Editor’s note: Jeffrey Owens is a Jeffersonville native, a 1995 graduate of Miami Trace High School and 2000 graduate of Ohio University.
As a life-long history buff, Owens published Victory In Europe; A People’s History of the Second World War, a more than 700 page analysis of World War 2 in Europe in 2015.
Since 2015, Owens has hosted more than a dozen educational symposiums on a variety of military history topics at the Grove City Library.
Once Russia invaded Ukraine, Owens applied his love of history and writing to the topic, and transformed his personal Facebook page into an educational blog about the war. Utilizing in-depth research and his knowledge of military history, Owens has provided a unique coverage of the war from multiple angles through his writing.
Owens is a resident of New Holland, is married and the father of two children. His son Luke is currently completing his freshman year at Miami Trace.
The following is Owens’ 10th Ukraine analysis entry published on April 11:
Ukrainian forces continue to hold out in three major pockets of resistance in Mariupol where 90% of the city’s infrastructure has been destroyed from the Russian bombardment. All three pockets border the Sea of Azov and include the main Port of Mariupol to the southwest, the fishing port of Mariupol near the Ukrainian State Security Office building, and a long narrow stretch of the city running from downtown to the Azovstal Steel Plant to the east.
Russian and its proxy Chechen forces occupied the city center of Mariupol by April 7 and by April 10 bisected the stretch of resistance running down to the Azovstal factory. The meat grinder of urban combat continues, block-by-block and building-by-building, while Ukrainian defenders take ammunition from dead Russian soldiers and stack up their bodies as sand bags.
Bus fleets have continued operating throughout various evacuation corridors in southeastern Ukraine rescuing civilians from the horror of war. One evacuation corridor consists of a bus line from Zaporizhzhia through the intermediate city of Berdiansk to Mariupol, with scores of buses running the gauntlet around the clock.
Although thousands have been rescued the numbers could be much higher. Russia has agreed to precious few ceasefires allowing busses to safely enter the city and for civilians to gather at evacuation points. Without power, civilians in Mariupol have extremely limited means to even be notified of evacuation times or of the locations of these gathering points where they can be picked up.
During the final week of March, ten Ukrainian buses were commandeered at a Russian checkpoint; busses that could have participated in the rescues. Russia has also repeatedly refused humanitarian aide from entering the city, including twelve buses that were stripped clean at a Russian checkpoint of the fourteen tons of medical supplies they carried, before being sent on their way.
Russian atrocities against civilians or evidence of such abuses in liberated regions of Ukraine have continued throughout the country.
In the Donbas Oblast where civilians are being advised to evacuate ahead of an anticipated major Russian offensive, a Russian missile struck a major train station at Kramatorsk on April 7 where hundreds were gathered attempting to flee west. Fifty were killed and a further ninety-eight civilians were hospitalized including sixteen children and forty-six women.
In Mariupol, in lieu of agreeing to any significant evacuation corridors, the deportation of upwards of 50,000 civilians to Russia have continued in earnest as Russian troops force civilians at gun point out of their shelters and into deportation vans. As previously discussed in Analysis #6 the Russians have set up “filtration camps” in the separatist’s region of Donetsk to sort deported civilians and ship them to Russia.
Since then, additional information has come to light as escaped deportees have filled in the gaps and provided details on their ordeals.
These escapees have revealed that upon arrival in Donetsk that they were fingerprinted, photographed, interrogated about their political views, had their cell phones confiscated and their contacts and call and text logs downloaded. After processing, some who had family or friends in Russia were relocated to those residences while others were shipped 600 miles east to a “refugee” facility in the Russian city of Vladimir.
“Anna” a pseudonym for a twenty-four year old escapee, recounted how soldiers with guns in nondescript uniforms and without insignias broke into the bomb shelter and ordered the ninety women and children out. Upon reaching the surface, Anna, who had not been outside in days, couldn’t believe her eyes, as “everything was completely destroyed.”
Forced into a van, Anna, along with her teenage brother, grandmother, aunt, and the aunt’s two children, had no idea who these men were or where they were being taken. They ended up at a filtration camp that was housing over nine hundred civilians from Mariupol. There Anna and her family members were “treated like criminals…and held as property of the Russian Federation.”
Anna and her family outsmarted the system by taking up residence in Rostov-on-Don with friends, but soon thereafter took a series of trains to Moscow, St. Petersburg, and then across to the NATO member nation Estonia. Anna described the entire experience as horrible, but said she still feared life in occupied Ukraine more than going to Russia.
The Ukrainian Government now has credible intelligence that one of the purposes of the “filtration camps” with all their interrogations and information gathering, is to sort out those who have witnessed war crimes in Mariupol, and to make those persons disappear.
Meanwhile to the north, as Ukrainian forces liberated each of the regions previously occupied by the Russians on the Kyiv front, a group of 130 civilians were found to have been crammed into a 700 square foot basement for an entire month. This discovery was in the town of Yahidne in the Chernihiv Oblast which the Russians overran within days of their invasion in late February.
Of the 130 detainees who were forced into basement at gun point by Russian soldiers, more than forty were children with the youngest being just two months old.
Fifteen year old “Anastasiia” was one of those children, and her matted hair and dark circles under her eyes captured in a photograph taken of her upon her rescue reveals the trauma that she endured. She described that: “there was barely any room. We were living sitting up. We were sleeping sitting up. Not that we slept at all. It was impossible. So many shells were landing around here. It was unbearable.”
Twelve people most of whom were elderly died in the basement and Anastasiia recalled that: “…I knew the people who died. They treated us very kindly. I felt so sad, they just died here for no reason.” Her trauma has continued as she recounted that since her rescue: “…I wake up many times every night. I feel like I can hear the sound of shooting. I run to my parents, scared.”
To the southeast fierce fighting continues in the Luhansk-Donetsk region as the Russians launch daily frontal assaults on Ukrainian defensive lines. Ukrainian Intelligence has intercepted details that the Russian military intends to relocate troops who were witnesses to war crimes on the Kyiv front to the front lines of Luhansk-Donetsk. The intension being that these witnesses will be eliminated by sending them in lead columns against Ukrainian defenses where they will be mowed down.
As the war continues, more Russian crimes will be discovered, but so far these atrocities have only strengthened the resolve of the Ukrainians. Now more than ever they are determined to not only defend their homeland but also to not accept a ceasefire, and to fight on until the last Russian soldier has been driven out of Ukraine.
For more, the link to Jeffrey Owens’ blog is https://m.facebook.com/jeffrey.owens.543