Ukrainian soldiers hailed first US aid package, but demand more to defend against

Ukrainian soldiers hailed first US aid package, but demand more to defend against
Ukrainian soldiers hailed first US aid package, but demand more to defend against Russia

A Ukrainian soldier from the Azov brigade, known by his nickname Chaos, right, carries a mortar as he waits for an order to fire at positions about a kilometer away from Russian forces on the front in the direction of Kreminna, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Alex Babenko)

Ukrainian soldiers fighting on the Eastern Front celebrated in an interview with EFE the unblocking of US aid, but they warned that Ukraine needs more soldiers and a qualitative leap in the level of support from its allies to achieve a victory to which they see no alternative.

“Morale in the Army has obviously improved”says Oleksandr, a former warehouse manager who enlisted as a volunteer at the beginning of this war and is part of the fire support platoon of the Svoboda battalion of the National Guard Ukrainian.

After half a year of hesitation, the US Congress approved in April a new batch of more than 60 billion dollars to finance new military aid to Ukraine that has already begun to arrive at the front.

The interruption of the flow of American aid left Ukraine without enough ammunition to repel attacks from , which has taken advantage of it to gain ground in the eastern Donetsk region.

Oleksandr and his companions in the platoon trust that this military material will serve to stop Russian advances, but they warn that Ukraine will only be able to recover territories if the pace of aid is accelerated and the Kiev Army is equipped with the quality and the amount of weapons needed.

“Everything will depend on that,” he says. Anton Bosuywho returned from Denmark more than two years ago to join the Army and fights with the platoon near Spirne (Donetsk), less than forty kilometers northeast of occupied Bakhmut.

Russian soldiers advance in an armored vehicle to take up positions and fire on Ukrainian positions, in an unidentified location in Ukraine. (Press service of the Russian Defense Ministry via AP)

Bosuy illustrates with an example the Ukrainian inferiority in military technology that in his opinion could be corrected with more decisive Western support: “We are using Soviet AGS grenade launchers manufactured in the 1960s, while the Russians have modern grenade launchers.”

The range of the Ukrainian AGS, he explains, is 1.7 kilometers, much lower than the 2.5 kilometers reached by the grenade launchers used by Russia.

These soldiers insist that there is no alternative to sending more and better material “for attack and not simply for defense,” and they relativize the importance of the military training that the West offers Ukrainians, considering that their Army is more prepared.

“One thing is the theory and another is the practice that our veterans acquired fighting in the east”says another soldier, Artem, who also identifies himself by his nom de guerre, Samurai, about a Ukrainian military experience that began in 2014 with the war activated by the Kremlin in Donetsk and Lugansk.

The pace at which Western military aid has reached since the beginning of this war is a source of frustration among these Ukrainian soldiers, who regret that decisions to send more or more effective systems are only made when the situation seems desperate for Ukraine and not when kyiv gains strength and has options to advance.

“They don’t give us enough weapons to attack, only to defend ourselves; “If they had given us more ammunition and weapons, things would be different now.”says another member of the platoon, Viacheslav Danchishin, who worked in the Spanish towns of Zaragoza, Tarragona and Benasque before returning to his country to fight.

Ukrainian soldiers operate a drone. EFE/ Markiian Lyseiko

These Ukrainian soldiers also agree in asking that more soldiers be deployed to the line of contact to reduce the gap with the Russian forces, which have made their numerical superiority one of their assets in this war.

Concepts such as the ‘economic front’, used by male professionals who are not willing to fight and argue that they contribute to the cause by paying taxes, are cause for skepticism among these soldiers who left behind orderly and prosperous civilian lives to take up arms.

“I think everyone will end up going to the front, there are not enough soldiers and they should already be training,” says Bosuy, the young man who returned from Denmark, about those who resist being mobilized. “Do they think that someone will come to wage war for them?” he adds.

Fewer and fewer Ukrainians join the Army by their own decision, which affects the spirit of the units, which are renewed by those who take up arms out of obligation.

“At first the entire battalion (Svoboda) was made up of volunteers; Now there are not so many,” explains Danchishin, the soldier who lived in Spain, who recognizes that those mobilized do not go to war with the same morality.

Despite the difficulties, none of these soldiers see any chance of reaching a compromise with Russia. They see this war as a marathon that in the eyes of Oleksandr, the warehouse manager turned soldier, began several centuries ago with the fight of his ancestors against Moscow’s first attempts at domination.

(With information from EFE)

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