehicles, tanks, armored personnel carriers, pick-ups, buses, and trucks in which a large but as yet unknown number of Ukrainian soldiers died as they tried to flee the area between August 28 and September 1. They had been ambushed by rebel forces and, according to survivors, soldiers from the army of the Russian Federation.

These destroyed vehicles were of course only the ones I could see—those that were not destroyed are now in the hands of rebels. In Novokaterinivka, which is twenty-eight miles southeast of the rebel-held city of Donetsk, the body of a Ukrainian soldier was folded over the high power cable onto which he had been flung when his armored vehicle exploded, his clothes hanging off him. In what was left of the vehicle nearby were the charred remains of half a man and the grilled body of another, left where he had been sitting when he was killed.

On September 3, eighty-seven bodies were reported to have arrived in Zaporizhia, a large city in the region that is under Ukrainian control. But, more are yet to be found. Quite apart from the appalling military setback is the humiliation. At one ambush site two fresh graves marked with crosses made of sticks indicated that the dead had been buried close to their burned out vehicles by the side of the road. On the main street of Novokaterinivka locals posed for pictures in front of destroyed vehicles and cars that had been jacked up with logs because undamaged wheels had been unscrewed and looted. Euphoric rebel soldiers there told us they were “cleaning up”—looking for remaining Ukrainians who had fled into the fields and were still there.

Complete story at - Ukraine: A Catastrophic Defeat by Tim Judah | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

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