|Battle of Volnovakha|
|Part of the Eastern Ukraine offensive of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine|
|Commanders and leaders|
Vladimir Zhoga †|
|Pavel Sbytov †|
|Casualties and losses|
The Battle of Volnovakha was a military engagement which lasted from 25 February 2022 until 12 March 2022, as part of the Eastern Ukraine offensive during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russian and Donetsian forces engaged Ukrainian forces at the small city of Volnovakha in Donetsk Oblast, which is located close to the Ukrainian-DPR border.
The battle was spearheaded by DPR forces and led to the widespread destruction of the town and heavy casualties on both sides.
On 25 February, the second day of the invasion, Russian forces shelled Volnovakha, hitting civilian areas. The Guardian wrote that Russian bombing of Volnovakha resembled tactics that Russia had previously used on civilian targets in Syria. Ukrainian officials reported that Volnovakha was on the verge of humanitarian crisis by February 28, and was almost destroyed by March 1, with nearly 90% of its buildings either damaged or destroyed. The city was also cut off from food, water, and electricity. Following the bombardment, bodies laid uncollected in the streets, according to local MP Dmytro Lubinets.
By 1 March, nearly 500 civilians were evacuated from Volnovakha by Ukrainian authorities.
On 5 March, DPR authorities announced that Colonel Vladimir "Voha" Zhoga, the commander of Sparta Battalion and a close confidant of Arsen Pavlov, was killed in action at Volnovakha. Denis Pushilin, the Head of the Donetsk People's Republic, posthumously awarded Zhoga with the award Hero of the Donetsk People's Republic, while Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, posthumously awarded him the title of Hero of the Russian Federation. Artem Zhoga, his father and chief of staff, succeeded him as commander of Sparta Battalion.
On 7 March, Ukrainian and Russian forces agreed to the establishment of a demilitarized humanitarian corridor through Volnovakha and the nearby city of Mariupol, which had been under siege since 24 February, in order to evacuate civilians from the two cities; however, Russian forces allegedly violated the demilitarization zone.
On 11 March, the Russian Ministry of Defense stated that DPR forces had captured Volnovakha. Videos later posted on social media showed Russian soldiers and vehicles stationed in the city, as well as abandoned Ukrainian tanks.
On 12 March, Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of Donetsk Oblast, stated that Russian forces has completely destroyed Volnovakha and that the city "effectively ceased to exist", but that fighting continued. The Associated Press confirmed that the city had been captured by pro-Russian separatists and much of it had been destroyed in the fighting. Later, Ukrainian officials reported that Captain Pavel Sbytov, the commander of the Ukrainian 503rd Naval Infantry Brigade, was killed in battle.
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Earlier today, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense published a photo of the wreckage of a Russian Aerospace Forces Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack aircraft, a type that has apparently already seen extensive use with both sides during the conflict. Unconfirmed reports suggest that a Russian Mi-8 helicopter that may have arrived on the scene of the crash to assist was in turn brought down by Ukrainian air defenses. At this stage, this is only speculation, however.
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