Donbas Battalion

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Donbass Battalion
Ukrainian: Батальйон «Донбас»
Emblem of the Donbas Battalion.svg
Donbass Battalion emblem
Founded2014 (2014)
Country Ukraine
Branch National Guard of Ukraine
EngagementsWar in Donbass
Battle of Ilovaisk
Battle of Debaltseve
Semen Semenchenko[2]
Battalion flagFlag of the Donbas Battalion.svg

The Donbass Battalion is a volunteered National Guard of Ukraine unit subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, based in Severodonetsk. The formation was established in the Spring of 2014 during the 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine.[2][3][4] The battalion was created by Semen Semenchenko who is a major in the National Guard of Ukraine. The unit was initially formed as independent, but has been fully integrated into the National Guard of Ukraine as the 2nd Special Purpose Battalion "Donbas".[5][6] From April 2014 to June 2014 - a non-governmental armed formation to protect Ukraine, from June 2014 to October 2016 – a special purpose battalion in the National Guard of Ukraine (NGU), from October 2016 to present - a non-governmental voluntary organization aimed at the protection of Ukraine.[7]



At the beginning of March 2014, when separatist sentiments[8] flashed in Donetsk, the pro-Ukrainian self-defense of the Donetsk Oblast was created by the Ukrainian patriots from the Donetsk Oblast in order to protect pro-Ukrainian protests in response to the calls to create a so-called Donetsk People's Republic (DPR)[9] and to prevent violence from the Russian special services and separatists in relation to Ukrainian citizens. The Chief of Staff of the Self-Defense Headquarter was Semen Semenchenko, and some of its participants formed the basis of the future Donbass battalion. Major-General Roman Romanov, the Head of Militia Department in the Donetsk Oblast, handed over his powers to separatists,[10] and Pavel Gubarev, the leader of the pro-Russian sentiments in the Donbass seized the building of the Donetsk Oblast Administration, letting supporters of the "Russian world" in.[11]

The Donbass Self-defense asked the leadership of the Oblast and the military commissariat to create a territorial defense battalion and succeeded in this. On April 15, a recruitment of volunteers and officers began into a new unit, which was named the Donbass Battalion. Volunteer groups, a charitable foundation of the battalion are being created, and the Ukrainians from all over the country send aid and transfer money for the unit logistics. The newly formed battalion is based in the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. Citizens with officially registered weapons are invited to join.[12]

Non-governmental armed formation (April 2014 – June 2014)[edit]

In March 2014, a self-defense unit of the Donetsk Oblast was created. After the first battles, the Donbass Volunteer Battalion was announced to be created. A commander of the squad was Semen Semenchenko, who announced a recruitment of volunteers to the unit on his Facebook page. In a few days, about 600 volunteers signed up to the Donbass battalion, and since the end of April the unit begins its activities in the Donetsk Oblast. They provide assistance in moving activists who are in danger, collect information about the coordinators of pro-Russian rallies and checkpoints. So, the battalion's leadership created groups of counteraction, intelligence, warning and escort.

On May 1, the unit participates in the first operation to capture and destroy the terrorists’ checkpoints. The Donbass Battalion successfully destroyed a separatist checkpoint in Krasnoarmiysk. Three Kalashnikov guns were withdrawn and 15 terrorists captured.[13]

The battalion commander was offered to locate a base in Novopidgorodnye at the boundary of the Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk Oblasts.[14] After the checkpoint in Krasnoarmiysk had been destroyed, the personnel returned to the location. A few hours later, the Russian mercenaries came in three buses to assault the Donbass base.

External video
1 мая донецкие провокаторы устроили конфликт на территории Днепропетровщины on YouTube // 34 телеканал, 5 May 2014

The Donbass fighters were armed with several small-caliber rifles, an old rifle and several grenades. The attempt to assault proved to be ineffective, as a military helicopter flew to help a surrounded volunteer battalion.

External video
Боевой Вертолет пугает людей on YouTube // Украинский Медведь, 6 June 2014

Being frightened, the attackers fled away.[15]

On May 11, a subdivision of the Donbass Battalion was stationed in Mariupol and was engaged in the city protection. The unit soldiers took part in the liberation of the military unit of the National Guard of Ukraine.[16]

On May 14, there was a news that separatists seized Velykonovosilkivskyi district of the Donetsk Oblast. The local authorities and militia disappeared. Russian mercenaries from the Vostok battalion planned to attack Novosilka. When the Donbass battalion decided to go to Donetsk after the attack, they refused of this idea.[17]

On May 15, 2014, the formed unit carried out an operation to clear the territories from enemy sabotage groups. The operation was held in Velyka Novosilka,[18] during which the DPR flag was torn down from the building of the district administration and the flag of Ukraine was put on and the control over the district was returned. Educational work was carried out with militiamen, who handed over the local militia department to terrorists. The Donbas battalion took the district under its protection, the residents of Velikonovosilkivsky district were elected to the leading positions of the district, and the cells of the "regional" and "communist" parties were forced to dissolve.[19]

On May 21, 2014, Semen Semenchenko, the battalion commander, called the part of the employees of the State Automobile Inspection of Ukraine in the Donetsk region, who moved to the side of the DPR, to be "traitors" as well as those who are carrying a joint service with the DPR soldiers at the checkpoints, accompanying vehicles’ columns and guard the administrative buildings. He demanded to hand over their arms and leave the Donetsk Oblast territory during 24 hours, until noon on May 22, threatening to destroy them in case they continue to cooperate with the DPR.[20] As of May 21, the battalion took control over the administration buildings of four districts: Velikonovosilkivsky, Volodarsky, Dobropolsky and Aleksandrivsky. This was a part of the operation to ensure the security of polling stations, which allowed the presidential elections in Ukraine to be held smoothly in 2014.[21]

On May 22, 2014, Semenchenko announced the control over the Volodarsky district was returned.[22]

On May 23, the unit sustained an operation to attack fortified areas, but fell into an ambush in Karlivka. 25 fighters had a battle with the enemy, the company of the Vostok battalion. In the battle five Donbas fighters were killed, and the terrorists lost 11 people. According to Semenchenko, the loss of the Donbass battalion was 4 people killed, 1 died from wounds, about 20 wounded, some were captured.[23]

Special purpose battalion in the National Guard of Ukraine (June 2014 - October 2016)[edit]

After the battle near Karlivka, the leadership of the Donbass battalion became clear that Russian mercenaries in the Donbass had already got not only small arms but heavy weapons as well. Moreover, it became obvious that the Armed Forces leadership did not provide assistance to Ukrainian partisan detachments. The Armed Forces units, located 5 km from Karlivka, did not come to help Ukrainian volunteers.[24] In this regard, Semen Semenchenko, the commander of the Donbass battalion accepted the proposal of the Minister of Internal Affairs Avakov to join the battalion to the National Guard of Ukraine. It should have given an opportunity to arm the battalion, should have given it a legal status and provided an opportunity to coordinate its actions with the units of the Armed Forces, the NGU and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.[25][26]

Donbas Battalion training group near Kiev (2014)

On June 1, Semen Semenchenko, the commander of the Donbass battalion spoke at the People’s Veche (assembly) on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), where he first called on to join the unit to protect the territorial integrity of Ukraine. On the first day of the volunteers' recording, about 600 people arrived at Novy Petrovtsy training range, a military unit 3027 base. After this, several more volunteer enrollments were held on the Maidan.[27] During one of these enrollments on June 8, 10 soldiers of the Presidential Regiment appeared to enter the battalion ranks.[28]

On June 3, while a decision was being made to send volunteer battalions to the ATO, the Donbass battalion was asked to watch near the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament), as internal troops were not able to secure the Parliament protection. The Donbass Battalion protected the Parliament against possible terrorist acts. The Donbass fighters faced the building of the Verkhovna Rada turning their backs to the people, demonstrating on which side they were - on the side of people.

On June 29, Semenchenko, the battalion commander spoke at the People's Veche (assembly) on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), calling for a complete change and reform of all public authorities and state institutions. A mobilization station was announced to be created on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), lots of volunteers began to be recorded. After the Veche (assembly) the Donbass battalion volunteers went to the Presidential Administration. The battalion volunteers headed by Semen Semenchenko, their battalion commander demanded to stop a seize-fire regime with Russian mercenaries. President Poroshenko assured the future military that they would soon have an opportunity to go to the ATO area and fight. On July 19, a decision was made to form a special purpose volunteer battalion Crimea, and on July 21, the commander of the Donbass battalion announced the recruitment of volunteers to a new unit.[29] It was planned to liberate Donbass from Russian mercenaries first, then involve the Crimea battalion in the liberation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea from the Russian occupation. On June 4, 2014, in the city of Izium, a meeting of the political, military and police leadership of Ukraine was held to coordinate the actions of the Donbas and Azov volunteer battalions with other military units, attended by Oleksandr Turchynov, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Arseniy Avakov, Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, representatives of law enforcement agencies, as well as commanders of both battalions.[30] At the meeting, samples of modern armored vehicles manufactured by the Malyshev plant were shown, particularly armored combat vehicles Dozor which the Donbass were planned to be supplied to the Battalion. Semenchenko stated that having such armored vehicles he was ready to liberate Donetsk. However, for all subsequent years of the war, the Donbass battalion did not receive any such vehicle.[30]

After the military meeting in Slavyansk it was decided to send a company of the Donbass battalion to the ATO area. However, the unit was provided neither with vehicles, nor with fuel for transportation, nor with adequate equipment. At request of Semen Semenchenko, the unit commander, volunteers, entrepreneurs and ordinary Ukrainians gathered everything necessary and a company of the Donbass battalion managed to go to the frontline.

July 4, 2014, an assault company of the Donbass battalion took part in a liberation operation of Mykolayivka, the Donetsk Oblast.[31][32] Immediately after this operation a retreat of Russian mercenaries from Slavyansk started. The first person who provided intelligence data that the city could be enter in was Yaroslav Markevych, a volunteer of the Donbass battalion, who led a group of unmanned aerial vehicles.[33]

The battalion fighters located in Artemivsk were taking active steps to liberate the city from terrorists; night-time attacks of militants were being met, checkpoints were being built in and outside the city, as well as operations were underway to clear the territory. The battalion units provided patrols of the surrounding areas of Artemivsk and Horlivka.[34]

On August 10, 2014, the Donbass Battalion took part in the first assault of Ilovaysk. The main goal was to take the city, to destroy fortified areas and checkpoints and to squeeze Russian mercenaries out of the city. Although the Donbass battalion fulfilled its tasks, the plan to seize the city from Russian mercenaries failed because adjacent units failed to fulfill the military task, which resulted in the assault failure, and the military suffered losses. Therefore, to prevent new losses, the ATO forces moved to previous positions.[35] During the fighting, four fighters from the Donbass battalion perished.[36]

"... during the first (attack try - ed.) we discovered that not all adjacent battalions, which had to cover their own directions, were present at their places. Some units came, but not in the amount expected. The Azov battalion, for example, did not come in full ... "- said a soldier of the Donbass battalion.[37]

Only one IFV out of the promised armored vehicles was allocated for the Donbass battalion and the battalion had a KRAZ on the balance sheet armored by volunteers.[38] Among the other "special equipment" they had two CIT vehicles, which Donbass fighters retook from Russian mercenaries in the first minutes of the battle.[39] As a result of the operation, the volunteer battalions accused the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine of failing to provide the necessary support in heavy weapons.[40] On August 17, 2014, together with other units, the Donbass Battalion again participated in the assault of Ilovaysk. The unit entered the city and took positions at the city school number 14 near the railway, fulfilling the task set. However, the adjacent units did not fully fulfill their obligations again.

In the interim report of the Temporary Investigative Commission of the Verkhovna Rada investigating the tragic events under Ilovaysk, it says:

"Yes, at 5 am on August 17, General Yarovyi arrived at the assembly point as well as the Donbass battalion, which immediately began to fulfill the task. The Dnipro-1 battalion was a few hours late. The Azov and Shakhtarsk battalions did not arrive, the commanders of which stated they were not interested in new updates and they would be in place on Monday (August 18). The Donbass Battalion supported by the 6th IFV company under the command of captain Koshuba went to perform tasks without planned support on the three sides".[41]

On August 19, 2014, Semen Semenchenko, the commander of the Donbass battalion, was injured during the assault of Ilovaysk, having fragment wounds.[42] Within 10 days, fierce battles did not stop.[43] On August 29, 2014, leaving Ilovaysk via the Green Corridor, a Ukrainian military group fell into ambush and happened to be under the shell fire of the Russian regular army. During leaving Ilovaysk mousetrap 98 soldiers of the unit were captured. More than 100 unit fighters were injured.[44] The official estimates were 366 military perished, 249 wounded, and 158 missing during fighting for Ilovaysk and leaving the Green Corridor.[45] During September, October and November, the battalion personnel was withdrawn from the ATO area and engaged in a combat coordination. A part of the fighters were sent to Zolochiv city to undergo a sergeant school.[46] In September, a large number of volunteers came to the battalion and it deployed a training camp on the polygon of the 93rd separate mechanized brigade in Cherkaske village, Dnipropetrovsk oblast, which has about 300 recruits.[47] At the end of October, the battalion personnel together with the recruits was relocated to Kyiv oblast for training with instructors and a combat coordination. During that period, the battalion could not move to the combat area to fulfill the tasks due to the fact that about 100 soldiers of the unit were captured by Russian mercenaries during leaving Ilovaisk mousetrap. In case the battalion moved to the front line, the prisoners could have been executed.[48]

On November 18, the first rotation of the Donbass battalion to the Peace Valley of Luhansk oblast took place. They had to watch at the local support point to assist the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The battalion was engaged in a clearing operation of sabotage reconnaissance groups of Russian army mercenaries and support of 24th separate mechanized brigade on the Bakhmut route..

External video
Мирна Долина. Ямы. on YouTube // Kardi NalDi, 24 April 2015

On December 15 the second rotation took place.

From December 15 to December 25, 2015, Donbas Battalion organized a blockade of Akhmetov humanitarian convoys to the occupied territories in order to accelerate an exchange process of captives, blocking motorways in Luhansk oblast by mobile groups in a tank-dangerous direction.[49] Volunteer divisions like Dnipro-1, Right Sector and Aidar were involved in fulfilling separate tasks. Supplies of tobacco and vodka by Russian mercenaries were also blocked. The operation was successful: as a result of the blockade after the negotiations on December 26, 97 soldiers from the Donbass Battalion were released from captivity of pro-Russian mercenaries, who had been captured during the operation in Ilovaysk.[50] On January 11, 2015, the Donbass Battalion marched to Kyiv demanding an immediate sending of the unit into a combat area to carry out its functions there. A volunteer column came to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and surrounded the building.

"We also ask Arsen Avakov, a Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine to support the Donbass battalion fighters, first of all, in terms of sending them to the ATO area, where we can effectively fight sabotage and reconnaissance groups," – said Semen Semenchenko, the Donbass battalion commander".[51]

At that time, an active propaganda campaign was launched, aimed at the unit collapse. So, in January 2015, those who were expelled from the battalion for one or another misdemeanor began to accuse Semenchenko, the battalion commander, of evidence-free crimes and misdemeanors. However, the majority of the personnel didn’t believe the accusation.

"We also ask Arsen Avakov, a Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine to support the Donbass battalion fighters, first of all, in terms of sending them to the ATO area, where we can effectively fight sabotage and reconnaissance groups," – said Semen Semenchenko, the Donbass battalion commander"... each of us does not want a collapse following the further liquidation of our battalion. Many people are ready to fight, our guys are still on the captives list. Therefore, there is no split in the battalion and will not be. For most of us it doesn’t matter if Semenchenko will still be a commander or not. No matter how we treat Semenchenko, our battalion will always be associated with him. No one will seriously express distrust to Semen and, moreover, arrange an uprising," – commented a Donbass battalion soldier on the attempt to split the unit personnel.[52]

Nevertheless, on January 13, 2015 two companies of the battalion went to the ATO area. However, the promised armored vehicles that had been given to the battalion before start proved to be unsuitable for military tasks.

External video
Батальйон "Донбас" відбув у зону АТО on YouTube // Semen Semenchenko, 13 January 2015

At that time, the unit was performing tasks under the guidance of the Headquarters of 24th separate mechanized brigade. On January 27, a battalion company came to the battlefield deployment from an early rotation.

On January 31, Semen Semenchenko, the battalion commander took part in the operation to unlock Svityaz battalion and was shell-shocked.[53] On February 1, there was an attack of Vuglegirsk. The soldiers were killed, the commander happened to be in an accident. In January–February 2015, the Donbass battalion took part in battles near Debaltseve as in an attack of fortified areas of Russian mercenaries. Anti-diversion and assault groups were operating there. During fighting for Vuglegirsk on February 1, the unit lost four fighters.[54] On February 9, the units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, in cooperation with an anti-diversion group of the Donbass Battalion, did not allow Russian mercenaries to take control of Debaltsevo-Artemivsk route.[55] On February 12, the units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine took control of a part of Logvinovo and unlocked Artemivsk-Debaltsevo highway, the remaining resistance cells were suppressed; the Donbass battalion units carried out a clearing operation of the village and an adjacent section of the highway.[56] In the morning of February 13, the clearing operation of the Donbass battalion near Logvinovo was stopped. When units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine together with armored vehicles were withdrawn, militants counterattacked using armored troops – 7 tanks; the intensity of fighting was increasing.[57] In the battles for Logvinovo, the Donbass battalion destroyed about a platoon of enemies, a tank and an IFV, though three soldiers perished, four were injured.[58] In general, on February 13 by midday the Donbass battalion and the Armed Forces had destroyed about 50 fighters near Logvinovo, 17 Russian mercenaries had been captured, who were later transferred to the SSU for exchange.[59] The Donbass battalion and the Armed Forces of Ukraine held "a road of life", parallel to the field track. It was fired, but the columns were passing. At some points, the situation was complicated, and fighters had to fight half-trapped.[53][60][61] The Donbass battalion fighters captured an enemy’s multi-purpose light-armored towered vehicle and a 122mm mortar as trophies.[60]

On February 15, a Donbass battalion company took part in an operation to destroy fortified areas of Russian mercenaries and entered Shirokino, but it was taken to an ambush of the militants because a conductor "missed a turn." In the course of the battle, three battalion soldiers died, three were injured, and one of them died later because of fatal wounds.[62] During Shirokino's fighting on February 15–16 more than 100 people from the illegal armed units were killed, 10 units of armored vehicles were destroyed by the Donbas, Azov and AFU units.[63]

Late evening on February 16, Ukrainian military managed to squeeze armed men who were not identified as militaries of the Armed Forces of Ukraine out of one of the two ruling heights near Shirokino. Little earlier, 14 Donbas Battalion fighters were able to escape from a mousetrap made not by Ukrainian militaries in Shirokino. On February 18, near Shirokino, having occupied a residential multi-storied building before, a unit, which SSU defined as a terrorist one with some lansquenets from a neighboring state, began shelling Ukrainian positions with two mortars. Two hours later, an illegal armed group was kicked out by Ukrainian troops and began leaving in the direction of Novoazovsk. Another illegal armed group, as a result of actions of Ukrainian troops, went to the north-east - from the eastern outskirts of Shirokino under the cover of two tanks, one of the tanks disfunctioned, was evacuated by the retreating.[64] On that day, a representative of the Ukrainian intelligence reported that Shirokino is under the fire of mortar shells and tanks of illegal armed units; in the evening of February 16, one soldier in a Donbass battalion platoon was killed, four were wounded; at night of February 17, a battalion column fell into an ambush, and three soldiers were killed.[65] On March 7, the battalion fighters detected a sabotage-reconnaissance group of the Russian Special Forces. During the battle, three mercenaries were killed and other militants were captured. In order to take them back Russian mercenaries opened a tank fire. While repulsing the attack a Donbass battalion soldier was killed.[66] On March 9, a Donbass battalion company supported by a tank of the 37th Battalion and the Armed Forces of Ukraine, was clearing up the sea coast and knocking off the invaders from the coastal positions and occupying a dominant position that blocked an access to the battalion's rear. During the operation, 1 fighter was lightly wounded. 15 invaders were destroyed. The Azov’s tank was put into a battle, an IFV belonging to DPR was damaged by joint efforts. Another Donbass fighter was shell-shocked. On April 9, the barracks of illegal armed units were destroyed in Shirokino by joint actions of the Azov regiment and the Donbass battalion during the fire response to the Russian mercenary attack.[67] On April 25, after bombardment of an ambulance near Shirokino a wounded soldier of the Donbass battalion died on the way to hospital.[68] On May 2, in Shirokino, since morning the fighting had been continuing, the fighters attack was defeated by the Donbass battalion fighters. Three military were wounded.[69] During a shooting at 13:05 a shotgun from a sniper rifle wounded a Donbass battalion fighter on his head.[70] On May 3, during the fighting in Shirokino, another soldier from the Donbass battalion was killed.[71] On May 24, in Shirokino, one soldier of the Donbass battalion was killed, one wounded.[72] Overnight into May 26, an antitank platoon of the Donbass Battalion destroyed a KamAZ full of bullets and militants’ infantry; a battalion soldier was wounded at night; in response, the enemy's fire points were suppressed.[73] On July 19, in Shirokino near Mariupol the Donbass battalion combatants took an IFV-2 from the Russian mercenaries during the battle. It had a torn caterpillar and beaten optics. The IFV was towed to the positions of the Ukrainian Army.[74] During May–July 2015, in Mariupol, there were rallies against so-called demilitarization of Mariupol, which would mean a total withdrawal of the military personnel from the first line of defense in Shirokine within Minsk agreements.[75] Demilitarization did not take place, but at the end of July 2015, the Donbass battalion was withdrawn from watching Shirokino's front positions.[76] The Donbas and Azov volunteer battalions, which kicked the invaders out of Shirokino and from February to June 2015 "held" positions, were replaced by Marine Corps of the Armed Forces.[77] From October 2015 to March 2016, the Donbas battalion was on duty on the checkpoints of the third defense line near Mariupol and Berdyansk. From March 2016 to April 2016, a significant part of the Donbas battalion was demobilized, serving as the mobilized for a calendar year, being reluctant to continue service on the third defense line. Part of the soldiers remained in the unit hoping that the unit would still fight on the first defense line. After April 2016, the battalion was on duty on checkpoints in Mariupol zone and protected the Azov Sea coast. In early August 2016 more than 160 battalion soldiers arrived at the military training ground in the village of Stare, Kyiv oblast (3070 military unit base), for the purpose of an operational coordination. Another company of the battalion remained in Mariupol and was preparing for retirement, as the battalion was taken out of the combat area. In mid-September, from the training ground in the village of Stare, the personnel was transferred to Slovyansk, Donetsk oblast (3035 military unit base). Part of the soldiers was sent back to the military unit 3057 in Mariupol. According to an order of the NGU commander on reducing the manpower in the military unit 3057 (end of August 2016) the special-purpose battalion Donbass was destroyed. Personnel were retired due to the organizational and staffing measures on September 19, 2016. On September 26, 2016, the battalion officers were retired.

From October 2016 to present time - a non-governmental voluntary organization aimed at protection of Ukraine[edit]

Internal Corps of the Donbass Battalion[edit]

When the majority of personnel of the NGU Donbass battalion was demobilized into the reserve in 2016, together with an honorary commander of the Donbass battalion Semen Semenchenko and the second commander of the Donbass battalion Anatoliy Vinogrodskiy, an Internal Corps of the Donbass Battalion as a public organization was formed, and later as a non-governmental volunteer organization " Donbass volunteer battalion", where the battle flag was brought [115]. The organization consists of demilitarized soldiers of the battalion who participate and conduct community-oriented activities aimed at protecting Ukrainian citizens from the unlawful acts of titushky (bullies), law enforcement agencies and fighting corruption.[78] Starting from July 2016, the battalion Internal Corps took part in actions against illegal construction, against unauthorized felling of green spaces in Kyiv and its suburbs;[79] was engaged in protecting businesses and agricultural businesses from raider take-overs, protecting the population from titushky (bullies),[80] exposing criminal activities of police and cooperation between police and titushky (bullies);[81] provided legal and media support to political prisoners, was engaged in a civil control of court sessions in cases against corruptioners and traitors, anti-maidanivtsi and raiders; blocked railroad goods traffic to occupied territories during the Blockade of Trade with Occupants; it protected a protest camp at Hrushevskyi Street during the "Rally for Political Reform".[82]

On July 2, during Kyiv Pechersk Court attempt to arrest a chief of staff of the Aydar battalion Valentin Likholit, several hundred veterans of the War for Independence and public figures protested in Khreshchatyk. They repelled Likholit without allowing him to be imprisoned illegally.[83] On the same day, on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), Patriots’ Liberation Headquarters was proclaimed to be established.[84] The main task was to provide legal and moral support to illegally imprisoned and repressed volunteers and patriots. At the meeting, when Patriots' Liberation Headquarters was established, three activity directions were announced: discharge from custody unlawfully or illegally imprisoned combatants; dismiss Anatoliy Matios, a military prosecutor; arrest and imprison people who contributed to Putin's aggression against Ukraine: in particular, Medvedchuk, Akhmetov, Boyko, Novinskyi, Yefremov, etc. Veterans from the Internal Corps of the Donbass Battalion are actively visiting court sessions concerning volunteer soldiers throughout Ukraine.[85]

Human rights violations[edit]

According to many reports and testimonies, the soldiers of the Donbass Battalion took part in crimes and human rights abuses of the civil population of Ukraine, enjoying general impunity. A most outrageous incident happened in August–September 2014 when eight or ten members of the Donbass and Azov battalions sexually assaulted a person with mental disability.[86][87] After the different forms of violence (including cruel treatment and rape), the victim's health significantly deteriorated and he was taken to psychiatric clinic. The issue raised awareness of Ukrainian Parliamentary Association “Forbidden to Forbid”.[88][89]

At least five fighters of the battalion have been taken to court and accused of different criminal activities committed against civilian population: banditry, abduction, armed robbery, extortion, hooliganism and illegal possession of weapons. However, after a political pressure put on the judges by the former commander of the Donbas battalion, they were released.[90][91]

A UN monitoring mission in Ukraine reported that during the Battle of Ilovaisk, the Donbass battalion took part in ill-treatment and torture of male population of the city, aged 30 to 66. From 18 to 28 August 2014, the majority of victims were locked in school No. 14 by members of Donbas battalion. The conditions of the incarceration may amount to ill-treatment, some victims were subjected to beatings, regarding thirteen of them the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has documented cases of torture. All detained ones who were interviewed by the UN officers told they were beaten with intention to extract confessions that they were affiliated with rebel forces. After the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from Ilovaisk, a mass grave with three bodies was exhumed in the backyard of Ilovaisk school No. 14 where the Donbas battalion had been stationed. The UN monitoring mission identified the victims as local civilians. According to the forensic reports, two of them had signs of firearm wounds on their bodies, and third had likely died as a result of shelling.[92][93]


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