azov battalion
© AFP 2018 / GENYA SAVILOV
Non-combat losses now exceed 10,000 Redemption comes in many forms
Ukrainian servicemen shot and killed their commander, Sergei Sobko, in the aftermath of being forced to commit war-crimes for a Ukrainian media public relations spectacle. The killing happened immediately after an incident where the commander was scolding the troops in his command for drinking alcohol. This was announced by the official representative of the operational command of the DPR, Eduard Basurin.

According to Basurin, it happened on March 6th in the 128th separate mountain-assault brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, where the lieutenant at night allegedly discovered that a group of soldiers were drunk. The soldiers may have been engaged in heavy drinking as a coping mechanism to deal with the unit's increasingly problematic activities at least since the end of February.

"There was a negative reaction to a remark of the platoon commander, and during the verbal skirmish, two sergeants used firearms and shot their commander at close range," Basurin told Russian media.

He stressed that this and similar cases are not recorded in the official reports of the Ukrainian command.

Basurin said that in a series of constant crimes committed by the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Donbass, this incident was the "last straw" that overwhelmed the patience of the Ukrainian soldiers. This event is consistent with reports that morale in the Ukrainian military is very low.

Media reports from Russian state-owned or controlled outlets tend to focus on the specific altercation between the commander and the two sergeants, with focus on the theme that the soldiers in question were drunk.

Given Basurin's comments that this came after a series of constant crimes by the UAF in the Donbass, there appears to be another layer to the story.

The same Ukrainian troops from the 128th brigade had just days before, opened fire on the civilians in the city of Dokuchaevsk under Sergei Sobko's orders, located on the territory of the DPR, for the filming of a television report.

While the aim of the report was to glorify the actions of the UAF, there was negative reaction in Ukrainian social media comments. The views expressed included that these were war crimes, and crimes against humanity being committed against largely innocent civilians. This may have been reflected also in the attitude of the participating soldiers in the aftermath.

Basurin made his own official comments known during a briefing in Donetsk, said the head of the press service of the Office of People's Militia of the Republic, Daniel Bezsonov . He said that the order to open fire on residential areas of Dokuchaevsk was given by the commander of the 128th brigade of the Ukrainian army, Sergei Sobko .

"The commander of the 128th Separate Mountain Assault Brigade Sobko took advantage of the arrival in his area of ​​responsibility of the Ukrainian media, namely the journalists of Channel 5, and stepped up a demonstration of the combat capabilities of their units using large-caliber machine guns and grenade launchers in residential areas of Dokuchaevsk," the chief quotes. press service agency DAN.

Bezsonov stressed that this "commander" does not care about the fact that "peaceful citizens may have suffered as a result of criminal shelling and for the sake of his PR."

Ukrainian commander Sergei Sobko is considered a war criminal in the DPR .

At the end of February, by Sobko's order, the sapper units of the 128th brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine installed anti-personnel mines in the Volnovakhsk district near kindergartens and schools.

In December 2018, the Chief Military Prosecutor of Ukraine, Anatoliy Matios, said that the cumulative non-combat losses of all Ukrainian law enforcement agencies over the past 4.5 years - since the beginning of the armed conflict in Donbas - amounted to more than 10 thousand people.

The armed conflict in the south-east of Ukraine has been continuing since the spring of 2014. Residents of the region refused to recognize the new US coup installed government, which changed in Ukraine in February of the same year, and announced the creation of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics (DPR and LPR). In response, Kiev began the so-called anti-terrorist operation against them, changing its name in April 2018 to the operation of the combined forces. While Moscow recognized the independence referendum in Crimea, they did not recognize similar in the self-declared DPR and LPR.

On December 19, 2018, the UN published a report , according to which, over 4.5 years of conflict in eastern Ukraine, over 3.3 thousand civilians died, and about 9 thousand people were injured. FRN's assessment is that this number is more than ten times as many civilians dead, but the figure is under-reported by both sides.