KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's soldiers are in despair, nearly two years after Russia invaded their country.
despite a hopeless counter attack signs of this heat and loose financial aid On behalf of the allies, Ukrainian troops say they are fully committed to victory. But as winter approaches, they are concerned that Russia is better equipped for war and are disappointed at being on the defensive again in a fierce war. Some people doubt the decisions of their leaders.
Discontent among Ukrainian soldiers – once extremely rare and expressed only in private – is now more common and out in the open.
In the southern city of Kherson, where Ukraine is waging attacks against well-armed Russian troops on the other side of the Dnieper River, soldiers are asking why these difficult amphibious operations were not launched months earlier in warmer weather.
"I don't understand," said a commander of the 11th National Guard Brigade's anti-drone unit, known on the battlefield as Boxer. "Now it's hard and cold."
"It's not just my sentiment, many units share it," said Boxer, who spoke on the condition that only the name of his battlefield be used.
Russia, which Illegally occupied the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, controls approximately one fifth of Ukraine. The two countries are essentially at a standoff along the 1,000-kilometre-long (620-mile-long) border after a 22-month war.
Analysts say Russian forces aim to push deeper into eastern Ukraine this winter, a move Russian President Vladimir Putin may cite. campaign for re-election, an outcome that is almost certain. Encouraged by recent advances on the battlefield, Putin said this last week He is fully committed to the war and criticized Ukraine for "sacrificing" troops to demonstrate success to Western sponsors.
In the United States, which has already spent about $111 billion to defend Ukraine, President Joe Biden is advocating an additional $50 billion in aid. But there are Republican lawmakers shy away from more support - Just like some lawmakers in Europe on the fence About providing Ukraine an additional $50 billion, after failing to deliver on promised ammunition.
Former British Army General Richard Barons said, "The reason the Ukrainians are frustrated is that, now they're realizing, not only have they not performed well this year... they know the Russians are improving. Happening." "They look at what's happening in Congress, and they look at what happened in the European Union."
Ukraine may be on the defensive this winter, but its military leaders say they have no intention of giving up the fight.
“If we don’t have a single bullet, we will kill them with shovels,” said Serhiy, commander of the 59th Brigade operating in the eastern town of Avdiivka, who spoke on condition that only his first name be used. “Of course, everyone is tired of the war, physically and mentally. But imagine if we stop – what will happen next?'
The battlefield fatigue and frustration is visible in Ukraine's capital, Kiev, where differences between leaders have recently come to the fore.
President Volodymyr Zelensky last month publicly disputed Ukraine's military chief of staff Valery Zaluzny's assessment that the war had reached a stalemate. And Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko has repeatedly attacked Zelensky, saying he has too much power.
It appears that the uneasiness in the corridors of power has extended to the rank and file of the military, who have misgivings about incompetence and faulty decision-making within the bureaucracy over which they are entrusted to keep them well-armed for the fight. Are dependent on.
In the southern Ukrainian region of Zaporizhia, where momentum has slowed since the summer counteroffensive, Drones have become an important tool of war, They enable troops to track and deter Russian forces while they conduct dangerous and laborious operations to clear landmines and consolidate territorial gains. But fighters there complain that the army has been very slow in training drone operators.
It took seven months to get the necessary paperwork from multiple government agencies to train 75 people, said Konstantin Denisov, a Ukrainian soldier.
“We wasted time,” he said. Commanders elsewhere complain of combat operations being hampered by not having enough troops or delays in repairing drones.
Defense Minister Rustam Umerov says Ukraine has enough troops and weapons for the next phase of the fighting.
"We are able to protect our people and we will do so," he told The Associated Press. "We have a plan and we're sticking to that plan."
The limited mobility that Ukrainian forces enjoyed during the summer counteroffensive has slowed – from forests in the north-east, to urban centers in the east, to muddy fields in the south.
While Russia is hoping to take the initiative this winter, Ukraine is primarily focusing on standing its ground, according to interviews with half a dozen military commanders on the vast front line.
Despite wet, muddy ground that makes it difficult to move tanks and other heavy weapons, the Russian army has reinforced its forces in the eastern Donetsk region, where it has recently stepped up offensive maneuvers .
Parker, the Ukrainian commander of a mechanized battalion nearby, said, "The main goal for the winter is to lose as few men as possible." Bakhmut Who asked to use the name of their battlefield to speak freely. Bakhmut is a town in eastern Ukraine that was captured by Russian forces after months of heavy fighting.
“We have to be clear,” Parker said. "It is not possible to liberate Donetsk or Bakhmut in winter, because they have too many (fighters)."
Ukraine could also be forced to give up parts of already-recaptured territory this winter, though Russia is likely to pay a heavy price, analysts say.
"If Russia continues to attack, the most likely outcome is that they will make some modest territorial gains, but in doing so they will suffer huge losses," said Ben Barry, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. "
drone and man
Some front-line Ukrainian commanders say they lack the fighters and firepower needed to keep endless waves of Russian infantrymen at bay as they tighten defenses to protect troops. He says even greater importance has been given to attack drones – a weapon with which Russia is currently better equipped.
Indeed, while Ukrainian soldiers have proven resourceful and innovative on the battlefield, Moscow has dramatically expanded its defense industry in the past year, producing armored vehicles and artillery shells at a pace that Ukraine cannot match. can do.
“Yes, they are ahead of us in terms of supplies,” said Boxer, the commander in Kherson, who credited Russian drones with longer range and more advanced software. “This allows the drones to go up to 2,000 meters and avoid jammers,” he said, while Ukrainian drones “can only fly up to 500 meters.”
This created a problem for his troops, whose ability to attack Russian positions on the other side of the Dnieper River was limited. To eventually deploy heavy weapons such as tanks, Ukraine would first have to push back Russian forces to build pontoon bridges. Boxer said this won't be possible unless they get more drones.
"We are waiting for weapons that we were supposed to receive months ago," he said.
Ukraine will also have to mobilize more troops to continue the fight.
In the northeastern cities of Kupyansk and Lyman, the Russian military has deployed a large force with the goal of recapturing lost territory.
“They are simply weakening our positions and defenses, injuring our soldiers, forcing them to leave the battlefield,” said Dolphin, a commander in the northeast who asked only to be identified by the name of his battlefield. Will be cited using.
Dolphin says it is unable to adequately rehire staff. "I can say for my unit that we are 60% prepared," he said.
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