EPM GLOBAL - Executive Profile Management | Security solutions

Mission Ukraine

Kramatorsk Missile Strike

27.06.2023

In the evening of 27th June 2023, Russian ballistic missile type Iskander struck a popular restaurant in the Ukraininan city of Kramatorsk, Donetsk region. Ukrainian special forces have reported casualties of 13 dead and 65 heavily wounded. EPM Global’s agents were temporarily placed in the city to provide strategic and operational humanitarian mission support for one of the international non-government organisations, which supports Ukrainian civilians with meals prepared in temporarily set-up kitchens. At the time of the missile strike, one of our agents was in his temporary apartment, located two blocks away from the targeted restaurant. We asked him to share his observations, and provide industry professionals with advise on how to manage missions in similarly hostile environments.

 –  What was the situation like in Kramatorsk prior to the missile strike?

Kramatorsk is in the area that could be perceived as the direct conflict zone, located approximately 30 km from the front line. The sounds of the front line fighting could be heard in the town, and air strike sirens were a regular occurrence at any given time of the day for quite some time.

 – How long have you been in Kramatorsk, and have you noticed any patterns or signs that could predict the attack?

I started my deployment in Ukraine on the 1st April 2023 and have been in Kramatorsk since the 4th of April 2023. It is my third rotation deployment in the country.

 – How frequent were the missile strikes from the moment you have arrived in Kramatorsk, and what were the targets?

Since I started working in Ukraine, there have been strikes during each one of my deployments/rotations. It was not an everyday occurrence, but I can say it was usual to witness at least one strike per week. There was one day when I recorded six strikes. As for the targets, they were all buildings of different purposes, including uninhabited areas of the city. Similarly dangerous occurrences have and continue to happen in all areas where we provide humanitarian support.

– What, in your opinion, was the main reason for the restaurant being targeted?

The Ria restaurant was the biggest and most popular in the city. Everyone held meetings there, and it was always quite crowded. Targeting this restaurant was an obvious exhibition of terrorist mentality with the main aim of spreading fear among the civilian population of the city.

 – What do you think are the main factors in setting the strike targets, and why was Ria Restaurant targeted this time?

As I mentioned, the targets vary. Some are military, while others are in civilian areas. Some of those targets are chosen for weakening the military potential, when others are set with the main purpose of spreading terror, fear and panic among civilians. The latter was achieved by the attack on Ria restaurant.

 – What do you think is the main cause of finding yourself in similarly dangerous situations? What helped you avoid being in the area of immediate danger?

As it is commonly known, we are in an active state of war, and there are no safe places. In each area where we operate, there is a high risk of dangerous incidents, and this is why we have to remain extra vigilant and ensure all our senses are on high alert. Most of all, however, we need to trust our experience and intuition.

 – Do you think complacency could be one of the main reasons for ending up in a similarly dangerous situation?

Yes, but in this case, it is more noticeable that people are simply tired of the hostility, and they are doing all they can to return to their normal lives. However, we can’t forget that we are still in the state of war, and we need to continue applying all safety measures adequately to the given situation.

 – What kind of behaviours have you noticed in Kramatorsk?

As previously mentioned, the slow return to normality started being visible in the city, but this can always be easily taken advantage of by the enemy. This is exactly what happened with Ria restaurant.

 – Can you describe the moment of the missile blast? What was your first reaction, what were your first thoughts? How would you describe the psychology of the moment?

At the time of the missile strike, I was in the apartment, which was located very near the restaurant. I saw the missile in the sky, its trace on the sky, and how it hit the restaurant causing the blast. Everything seemed in slow motion. I saw the sphere of fire and the smoke, and I managed to swear out loud, turn around, and curl up. I have felt the warmth of the shock wave, the blast of the windows and shattering of the glass. As soon as this quick moment passed, I have quickly got on my feet to evaluate the situation and started evacuation procedures.

 – Do you think your training and previous experience helped you fight the experienced psychological shock in the situation you have described?

Yes. The fact that myself and all my colleagues who I work together with on this mission, have a lot of experience in hostile environments, years of trainings behind us, and familiarity with procedures, is the main reason why we are able to remain calm. Shock, stress, fear – I think those feelings are still somewhere there, but they don’t paralyse us; on the contrary, they mobilise us for quick actions. Actually, having clearly identified procedures makes it much easier for us. This was the case in this situation as well. Thanks to the quick reaction of our coordinator and great established communication procedures, the whole activation of the emergency procedures lasted seconds. All people engaged in this mission have shown nothing but support. My phone did not stop ringing and vibrating with messages and calls of reassurance, support and questions about our safety.

 – What would you have done better, or what kind of advice would you give to security operatives and voluntary workers who are on their missions in the direct conflict zones, in proximity to front lines?

I wouldn’t have changed anything, because the procedures we have established, as well as the exchange of professional experiences, worked well in this situation of imminent danger. I think that the whole team and I managed the situation to the highest level of professionalism and ensured safety. And as for my advice – I would recommend always following the safety procedures and never stop continuously analysing of the situation and adjusting your actions to minimise the casualties and avoid potential danger. But most of all, I would like to stress the importance of working as a team, as the key aspect of helping and supporting each other, and overall engagement in the common safety.