Caught in a Firefight: “We Were Live Target Practice”

Sep 16, 2014 at 10:08 AM ET

At the end of the summer as most of the media had their eyes peeled on the middle east a mix of civilian backed pro-Ukrainian militias — called battalions — made significant gains on the separatist-®controlled territories and were able to cut off one of the main Russian supply lines to the separatists.

“The main and the shortest road for the support of the separatist in Donetsk and Luhansk is through the Mospino. That’s the main route from the Russian city of Taganrog,” tells us Yuri Bereza, the Commander of the Dnipro Battalion. “And when we blocked this route and stopped the supplies of weaponry and food,” that’s when the Russian artillery came to the rescue of the separatist, says Bereza.

According to Bereza the Russians are now using eastern Ukraine as a firing range.  “From all over Russia artillery officers came to the Eastern front and are taking part in a drill with live targets. And we are those live targets.”

In fear of provoking Russia to an all out war, the Ukrainian military did not retaliate, and Bereza’s Dnipro Battalion and other volunteer battalions found themselves trapped in the town of Llovaisk. After weeks of fighting and heavy losses, in what seemed to be an act of mercy, the separatist opened the so-called “green corridor” to allow the battalions  a way out, and then they fired at them.

Natasha Pelepenko, widow of drone pilot Dima who we had interviewed for an earlier segment on crowd-funded drone warfare in Ukraine, says she had spoken with her husband on August 28th. “He called me in a great mood, they were promised a green corridor. He said: we will see each other soon, wait for me”. Dima did not make it back alive.