Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 14.10.2018
October 14th is Defender of Ukraine Day. Because the holiday falls on a Sunday this year, it will be observed on Monday the 15th. This is the fourth time that this new holiday will be celebrated. Day of the Defender has quickly become a poignant occasion because the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation is well into its fifth year, and there is no sign that the scourge of Putin’s War will end any time soon.
In the past couple of days, there is every sign that the Russians are using the symbolism of the Day of the Defender to increase the aggressiveness of their attacks. The invaders from Muscovy have flown drones over free Ukraine territory and have cynically shelled civilian targets.
On October 12th, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation flew two unmanned aerial vehicles from the Russian-occupied part of Luhansk region towards Lysychansk in the free Ukraine part of Luhansk region. At 10:48 the two drones were detected by the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Believing an air attack was imminent and a danger to civilians, the JFO attacked the drones with an Osa missile system. The Ukrainian missiles struck the Russian drones at their maximum altitudes. One of the Russian drones was destroyed. The other flew back to Russian-occupied territory.
Wind and trajectory carried debris from the destroyed unmanned aerial vehicle over a wide area. Two fragments landed in Lysychansk city, without harm or damage. One fragment landed in a schoolyard, though, and students were evacuated. Even though Lysychansk is 20 kilometres behind the front line, Putin’s War directly affects its residents.
The Russians again flew a sortie with a drone on October 13th, detected at 8:09 in the morning. This unmanned aerial vehicle was positively identified as an Orlan-10 reconnaissance drone, which the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation deploy frequently on the Donbas invasion front. Once again, the target for the Russians was Lysychansk. The commander of the JFO, Lt.-Gen. Serhiy Nayev, made the decision to destroy the Russian drone with an Mi-24 helicopter gunship. The Ukrainian helicopter crew destroyed the Orlan-10 in the vicinity of the town of Borovskoye, across the Siverskyi Donets River from Lysychansk.
Ukraine downing a Russian drone with a helicopter gunship is the first forceful use of air power since 2014. Reportedly the price of one Orlan-10 drone is as high as US$120,000. Ukraine is making the Russian Federation pay a heavy price in blood and treasure for invading its territory.
On the afternoon of October 13th, the invaders from Muscovy committed a war crime by shelling the settlements of Chermalyk and Shyrokyne. These villages are north-east and east, respectively, of the free Ukraine city of Mariupol. The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation fired 120 millimetre and 82 millimetre mortars, carrying out the bombardment from the occupied villages of Verknoshyrokivske and Sakhanka. The consequences and extent of the damage are currently being assessed by Ukrainian officers who serve with the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC) and also by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine.
For the Day of the Defender, schoolchildren in Krymske settlement invited JFO soldiers for a celebration. Krymske is in Luhansk region, almost directly on the front line. The Russians attack JFO fortifications outside Krymske regularly, in an attempt to break the Ukrainians’s control of the Bakhmut Road.
Thanking the pupils, one of the officers, Lieutenant Olga Maydanchuk, spoke about what the Day of the Defender means to her. “In other times, the defenders of our land shed blood in order to withstand the invaders. … I am convinced that even today, the descendants of the Zaporozhian Cossacks and glorious UPA [Ukrainian Insurgent Army] fighters will be able to defend Ukraine's sovereignty and independence. Believe me, our armed forces are filled with unquenchable spirit and a powerful patriotism. This is not in the Russian aggressors, and so they are already defeated,” she said.
The greeting sent to the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces of Ukraine and who defend the homeland, Europe, and the West from Russian aggression is this: We will definitely win! Glory to Ukraine!