October 5, 2022

Ukrainians Fight Russian Troops Up Close Along the Eastern Front

6 min read

In some villages along the front line, Ukrainian and Russian troops face each other, sometimes in each other’s eyes.

The tank’s shell shattered the bunker’s plaster roof and sent uniformed men around. Flak jackets and helmets were tossed and wrapped around automatic weapons. In the midst of the machine gun fire, a tall soldier hung an anti-tank missile launcher on one shoulder and gently pulled it over his cigarette.

The Russians were close.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine has been largely at a distance, with Ukrainian and Russian forces raining artillery shells on each other, sometimes from dozens of miles away. But in some places along the sloping eastern front, fighting becomes a vicious and intimate dance, allowing enemy forces to catch a glimpse of each other momentarily as they jockey for command of the hills and cities and Temporary suspicions are blown up in the villages.

On Wednesday, a similar dance was performed when a Russian unit of about 10 men entered a village excavated by Ukrainian troops from the Carpathian Sech Battalion. In all likelihood, Russian troops were there to identify the targets of the oncoming tanks. The fire, including the round that moved Ukrainian troops. Ukrainian forces spotted Russian troops and opened fire, pushing them back.

“It was a subversive group, intelligence,” said a 30-year-old fighter, gasping for breath after a brief firefight with Call Warsaw. “Our boys could not sleep and they reacted quickly, forcing the enemy to flee.”

So it goes every day, every hour, to the fighters of the Carpathian Sach Battalion, a volunteer unit named for the army of a short-lived independent Ukrainian state that was formed just before World War II. The battalion, attached to the 93rd Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Army, is stationed along a line of villages and trenches in the Kharkiv region, to prevent Russian forces from pushing down from their stronghold in the occupied Ukrainian city of Azim. Has been assigned.

The battalion allowed a New York Times reporter and a photographer to enter the frontline position on condition that the exact location of their base be revealed. Most of the soldiers agreed to identify themselves only with their call signs.

They did not face an easy fight.

The Russian military has deployed a large force along the frontline in eastern Ukraine, which has maintained a strong lead over tanks, fighter jets, helicopters and heavy artillery.

War machines seldom remain silent for long. Fighters said tanks in particular have become a serious threat, often falling within a mile of battalion positions and wreaking havoc. Earlier this month, 13 battalion soldiers were killed and more than 60 wounded.

“It’s very different from the war I’ve seen in places like Afghanistan or Iraq,” said one colonel, calling himself Mikhailo. “It’s a heavy battle. No one cares about the law of war. They shell small towns, use illicit artillery.”

Many of the battalion’s soldiers have experienced eight years of fighting against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, and have seen them fight in some of the fiercest conflicts. But for most of the years, urban life was settled.

Rosen, a tall, bearded soldier with a call sign, owns a bathtub business in Transcarpathia, a mountainous area in western Ukraine. But when Russia invaded on February 24, he quickly married his girlfriend – he said he wanted someone to wait for him back home – and set out on a mission-filled war. Happened

“We understand that this is not a war between Ukraine and Russia,” he said. “This is the war of purity and light and darkness on this earth. Either we stop this group and the world will get better, or the world will be filled with the anarchy that is everywhere.”

Battalion fighters have taken up temporary residence in an underground warrior under a building that has now been pierced with artillery shells. Guns and ammunition boxes are piled up in the corners wrapped in plaster dust that rains every time a shell falls nearby.

In addition to the soldiers, the bunker is home to a group of animals that have also tried to protect themselves from bombs – several small dogs and a black goat that likes to roam the kitchen area. On Wednesday, Chevron, a huge German shepherd, was sleeping in front of a pile of American-made Julian missile launchers, already out of his case and ready to shoot.

The whole region is engulfed in war. Low-flying Mi-8 attack helicopters share the skies with fighter jets that scatter in rural areas, occasionally setting fire to fields as they fire flames to remove missiles in search of heat. ۔

The unit’s drone operator is Oleksandr Kovalenko, one of the few people without a rifle. Although his job is to help his comrades aim their artillery at Russian positions, he reaches out to his work as an artist, occasionally taking pictures and saving if the balance of light and shadow in the frame Be to your liking.

He shows an overhead shot of the surrounding fields. It is green with spring growth, but is marked like a moon by artillery fire. As he scans the landscape, a piece of tree where Russian forces are stationed suddenly explodes into a fireball that spreads into a cloud of mushrooms.

The battalion is a hodgepodge of fighters from Ukraine and around the world. Matiz Prox, an 18-year-old from the Czech Republic, has “Born to Kill Russian” written on his helmet, but has admitted with some embarrassment that he has not done any shooting yet. Elman Imanov, 41, from Azerbaijan, was transferred to fight against Russia after witnessing atrocities against non-combatants in Ukraine.

“I pulled the four-month-old baby out of the nine-story apartment with my hands,” he said, as a rack of gold teeth gleamed in the bright fluorescent light. “I will never forget him and I will never forgive him. He never saw anything. What was his fault?”

And then there’s the 47-year-old soldier with Call Sign Proper, who is also a foreigner by battalion standards. Born in Siberia, Propur had a full career in the Russian army before retiring in the early 2000’s, although he would not say where he fought. He joined the Ukrainian forces when Russian troops began shelling Kyiv.

“All I can say is that they are well educated,” he said. But the fact that they have started killing and looting peaceful civilians is obscene.

Battalion Commander Oleg Kitson said the diversity was part of his team’s morale. He said that when the original Carpathian Sech was founded in the 1930s, it welcomed everyone ready to fight and die under the blue and gold flag of independent Ukraine.

He said that not only practically any soldier is welcomed but also equipment is available. In addition to the Jewells, soldiers fighting in the area have recently received another gift to help them on the playing field: the American-made M777 Howitzer, a long-range artillery used by Ukrainians. They are anxious to get dressed.

“We wanted to revive this military tradition of the Ukrainian forces,” he said at his unit’s command center, where a desk was covered with maps of the region and a flat-screen television showed live footage of the smoky battlefield. Was

“They come,” he said, “we give them weapons and point to the enemy.”

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