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Umerov: Death of soldiers at award ceremony 'could have been avoided’

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk November 14, 2023 8:24 PM 2 min read
Military personnel stay in a dugout as the artillery unit of the 128th Mountain Assault Brigade serves in the Zaporizhzhia direction, southeastern Ukraine. Aug. 11, 2023 (Ukrinform/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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The organizers of the award ceremony, where at least 19 Ukrainian soldiers from the 128th Mountain Assault Brigade were allegedly killed in a Russian attack, ignored basic security measures that could have prevented the incident, Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said on Nov. 14.

A preliminary investigation revealed what happened on Nov. 3 when the soldiers were killed and found that reports of Russian reconnaissance drones operating in the area, including an air alert, were ignored. In addition, the soldiers were gathered in the yard of a house, with 10 cars parked outside, which was plainly visible from above.

"All rules of disguise were ignored," Umerov said.

Ukraine's 128th Mountain Assault Brigade reported on Nov. 6 that a Russian attack had killed 19 of its soldiers but did not provide any further details and urged not to spread "unverified, often fake information" before the end of the investigation.

"The best of our fighters died... We express our sincere condolences to their families and promise to avenge our brothers a hundredfold," the brigade said on Facebook.

An investigation into the incident and the potential negligent behavior of the organizers of the award ceremony, as well as anyone else who may have been involved, is ongoing, Umerov said.  

"Everyone who is guilty of this tragedy will be punished according to the law," he added.

President Volodymyr Zelensky announced an investigation into the deaths of the soldiers on Nov. 5 in order to "establish the full truth about what happened, and to prevent this from happening again.”

He also said the incident “could have been avoided.”

The president promised to implement changes in the armed forces to address negligence, Soviet-era practices, and bureaucracy.

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