🇺🇲💙💛 🇺🇦 ❤ 🇺🇦 💛💙🇺🇲 Ukrainian tank unit fights Russians, exhaustion and the cold.
Members of a Ukrainian armored unit fighting near Bakhmut describe the horrific situation at the frontline. They also explained why they need modern Western equipment.
A freezing wind swept across the steppe near Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. The thermometer showed minus 17 degrees Celsius (1.4 degrees Fahrenheit). The frontline of the war against Russia, where fighting is taking place for the towns of Bakhmut and Soledar, is just a few kilometers away.
Soldiers from a Ukrainian tank unit were training here in the middle of a field, just a few days after being pulled from the fighting near Bakhmut for a short break. To reach the spot, they had to walk several kilometers crosscountry.
"So, is it hard to walk in a bulletproof vest? Are your arms and legs freezing yet?" asked Ihor, an officer in the armored unit, who accompanied DW to where the troops was deployed. "Imagine the guys lying in the frozen trenches, where youre not even allowed to light stoves so their positions arent betrayed," he said.
DW spoke to the soldiers here during a break. Like Ihor, they did not want to give their full names and not everyone wanted their picture taken. Some have relatives in areas occupied by the Russians. In some cases, their families didnt even know they were on the frontline.
According to the officers of this armored unit, the balance of forces in the area is currently about 10 Russian soldiers to one Ukrainian one. Along this section of the front, the Ukrainian soldiers are mainly facing members of the Wagner Group, a private force that has recently been recruiting inmates from Russian prisons.
At Bakhmut and Soledar, Russian and Ukrainian forces positions are very close together, said Oleh, one of the commanders. Time and again, the soldiers are engaged in hand-to-hand combat, he said. "We can even hear the enemy commanders orders."
Like everyone here, Ihor, a 40-something infantryman, was clearly exhausted. "The Ukrainian military is fighting at the very limits of human strength," he said, adding they have no chance to sleep. They are under fire, day and night, continuously attacked by the Russian infantry.
Small groups of 10 to 15 Russian soldiers move "in waves" towards the Ukrainian positions, right into the crossfire from the Ukrainian trenches, said another officer.
"We shoot, they die — there are piles of bodies on the field. Then the next group comes," the officer said. "They dont even help their wounded, they just keep moving toward us.
"Its hard to bear this, but we have no choice," said his comrade Dmytro. "I want and need to defend my country, my family, so that we have a future."
Ukrainian forces need more equipment and weapons — preferably of non-Soviet design — to continue their counteroffensive and to liberate more occupied territory, the units commanders say.
The units engineers lead DW to a couple of Soviet T-72 tanks in need of repair after the fighting. Out in the field, there are tool boxes and generators. A truck with a crane pulls the engine block out of one of the tanks.