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Were 108 Ukrainian defenders really killed near Avdiivka on their way to Christmas?

We refute the lie about the death of 108 defenders who were supposedly on their way from Avdiivka to go on Christmas holiday.

The report on the deaths of 108 defenders, purportedly en route for Christmas leave from Avdiivka, is false. 

On the evening of December 25, Vitaliy Bala, self-styled as a political scientist, took to his Facebook page to share an account of the alleged deaths of Ukrainian defenders, which the state concealed, asserting that the tragedy unfolded two days prior.




“In one brigade near Avdiivka, it was decided to grant a 7-day leave for Christmas to the defenders. 

They drew lots to determine who could go, causing disappointment among the soldiers who weren’t selected. Some even requested exchanges, but none were accepted. The motivation behind the desire to leave was the year-long deployment at ground zero, and everyone was eager to reunite with their families. The defenders who boarded the buses never reached their destination, leaving their families in mourning. There were 108 defenders in all,” Bala wrote in his post.

Russian propagandists, media outlets, and anonymous Telegram channels, including Trukha Ukraina with over a million subscribers promptly shared Bala’s post. Subsequently, the information began to circulate through smaller Telegram channels. 

Several aspects of the post raise doubts:

  • Firstly, a significant lapse of two days without any accompanying information. This is especially noteworthy in russian sources, in a sector where both opposing sides meticulously monitor the situation almost round the clock, utilizing drones. In contrast, when soldiers of the 128th Brigade were killed while in formation, the news spread instantaneously.
  • Secondly, the issue concerning the departure from the sector by bus. Typically, military personnel do not travel by bus in combat zones, and the state of the roads near the contact line makes it an impractical choice. 
  • Thirdly, the issue regarding the information that the list of soldiers permitted to leave was determined through a lottery system. During active hostilities, it’s highly unlikely that the command would authorize the departure of so many soldiers, let alone resort to a random drawing of lots.

Shortly thereafter, Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Butusov wrote that the reported deaths of so many soldiers had not been confirmed by the brigades engaged in combat in Avdiivka. 

In the comments section of the post, Armed Forces Lieutenant Andriy Kovalenko, the deputy head of the Centre for Countering Disinformation, refuted the information, asserting that he had conducted thorough checks at various levels. 

Notably, military personnel, particularly those from the Avdiivka Region, actively refuted Bala’s information.

On the morning of December 26, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine rebuffed earlier reports, specifically denying that over a hundred Ukrainian soldiers had perished in the Avdiivka sector. 

In a Facebook post, the General Staff declared, “The information on social media about the alleged 108 deaths in one of the brigades in the Avdiivka sector on Christmas Eve is false.”

As for Vitaliy Bala’s background, it has been revealed that he is listed in the database of pseudo-sociologists compiled by the media outlet Texty.

Bala, a political scientist and director of the Situation Modelling Agency, has had longstanding collaboration with the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc. In 2012, alongside Vadym Karasiov and Volodymyr Fesenko, he advocated for Natalia Korolevska’s party in the documentary film “Parliamentary Elections in Ukraine 2012”  small logo


The counterargument was prepared by Pavlo Novik.

фактчекерка на всі крильця
Halyna Dolynna
Halyna Dolynna
editor of the English texts
01 / 01