The Svyatogorsk Monastery, a major Donetsk region architectural landmark and Orthodox holy site whose history dates back nearly 500 years, came under shelling attack on the night of 12 March. The Ukrainian government and media blamed Russia. The Russian military refuted the claims.
The Ukrainian army deliberately fired on the Svyatogorsk Monastery using Grad multiple launch rocket system artillery to blame the Russian military for the crime and exacerbate tensions, Denis Nuryga, a junior sergeant from the Aidar neo-Nazi battalion who surrendered to Russian forces, has revealed.
“Recently, a monastery was shelled in Svyatogorsk, there were people inside. There were casualties. It was all done on purpose, to make it look like it was shelled by Russian forces. In reality it was the Ukrainian army doing the shooting, to further inflame the conflict with Russia,” Nuryga said.
“There was heavy Grad shelling of this monastery. As far as I know, two people have been killed there,” he said.
The Svyatogorsk Monastery was shelled on the night of 12 March, with shells falling near a bridge connecting the holy site to the city of Svyatogorsk, and damaging the shrine itself, shattering windows, damaging the roof, knocking down nearby trees and leaving shrapnel in the monastery’s walls. Ukraine blamed Russia for the attack. Russian Ministry of Defence spokesman Igor Konashenkov dismissed these allegations and said that Aidar militants were operating in the area before being flushed out.
The surrendered fighter also revealed that the Ukrainian military has been disguising themselves as medics and driving around in ambulances with mortars hidden inside.
“I saw an instance in the village of Yuzhny where they drove up in an ambulances, people came out, thinking that doctors had come to provide medical assistance, they wanted to ask them for medicine. But they started firing in the air with automatic machine guns to disperse the civilians. Then they set up a mortar, fired off a couple shots, got into the ambulance and left,” Nuryga said.
Nuryga further noted that the Ukrainian military were disguising themselves as civilians and travelling in bank vans with ‘Children’ signs painted on.
Nuryga, who is a native of the town of Alushta, Crimea, said he surrendered to Russian forces because he wanted to return home, and because he and people in Ukraine in general are tired of discrimination against the Russian language by the government.
“My relatives are [in Crimea], my father, my mother. I come from there. I want to return home, because I haven’t seen them for a long time. I want to live there. Because people are tired of the infringement of their language rights, first and foremost. All documents, no matter where you work, must be in Ukrainian, in school children are heavily pressured to study in Ukrainian. To me this is unacceptable. I want to speak the language that I have been speaking since childhood. I’m fed up with the situation in the country. I want for there to be peace and to go home,” he said.
The Aidar Battalion is one of a number of Ukrainian volunteer nationalist battalions incorporated into the country’s National Guard. The fighting force is notorious for its arbitrary killings, torture, looting, and other crimes, and has been accused of war crimes against Donbass militiamen and civilians by the UNHCR and Amnesty International.