April 14, 2024

The Russian troops cleared minefields in front of platoon strongholds in Kherson Oblast with rocket artillery at the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Source: Major General Andrii Sokolov, who at the beginning of the invasion was Deputy Commander of the Operational Command Pivden (South) and was in charge of the Pivden grouping of troops, in an interview with Ukrainska Pravda

Details: Sokolov said he met the first day of the war at his command post in front of a monitor with a Virage Tablet, a programme that tracks all aircraft’s flights nearby.

Along with the chief of air defence and the operational officer on duty, he observed a massive take-off of Russian aircraft in Crimea at around 04:00-05:00 on 24 February 2022. The warplanes first circled over the territory of Crimea. There was initially hope that the Russian aircraft would just fly and land again, but they flew over the Azov and Black Seas and began launching missiles en masse.

First, there was a missile attack on almost all locations of Ukrainian units, control points, launching positions and air defence control points, and on the airfield in Melitopol. Nearly all military facilities located in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts were targeted.

Afterwards, there were reports from the commander of the 137th battalion, Colonel Vadym Rymarenko, saying that the Russians had started a barrage of fire and artillery bombardment of Ukrainian forward positions at Kalanchak and Chonhar checkpoints. This is how it all started.

Quote: “However, there was a catch. Around 23rd [of February], we got information that the enemy might carry out provocative actions: they would target the Tytan plant themselves, then blame us for it, and it would be a casus belli (a reason to declare war) for them to start some kind of action against us.

The first was a report from the commander of the 137th Battalion – I recall this well – that the enemy was not shooting on the positions themselves but was firing in front of our stronghold opposite the Tytan.

At first, I thought this was precisely what was happening, that it was a provocation and they were targeting the plant. It was night, and the personnel were simply disoriented.

Later, after analysing their actions, I realised they were using rocket artillery to clear our minefields in front of the platoon strongholds. And the second attack targeted our positions.”

Details: Sokolov believes that the Russian artillery was firing on minefields because they were deliberately clearing them of mines and making it easier for them to advance.

“I have no doubt about it. I have been at the front since 2014. They have done this more than once. I’m sure that’s exactly what they had done that time,” he said.

The Major General also stated that the crossings and bridges on the border with the occupied Crimea had been mined since 2014 and that attempts had been made to blow them up, but the Russians had countered with fire. However, the bridges across the Dnipro River to Kherson were not mined at all.

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