Relentless “humanitarian waves” from Russia are weakening Ukrainian forces

(CNN) — The small town of Avdiivka in the middle of the front line has become the center of war in ukraine, Still in Ukrainian hands – now and by a narrow margin – it is surrounded on three sides by Russian troops and artillery.

The city is becoming unrecognizable due to continuous bombing by Russia.

The concrete remains of what were once the city’s tallest buildings appear to float among small hills of debris. The cross on the town church, tilted by a blaster, points towards the Russian lines.

Amidst the ruins, Russian and Ukrainian soldiers confront each other, pursued by drones and occasionally tanks. Casualties are heavy on both sides, but especially among the Russian attackers, who launch wave after wave of human casualties against the frozen defenders.

“Meet Reds” That’s how a Ukrainian sniper, identified only as “Bass”, described these attacks to CNN. His callsign means demon in Ukrainian and the scene he describes is hellish. “The dead soldiers are lying there frozen,” an Omega Special Forces Group officer said from a house several kilometers behind the front lines in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

“No one evacuates them, no one takes them away,” he said. “It feels like people don’t have any specific job, they just go away and die.”

Alias ​​”Teren”, commander of a Ukrainian drone reconnaissance unit in the city, said that “if we can kill 40 to 70 military personnel with drones in one day, the next day they renew their forces and continue to attack. “

In 18 months of fighting around the city, he said, his pilots from the 110th Mechanized Brigade had killed at least 1,500 Russians. Still they keep coming.

Relying on the Soviet equipment they had at their disposal, rather than the Western weapons they crave, Ukrainian soldiers have learned to be more creative with their weapons in combat.

Ukrainian casualties are a closely guarded secret, but the battle has become a battle of attrition, pitting chaotic Russian attacks against limited but determined Ukrainian resources and manpower.

On a surprise visit to Avdiivka in late December, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described the battle for the city as an “assault”, and said the battle could in many ways “determine the overall course of the war.”

Ukrainian leaders appear to be aware of the criticism they will face over the defense – and subsequent fall – of Bakhmut in 2023, noting the obvious tension between capturing locations of no great strategic importance and protecting the lives of soldiers. Recognize.

Army major Valery Zaluzhny said, “Every piece of our land is precious to us,” but in Avdiivka “there is no need to do anything reminiscent of a spectacle.”

weapons to continue the fight

But their lives depend on weapons.

On a cold January morning with a temperature of -22 °C, CNN observed another team of Omega special forces soldiers running towards their firing positions around Avdeevka.

Rushing to ready his Soviet-era rocket launcher, bolting from the back of an American pickup truck, a man flipped the switch to launch a salvo.

A series of clicking and cursing ensued. Frozen, no rockets fired.

They rely on the equipment they have, not the Western materials they want, and they know that every missed opportunity to retaliate against the Russians could cost Ukrainian lives.

A few days later, a supply truck drove through the mud of a field around the nearby town of Marinka, carrying much-needed shells to cannon positions.

But Cannon – a U.S. M777 howitzer supplied by – silent all day long, about 20 shells a day, 30 shells on a “good day”, gunners said. Last summer, in support of a failed Ukrainian counteroffensive, cannon crews fired at least twice as many shells, many of which were American-made, at the Russians, he said.

human enhancement russia

Crammed into their shelter, the crew of a 155 mm howitzer supplied by the United States tries to rest between missions. Due to shortage of ammunition they had to fire far fewer shells than expected.

And at an artillery position 90 minutes north of Avdiivka, around the town of Bakhmut, which CNN visited, the ammunition bay of a US-supplied Paladin howitzer was completely empty. The crew had no projectiles to fire.

Subsequent deliveries brought four shells, but nothing that could do much damage to the Russians: they were just smoke shells.

“Any projectile suitable for the Paladins we use is better than no projectile at all,” a Skyba gun commander told CNN.

The artillery commander of Ukraine’s 93rd Mechanized Brigade told CNN that there is a “10 to 1” difference between Russian and Ukrainian artillery supplies.

“They use old Soviet systems,” Corser said, “but Soviet systems can still kill.”

However, US support for Ukraine – including much-needed war materials – no longer looks assured. Future aid packages are locked in a tug-of-war on Capitol Hill, and potential aid to Ukraine on the horizon adds to the fears and uncertainty of an anti-Trump presidency.

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby bluntly stated this month, “Our aid has stopped. The attacks by Russia are increasing.”

But while they can use their Western weapons, Ukrainians have much more to celebrate in Avdiivka.

The Bradley fighting vehicle, the vanguard of last year’s ill-fated Ukrainian counteroffensive, gifted to Ukraine by the United States and designed to support infantry, is enhancing its reputation by neutralizing waves of Russian attacks .

Without Bradley, “I doubt we’d be here talking to you,” the commander identified as “Barbie” told CNN from behind the Avdiivka front line.

“The vehicle is tough,” he said. “He’s not afraid of anything”.

In a video provided to CNN by another unit operating Bradleys, the 47th Mechanized Brigade, an American-trained team faces off against a Russian T-90 tank, one of the most powerful in Moscow’s army. Their shots disable the tank, whose turret spins uncontrollably, before an exploding drone crashes into its side.

But American-made Bradleys are lacking on the front end.

The US had promised to deliver about 200 Bradleys and dozens of them have been damaged and destroyed in the war. It is likely that some of them have been repaired and sent back to the front.

Ukrainian crews, while admirers of the Bradley’s power, have also criticized its ability to withstand the harsh Ukrainian winters and the condition of some of the older vehicles sent by the United States.

russia ukrainian army

Members of the Ukrainian National Guard’s special Omega unit fire mortars at Russian troops in the frontline town of Avdiivka, amid the Russian attack on Ukraine on November 8, 2023.

Ukraine’s lack of firepower compared to its opponent is a common theme on the front lines. The commander of the nearby drone reconnaissance unit “Terren” clearly stated that Ukraine does not have enough weapons and equipment to defeat Russia.

Ukrainians are forced to become better and more resourceful pilots with their limited resources, he said.

“At the beginning of the war, their advantage in drones was 10 times greater than ours,” he said. “At the moment, I think we are a worthy competitor in the drone format. We cover the skies 24 hours a day.”

While searching for Russian soldiers from the unit’s command post, CNN observed several drones from his unit surrounding a Russian trench.

Powerful drone cameras captured two Russian soldiers aiming at a suicide drone, smoke billowing from their rifles and cigarettes dangling in the cool air. The Ukrainian drone dives into the narrow gap behind them and explodes.

CNN does not know the fate of those people, but drone pilots in the area reported that they are unlikely to survive, given the number of drone units active in the area.

an overflowing cup

Nevertheless, Russian attacks continue, meaning that capturing Avdeevka is now a matter of numbers, said special forces sniper “Bas”.

He said, “If it is a one liter bottle, it cannot hold even one and a half litre.”

To counter Russia’s numerical superiority, Ukrainian commanders – under pressure from the country’s top generals – are considering the possibility of sending half a million more troops to bolster the military ranks.

Life in Ukrainian cities far from the front lines seems relatively untouched by the fighting, at least superficially. Although recruitment posters and military checkpoints and men in uniform are common on the streets, there are few visible signs of restrictions or changes in daily life. Supermarkets are full and cafes are buzzing with customers.

But recruitment is a sensitive issue.

The Ukrainian president has the power to impose greater mobilization – currently it is limited to those over the age of 27 – but he has opted to seek parliamentary approval for it. The bill is slowly making its way — and not without difficulty — through lawmakers’ scrutiny.

Zelensky has also wondered how to pay for the mobilization, because according to him, six taxpayers are needed to pay the salary of each soldier in uniform.

Their reluctance is indicative of the political sensitivity that surrounds public opinion in Ukraine, even if the country’s enemies do not hide their violent ambitions for Kiev.

“The existence of Ukraine is fatal for Ukrainians,” former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, vice-chairman of the Russian Security Council and one of the most warmongering Russian politicians, posted on Telegram on January 17.

He said, “The existence of an independent state in the historical Russian territories will now be a constant pretext for the resumption of combat actions.”

Back at the front, among soldiers CNN spoke to, morale was high.

The tired but rarely disenchanted soldiers recognized that reinforcements would be a welcome addition to their rotation away from the front.

However, this remains a distant hope for now, as fighting continues in Avdiivka.

“We are doing everything possible and impossible to maintain this line,” Special Forces officer Omega “Sayer” told CNN.

“I don’t know what will happen next,” he said. “But Avdeevka protests. We are on our land. We have nothing to lose.”

(tagstotranslate)News from Russia

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