In Donbas, where Russia has launched a furious onslaught, Ukrainian troops returning from the front lines describe life as apocalyptic as they recount their experiences fighting in what has grown into an exhausting battle of attrition.
Others said they had been forced to leave their posts and suffer from mental health issues as a result of the constant bombardment. Others praised the good morale of the troops, the bravery of their comrades, and their will to continue fighting despite Russian gains in the battle zone.
The Ukrainian National Guard’s Svoboda Battalion’s second-in-command, Lt. Volodymyr Nazarenko, 30, was part of the withdrawal from Sievierodonetsk ordered by military officials. It took Russian tanks more than a month to wipe out the city’s remaining defences and reduce the city’s prewar population of 101,000 people to “a burnt-down desert,” according to him.
“They bombarded us all day long. I don’t want to dishonestly tell anybody. Rather, they were “barrages of munitions at every structure,” as Nazarenko put it. “The city was smoothed off in a systematic manner.”
In Luhansk region, where pro-Russian rebels formed an unrecognised republic eight years ago, Sievierodonetsk was one of two main cities under Ukrainian authority. The Ukrainians were besieged on three sides and defending a chemical factory that was also housing civilians when the order to leave came on June 24.
At 64 kilometres southwest of Sievierodonetsk, Artem Ruban of Nazarenko’s unit remarked: “If there was hell on Earth someplace, it was in Sievierodonetsk,” he added. We were able to hold the city until the very end because of our lads’ inner strength.
Inhumane circumstances, they had to battle in. While it is difficult for Ruban to convey the current state of the characters or what life was like back home, he does his best to do so.
As a result, Nazarenko considered the operation at Sievierodonetsk a “win,” despite the fact that the Ukrainians lost the battle. As a result, the Russian offensive was delayed much longer than predicted, resulting in a significant reduction in Russian resources, according to the defence.
Ukraine’s lieutenant and his troops all voiced confidence that Ukraine will retake all of its seized lands and beat Russia. They were certain that spirits were high. They were more negative about their experiences, and they did so anonymously or by using just their first names to describe them.
When Oleksiy, a soldier of the Ukrainian army, returned from the front with a pronounced limp, it was obvious that he had been wounded in combat. On the battlefield, he said, he was wounded in Zolote, a town that the Russians have since taken.
Even while he believes additional Western weaponry would not alter the direction of the conflict, he added, “the reality is extremely different” from what is seen on television, when soldiers express their unity and their armies stand together.
Oleksiy stated his platoon was out of ammo in a matter of weeks. At one point, he added, the men were unable to stand up in the trenches because of the constant shelling.
Ukraine has not released the entire number of its soldiers killed in battle, despite a top presidential adviser reporting last month that 100 to 200 Ukrainian military were dying daily. During the first three days of combat, Oleksiy stated that his battalion lost 150 soldiers, many of them due to a lack of blood.
Injured troops had to wait up to two days for evacuation because of the constant bombing, he claimed.
It doesn’t matter to the commanders whether you’re mentally ill. It’s imperative that you return if your heart is still beating, if your arms and legs are still functioning, he said.
According to Mariia, a mother of a newborn girl and a former lawyer who joined the Ukrainian army in 2018, the degree of risk and discomfort experienced by a unit may vary substantially depending on its location and access to supply lines.
Front lines established before to Russia’s invasion in 2014 are more stable and predictable, but those established after Russia invaded are “in a different universe,” she added, referring to the new battlegrounds.
Her spouse is presently engaged in a battle in a “hot zone,” according to Mariia, who declined to provide her last name for security concerns. Despite the pain caused by the loss of loved ones, her subordinates have remained upbeat, she added.