The Russian military seized the Zenit position in the south-east of Avdiivka on 15 February 2024. The next day, Brigadier General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, commander of the Tavria Operational and Strategic Group of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, confirmed that “Ukrainian units withdrew from the position on the southern outskirts of Avdiivka with minor losses.” 

It was held by soldiers of the 110th separate mechanised brigade named after Marko Bezruchko. Among them is a 30-year-old junior sergeant and combat medic from Dnipropetrovs’k region, “Django”. The video of him talking to his family about the critical situation (he and his wounded comrades were on the Zenit) went viral on the Internet.

Slidstvo.Info spoke to Kateryna, the sister of the fighter “Django”.

“He called on my daughter’s Instagram at 7 a.m. the day before yesterday and asked to call me. I wasn’t fully awake, I saw my brother lying down, and two days before that, there was no communication with him,” says Kateryna, whose brother has been fighting in Avdiivka for two years as part of the 110th Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

30-year-old junior sergeant and combat medic “Django”

The subsequent conversation between the siblings was posted on social media, although Kateryna says she did not post anything, but sent the recording to her relatives. 

“Django” told Kateryna that he was wounded with shrapnel in his back and could not walk. The video also showed another wounded soldier with a torn stomach. In total, there were five wounded brigade members in the former mine, which served as a temporary hospital, and one soldier who was uninjured but decided to stay with his wounded comrades.

“They (the wounded) were told to wait for the car, and all the uninjured were taken away. And they waited for the vehicle for a day and a half. And when they realised that no one was coming to pick them up, they started calling everyone. “When “Django” called me, he was in so much pain, they injected him with everything they had left, but they were running out of medicine and food,” the woman says. 

A few hours later, “Django” wrote to Kateryna again, saying that they had been left to die and that no one was coming to pick them up. And in the afternoon, Kateryna’s brother-in-law dialled Django again via video call. 

“My brother said that the command had agreed that the Russians would pick them up, because our troops would not get to them,” says Kateryna.

During this video conversation, Kateryna’s son-in-law saw the Russians enter the mine and tell everyone to get out: “And my son-in-law told us: ‘I see the Russians coming in and saying: ‘Get up, get out, we’re not going to carry you’. My son-in-law was still trying to talk to him, and they told my brother to switch off the phone.”

Screenshot from the video

Avdiivka is a town located 13 kilometres north of Donetsk, on the frontline for 10 years. Russians have been actively assaulting it for the past year, with fighting on the outskirts of the city starting about a month ago. Avdiivka is now semi-encircled by the Russians. The commander of the southern group of troops, Tarnavskyi, commenting on the withdrawal from the Zenit position, wrote that there were no blocked Ukrainian units there. 

Slidstvo.Info journalists contacted the brigade’s press service, but they said they could not comment on anything. The spokesperson for the Tavria Brigade, Dmytro Lykhoviy, said that “he could not say anything in real time, only what was confirmed on the official website”. 

Later, Oleksandr Tarnavskyi confirmed the capture of Ukrainian soldiers in a telegram: “Unfortunately, during one of the attacks, several of our fighters were captured. We will fight for the release of each of our comrades. The evacuation of the wounded is complicated by continuous shelling, but it is being carried out.” 

Yesterday, Russians set fire to a tanker with naphthalene residues and bitumen resin at one of the warehouses of the Avdiivka Chemical Plant, where Ukrainian soldiers are holding their positions. 

“My brother has been in Avdiivka for two years, without leave, without rotation. I hope they will treat him there in Donetsk, his legs are swollen. I hope they don’t get shot,” Kateryna sobs.

Later, Viktor Bilyak, a fighter with the 110th Brigade, told Slidstvo.Info that he had been with the wounded soldiers at Zenit before he was evacuated. The journalists saw a video on Russian social media showing the killed in Ukrainian Armed Forces uniforms, one of them with a bandaged head. The video was shot at the Zenit position. One of the dead has a tattoo in the shape of a cross on his arm. Viktor Bilyak identified the man as Andriy Dubnytskyi with the call sign “Bayraktar”, a fighter with the 110th Brigade. On 14 February, he remained at the Zenit position along with other wounded. Slidstvo.Info is trying to find out more details. (UPDATED 11:30 a.m.)

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