Fatal Shelling in Gorlovka
On May 26, 2015 three civilians were killed when artillery shells landed in the Ozeryanovka district of Gorlovka, a town controlled by the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) opposite the front lines of the Ukrainian Army. Anna Tuv lost her arm, her husband Yuriy, and her 11-year-old daughter Katya when two shells struck their home around 6pm. Her two youngest children received minor injuries, and there was another casualty nearby.
May 26, 2015 - Shelling in Ozeryanovka district, Gorlovka
The following day the home of the Tuv family and and other affected areas were visited by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine. They wrote the following about the shelling:
...The SMM saw nine crater impacts (all within a radius of 200 metres) at three locations in residential areas and conducted crater analysis at one location. At this location, the SMM saw the body of a deceased woman close to two crater impacts. The SMM estimated that the craters were caused by incoming artillery from the north-north-west. In both craters the SMM found shrapnel consistent with 122mm artillery. The SMM saw a house in Planernaya Street that had sustained a direct hit that destroyed the eastern facade, and found shrapnel consistent with 122mm artillery. At this location the SMM saw traces of blood. According to the “DPR” “emergency services” and local residents, a 38 year old man and his 11 year old daughter were killed instantly in this strike and his wife and two young children had been hospitalized with injuries. At City Central Hospital No.2 the SMM spoke with the wounded mother. She and her children had suffered shrapnel wounds. Later, the SMM saw three bodies at the mortuary (one a middle aged man, one woman and a child). The SMM assessed that all three were victims of the shelling.
May 27, 2015 - OSCE with shell fragments in Gorlovka
After speaking with the OSCE monitors in hospital Anna also gave an interview to Graham Phillips. Understandably distraught, she described what happened the day before:
It was horror inside. I pulled my child, my little boy, from under the rubble. He can't open his eyes. And my daughter got torn in half, my little girl, my beautiful girl. My husband, what's left of him, is in the mortuary, with his legs and arms torn off... My boy got his eyes burned. He got stitches after they took shrapnel out. They cut off my arm, to the elbow. My daughter got torn to pieces. They're having a closed casket funeral for her tomorrow. Two shells landed there. One hit the house. The other one landed in the garden. It hit the hallway where we all were...
When I came to, I managed to save, I'd given birth to a girl on May 12, to this little baby, and saved my two and a half year old boy. But my 11-year old girl, my beauty is being buried tomorrow. She was going to be a model. She was the most beautiful girl in the school. She got torn in half...
My beautiful. My helper and supporter. She was always so helpful. Every morning she would bring me flowers, postcards. With the little ones, she would look after them as if she were their mom. And now I'm by myself. I'm 31 years old, and I'm a cripple with two little ones. And my beloved one is lying all torn. I don't know how I'm going to live without him, without my daughter. I don't know. Friends came to visit. They said my little boy is lying with his eyes closed. He hears a car and says: "Daddy came!" He's always calling for his daddy and his sister.
When Graham asked where the shelling came from, she said:
From Dzerzhinsk, of course, you could see. Katya's birthday was on May 21. There were explosions. Tracers were coming, guiding, from there. There was a very specific high-pitched noise. We live behind the garages. A shell landed near the checkpoint. We squatted in the garden back then. The same thing happened yesterday. Only this time our house got hit...
We had just discussed how happy our lives were, how many kids we had, and how happy our future was going to be, and how it was being quiet, and then in a single moment they destroyed everything, my family. They mained my little girl, my beloved husband without whom I can't live. I don't know how I will be waking up without him. I can't breathe without him. I just don't know how I can live any more. I would give everything just so they could live. Everything. I'd rather I lost all my limbs so he and my little girl would have stayed alive. When I saw this with my own eyes, I don't know...
I don't know where to go when I get out of the hospital. My parents live at Stoiteley. They get shelled every day. Our house is also destroyed. I don't know where to hide them, so they don't get killed. These two little, very little kids. Where can I put them, so they don't get hurt? I saved them by some miracle. By miracle.
Show it to everyone, what Poroshenko does to our children, to our families. We are not the military, we are not the army, but they're fighting with civilians. They're killing peaceful people, because he is a coward. He has no courage to fight against our fighters that are protecting us, because they can fight back. That's why he is killing our children, from his own helplessness. Let Poroshenko see this video. What he has turned me into. My little girl. My beloved husband with whom we wanted to live till old age in happiness...
OSCE came and registered all this. Who will bring them back?
The OSCE report quoted earlier made no estimation of who fired the artillery shells, only that some came "from the north-north-west". It made no mention of the Ukrainian positions in that general direction at Mayorsk and Dzerzhinsk, or the locals who claimed the shelling came from there.[7,8,9]
Instead it mentioned a claim by the party which Anna Tuv and others blame for the attack:
The Ukrainian Armed Forces Major General, head of the Ukrainian side to the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC) headquarters in government-controlled Soledar (77km north-north-east of Donetsk) alleged that the 26 May shelling of Horlivka came from Mine 6-7 (42km north-north-east of Donetsk and 7km north-west of Horlivka respectively), in areas controlled by “DPR”. The Major General alleged that the shelling was observed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces representative at the JCCC office in government-controlled Volnovakha (35km south-west of Donetsk).
According to the Ukrainian Major General, his Armed Forces observed the shelling from Volnovakha, 90km away from Gorlovka. He claims it came from DPR positions at Mine 6-7, which is very close to the unmentioned Ukrainian positions at Mayorsk. The Mine 6-7 area itself has been shelled repeatedly.[10,11,12]
The Ukrainian government has accused the DPR forces and their Lugansk People's Republic (LPR) counterparts of firing at their own cities on numerous occasions. One example is the attack on the Lugansk Administration Building that killed at least 7 people on June 2, 2014, which Ukraine claimed LPR forces were responsible for. It has since been proven (though not widely reported) that the cause was an aircraft firing over 30 rockets on the city, not a MANPAD rocket fired from the ground as was claimed by the actual guilty party and repeated by the US government. President Obama met with Ukrainian President Poroshenko 2 days after the airstrike and offered $5 million of new security assistance to the Ministry of Defence.
June 2, 2014 - Airstrike in Lugansk
The US Department of State
Jeff Rathke from the US Department of State was questioned about the shelling at the May 27 Daily Press Briefing. "There was shelling by the Ukrainian Army in the town of Gorlovka, in the Donetsk Region on Tuesday, three civilians died including an 11-year-old," said Russia Today correspondent Gayane Chichakyan. "Is that alright under the Minsk agreement to use heavy artillery in residential areas like that?"
"Well let's take a step back and look at the situation in eastern Ukraine, because there's a whole more to it than this this report that you've mentioned which I'm not able to confirm and I'm not familiar with," said Rathke, who focused on reported violence around Shirokino, the Donetsk International Airport and Avdiivka. "The overwhelming majority of the ceasefire violations have been conducted by combined Russian separatist forces attacking Ukrainian positions on the Ukrainian side of the line of contact, which is clearly contrary to the Minsk agreements."
"Are you saying that the shelling by the Ukrainian Army is justified?" asked Chichakyan.
"Look, you're citing reports with which I'm not familiar, so I'm not going to comment on them," responded Rathke.
"How closely do you follow with what's happening in east Ukraine?"
Associated Press correspondent Matt Lee later added: "Perhaps you could look into, and familiarise yourself, or have some one do it, with the reports that she's mentioning, and then come back to us and tell us whether or not you think that they were violations or that they are totally in line..."
Lee asked if Rathke had looked into the Gorlovka shelling at the following Daily Press Briefing on May 28. Rathke again mentioned the same reports of ceasefire violations around Avdiivka and Shirokino, but refused to comment on Gorlovka. "I don't have anything further to add to what we discussed yesterday, that is the overwhelming majority of the violations of the ceasefire are coming from the Russian and separatist side."
"Are you picking and choosing what to read from the OSCE report or is that the whole thing?" Lee asked.
"Well I think it's important to keep the big picture in mind," Rathke responded, before beginning to repeat his comments about the overwhelming majority of ceasefire violations.
"Ok, fair enough, but is that the whole report that you're reading from?" Lee interjected.
"I don't have the entire report in front of me..."
Earlier Rathke was asked by another reporter about American military trainers in Ukraine referring to Ukraine's role in the conflict as an anti-terrorist operation. "Is this how you essentially see things in Ukraine? It's an anti-terrorist operation in your view?"
"Well, I think you're probably aware but I'll highlight," began Rathke, "there is a Ukrainian law from June of 2014 in which the Ukrainian government established the Anti-Terrorist Operation, so this is Ukrainian terminology that underscores how they view their defensive operations against the combined Russian and separatist forces but I don't have any further..."
"But those are US military personnel," interjected the reporter.
American military trainers in Ukraine
"Well I think it's only natural as they are there working with Ukrainian colleagues, that they've probably heard the Ukrainian terminology for it," said Rathke. "I think our point of view on what's happening in eastern Ukraine and, on the, our support for the Ukrainian government as they fight against this, the, what's been happening in eastern Ukraine remains unchanged."
He was also asked about a declaration from Ukraine's Rada (parliament) that Ukrainian authorities would not be able to fully observe human rights in eastern Ukraine.
"We've seen reports that the Ukrainian legislature passed a resolution that purports to temporarily pass responsibility to Russia for the protection of human rights in those areas of Ukrainian territory that Ukraine does not control," he responded. "Which includes Crimea and certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions. We're still reviewing the language of the resolution, I don't have further comment..."
Yuriy and Katya's Funeral
Yuriy and Katya Tuv were buried on May 28. Anna left the hospital with the assistance of a wheelchair to attend the funeral, and a large number of people from the town joined her. Graham Phillips filmed some of the procession, and a few people conveyed their anger and sorrow on camera.
"Tell Poroshenko that he is scum and crud," one said. "Damn you, your children, your grandchildren, and let a rocket fly to the red lilies in your house, you bastard! The President of peace, you're not the President of peace! You're a fascist and a murderer! Damn, there are kids! What terrorists and separatists?! These are children, people of peace! Bastard, bitch, damn you!"
"Graham, tell all the world, they are killing us," said another. "How many more will they destroy? Let the world know."
Six days after funeral Anna spoke with Russell "Texas" Bentley from a hospital in Donetsk. Bentley is an American volunteer for the Donetsk People's Republic, currently doing video reports for Essence of Time. Five days earlier he reported from the ruins of Anna's house. With her mother and two young children in the room, she said:
If I'm shown to Petro Alekseevich Poroshenko, I want, I'm not black-hearted at all. I'm too religious, but, from the bottom of my heart, I wish you a long life, I want you to suffer the same pain I'm suffering now every moment for the rest of your life. The wounds will heal up, but this is you who planted a dagger in my heart, who bereft me of my child. You bereft me of my beloved I was living and breathing. I wish you were in the same awful fear my little daughter had been in before she was torn asunder. If you're not totally devoid of humanity yet, I beg you, stop.
I beg all the world: Stop Ukrainian regime. Stop hammering mothers and their children. Guys. Armed Forces of Ukraine. Everyone, who's trying to mobilise to Ukrainian Army, this is not your war! Nobody will reward you. When you have your arms and legs shot away, you won't get social payments. Nobody will say "thank you". You're forwarded to fight not with militarists. You're encouraged to kill children and women and civilians. You're just stooges, tools of your bosses. I beg you, stop. I beg everyone. I'm addressing the whole world just now. On behalf of my little girl, who's no more, who used to love the entire world and meant no harm to anyone...
My husband was everything to me. Everything hung on him. Just everything. We've given birth to our daughter recently, we had a joyful family. My life has collapsed. I just can't understand what for. What is our fault?
The dad was so happy to have a daughter. My little Katya was torn into two parts. I had no chance even to see them in the coffin for the last time, because they were disfigured and mutilated. And how many mothers like me are crying at the moment?...
Look at this girl. Why? My honey. I had not one hand shot away, I had three of them shot away. She used to do everything. She was just the child from the heavens. Why her? I was being driven in an ambulance, and she was just torn asunder. Bottom and legs. An ear was torn out. She was mutilated all through. My husband, a handsome man, was torn asunder. My Katya is no more, no more. This is all I have now. Only these two pictures of her. Petro Poroshenko has bereft me of her.
More Shelling in Gorlovka
The northern suburb of Holma reportedly came under artillery fire on May 31. Graham Phillips interviewed some residents about it the following day. "You know, it was scary," said one woman, Alla. "It started, they fired once at first. I heard a high pitched noise. I was working in the garden. I was weeding. I threw the hoe and ran towards the house. Then it was quiet for 5-10 minutes. And then it really started. And lasted for about 40 minutes for sure. This high-pitched noise. We hid in a hole in the ground."
Graham asked her where it was coming from. "It was coming from the direction of Kurdyumovka, Kodema," she said. "Before that, from Dzerzhinsk."
"So, from the Ukrainian positions?" asked Graham.
"Yes, Ukrainian. They, by the way, shell very frequently, even though on television - we watch it - right after they shell us from there, they immediately report it's the DPR guys that did the shelling, of themselves, as it turns out. But we're not blind or deaf, and these lies of theirs, we can see and hear where it's coming from and where they're shelling from. They're shelling from the Ukrainian side."
"How long are we going to have to take this?" said another resident, Ira. "Poroshenko - this jackass. You're killing people and children, you bastard... We haven't been able to live in peace for a year now. How much more are we going to have to suffer? And all this, it's civilians, civilians that live here. Nobody else is here. They have no shame. Vermin. Let them croak, those bastards."
Some other residents who were listening in the background laughed, and after smiling Ira continued: "What? Come on, how much longer do we have to take this? Kids, little kids have to hide in basements. Yesterday, all the kids were hunkering down in basements. Here, the school, everyone was in the basement. Children, elderly women, everyone was in the basement... We've lived here all along. We're all local residents."
The western suburb of Stoitel was shelled on June 1
Gorlovka was attacked again on June 8 in the western suburb of Kurganka. "This is from Dzerzhinsk," said one resident filmed for a report by Newsfront the next day. "It could be nothing different. We know it's from Kurdyumovka when it flies from that side. If this side, then it is from Dzerzhinsk."
More shelling hit the western outskirts of Gorlovka on June 10. Three people were killed and a 16-year-old girl was injured and died in hospital a week later.
July 10, 2015 - Western Gorlovka
When the OSCE arrived the following day the locals were desperate. "You come here when nobody's shelling," one said. "You should come here at night and take a look. At 23:00. To see what happens here."
"We don't have the right to come here at night," responded one of the monitors.
"Well, that's because everyone knows, my dear, when you come, they just keep quiet."
"Or maybe you just correct the fire for them," added another local.
"I have a relative who lives in Kurdyumovka," said one woman. "She called me and told me that yesterday, from Magdalinovka they were shooting from 300 metres away from here house, the Ukrainian military was shooting. According to the time, it was at the time they were shelling our houses."
"We can only talk about facts," said the monitor. "I can't comment on anything else."
"If you have UAVs there, can't you check?" asked the woman. "That the Ukrainian artillery was doing the shelling at that time."
"Can you not yell? Speak calmly."
"If you were there and in the neighbouring room when a person was killed," began another woman...
"Ma'am, don't yell," the monitor said.
"I will yell, because I've had enough of this. Do you understand? It's impossible. Three people got killed behind the wall. This is unreal. You, OSCE, go ahead, tonight, spend a night at our house number 105."
"We don't want to live under fascism," said another civilian to a Newsfront camera. "Don't bomb these children. They haven't seen life yet... We've already become not just regions, but Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics, and that will be so, regardless of your wish. We'll live independently... Give me a stick, give me a gun. Poroshenko, you bitch, I'll go and kill you, tart!"
"I don't know where to go in the apartment," added a woman seated nearby. "They want to exterminate us."
Despite being filmed analysing numerous shell craters, the OSCE report published on June 12 only said the following:
In Horlivka ("DPR"-controlled, 29km north-north-east of Donetsk) the SMM was approached by around 70 local inhabitants, visibly upset and distressed and verbally aggressive and critical towards the SMM. Some members of the crowd make violent threats. The SMM left the scene after the OSCE flag was broken off the vehicle and thrown to the ground. A Russian Federation Armed Forces representative of the JCCC's office in Horlivka was present when the incident occurred.
They eventually published their findings in the June 13 report. Without mentioning where the Ukrainian positions were, it said: "The SMM conducted crater analyses and assessed that most of the impacts originated from a north to south direction..."
July 15, 2015 - Shelling in Kurganka, Gorlovka
Anna, Zakhar and Milana on TV
Anna Tuv described her ordeal on the July 1 episode of "Politics with Peter Tolstoy" on the Russian TV station Channel One:
It happened in broad daylight. On that day, my daughter finished her school year with flying colours. On the 21st of May, we celebrated her birthday under shelling.
May 21, 2015 - Gorlovka
On the 26th of May, we were watering vegetables with our children. My little Milana was in the house on her own. We heard characteristic whistles. Something dropped nearby. We hurried into the house, the children hiding in the corridor. After hearing the whistle, I was the last who ran indoors. A shell dropped on our house at that moment.
I came to soon after the burst. I saw that one arm was absent. I heard my son Zakhar crying from under the ground and I dug him out. Then I saw the body of my daughter, Katya, torn in two halves. She had her 11th birthday on the 21st of May. I ran to the bedroom. My injured Milana was lying there. She was born on the 12th of May, 2 weeks before that day.
Then, the second shell dropped. An ambulance couldn't arrive for long time due to continuous shelling. Our district is under permanent shelling from Ukrainian militaries. We can see from where all this flies...
(My husband) pushed me out, using himself as a shield to protect me. He was running to see from where this was flying. He was torn into parts in the corridor, at the entrance.
...this was during the "ceasefire" on the 26th of May. My daughter was to participate in a fashion show on the 1st of June, Day for Protection of Children. She should have been a model for that show. They died before my eyes. They were torn into parts. Zakhar, Milana, and I survived...
"I know you've arrived at this studio to address Petro Poroshenko," said one of the hosts. "Here's the camera."
I'm addressing you personally, Petro Poroshenko. I ask you: be a man. Stop killing women and children. Don't conduct genocide. Stop sending punisher battalions who rape, kill and torment civilians. We have not been occupied by terrorists. We just don't want to be with you. Stop giving monstrous orders to kills civilians. We didn't start this war, we have nothing in common with it. We just lived our lives. I address you on behalf of all mothers and women who lost their children and husbands because of you. You've turned people into invalids. Stop killing civilians. Be reasonable. Stop this bloodshed that makes orphans of our children.
Victoria Shilova, prominent member of the Ukrainian "Anti-War" group which had been raising money for Anna, was also in the studio. "I'm living in the city of Kiev," she said to the Ukrainian representatives opposite her. "86% of the population are hating you for killing people. You didn't even say to this baby..."
She walked over to Anna and Milana. "Anechka, give her to me, please," she said before taking the baby right up those defending the government.
"Look at her. Look. You too, look at her! That's whom you kill and cripple. See? Seen it, feeling sorry? Seen her? There are a few hundred children like her! Look, do you feel sorry for this baby? Her 11 year old sister was killed. Torn in half!"
Four days later Russell Bentley again visited Anna, giving her some flowers and Zakhar some toys. He told her about a fundraiser he helped set up in her name. "People from all over the world are pitching in," he said. She thanked people for their support and gave an update on her situation:
Today is the fortieth day after my families' death, after, my life turned upside down. Actually, I've just returned from them...
A psychologist has been working with him for three weeks, so the fright already passes. He sleeps peacefully, without crying. Even during powerful and loud shelling he doesn't cry or fall over the floor. The stress passes little by little. My hearing has recovered. I have a rupture of the eardrum, one piece is missing. I began to hear the right ear. The contusion is practically recovered too, the shoulder blades have almost grown together and I can already work with my right hand. The bandages from this (left) arm have already been removed, the wounds are healing. The fragments of mines are also gone...
We don't want back to Ukraine. Never again. Never. We will never forgive, the people will never forgive. I think Petro Poroshenko will finally understand that we won't put up with this. No matter how much they're going to kills us, to cripple us - we won't pull back, we won't give up. We will fight for our freedom, for our world outlook to the last breath. We won't put up with this regimen...
Photo posted to Russell Bentley's Facebook page
I'm very happy that you support me, that you're with me. I need it like breath now. You haven't left me alone. Thank you. I'm very grateful. The movability of my hand depends on this. It's very important for me. I save every penny for the prosthetic hand, because someday I want to tie bows on Milana's head, I want to hug Zakhar with two arms. He is always asking, when the hand will grow again.