The beginning of Russian aggression last February caught thirty-two-year-old Ihor in Kyiv, where he worked in a marketing company. In three days he was already reporting to the armed forces. Since then, his job has been to defend Ukraine against Russian invaders. Ihor is the fifth Ukrainian soldier to agree to an interview with Aktuálně.cz via the Telegram social network. He answered on the day he was returning to the front line.
“I have two main tasks,” he says of his enlistment in the military. “I am an infantry shooter, my basic equipment is a Kalashnikov. I also work in aerial reconnaissance and operate drones,” he describes. He served in several places since the beginning of the war. He first fought in the Zaporozhye region, in the autumn he participated in the counter-offensive near Kharkov, now he is in the north in the Luhansk region.
He experienced the most difficult moments in January. “Several guys from our unit fell at the position. It was a big loss. It’s hard to go to the places where comrades fell. To come there and see them dead. You can’t get used to that,” he says.
And how does he manage fear? “You can’t control it completely. You need to focus on completing the task. On what you have to do,” offers a solution that soldiers have been talking about for years – during the Second World War, in Vietnam or Afghanistan. “You can’t not feel fear, you have to work with it,” he says.
The heaviest fighting is now taking place for Bakhmut and Marjinka in eastern Ukraine, where defenders are repelling Russian attacks. Russia has lost more than 188,000 soldiers killed and wounded since the beginning of the war, according to the Ukrainian command. However, the number cannot be immediately verified from independent sources. In addition, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi is demanding the strengthening of international sanctions against Moscow after Russian shelling of civilian objects.
His army and territorial defense units are assisted by volunteers in the background and abroad. They collect money for cars, weapons, food or medical equipment. With all the basics, the situation is good at the current stage of the war, according to Ihor.
However, supply in the battle line varies from unit to unit. “We don’t have a problem, but sometimes there is less food in the positions, because of the shelling it is often difficult to bring supplies there. It is dangerous,” says Ihor and reminds that the situation with medicines has improved compared to the beginning of the war.
Photo credit: Serhije Fischuk’s Twitter (photo used with his permission)
Aktuálně.cz interviews with Ukrainian soldiers in the trenches
He also sees the armament of the Ukrainian army optimistically. European countries, the United States and Canada are sending weapons, so Kiev can prepare for a counter-offensive with the aim of pushing the occupiers out of its territory. “There is no problem with handguns, thank God there are quite a few of them. We would need more grenade launchers and mortars. And artillery ammunition,” describes the soldier. “A lot of guys already have weapons from NATO countries. At least what I had the chance to see,” he adds.
Previous interviews with Ukrainian soldiers have shown that some are battling fatigue and lack of sleep in addition to the enemy. “For me, it’s not such a problem. Under normal circumstances, we have a rotation, we take turns. But at the positions, of course, there is no sleep or rest. Especially where the enemy is constantly attacking, in Bachmut or Vuhledar,” he gives an example.
Experts from the American Institute for the Study of War describe the situation in the Donbas city of Bachmut as complex. Mercenaries from the Russian Wagner group penetrated behind the railway that crosses it from north to south. Ukrainian defenders now control only the western part of the city and are launching counterattacks to push the Russians away from the supply routes.
Ihor gave the interview on the day when his leave in Kharkov was ending and he was returning to the front line. Even there, he sometimes finds time to publish ironic posts on Twitter, where he has an account called Yellow spot in a pixel (жовта плама в пикселі). “If you want to chat with me at an event, don’t bring dogs with you,” he writes above a photo with a large dog in his arms.
If you hope to chat with me at any event – DO NOT BRING DOGS! https://t.co/K084xxCMb1
— a yellow spot in a pixel (@zhovta_plyama) April 22, 2023
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