Thousands of Ukrainian army soldiers are on the frontline. Kyiv Post publishes the anonymous diary of a Ukrainian infantryman deployed to the front line in the Donetsk region.
Command told us that our schedule would be a week at the base, then a week on the front line. I was given a heavy, uncomfortable bulletproof vest, which unzips when I crouch, and weighs 12kg. I took as many provisions and water as I could carry, weapons and ammunition, no radios.
The Russians have intercepted our network and are listening in. When we were about to leave the rear area, we received a radio call from command and, almost immediately, five 82-caliber mortar rounds came down on us. Then, after a while, more. They intended to kill us if we were treating the wounded. We know that Russians are listening.
Our battle position is not a trench, but old houses, where we immediately came under fire. The Russians are attacking us here almost continuously - drones have dropped vogs (40mm grenades) on me. They have attacked with mortars so often we don't even pay attention anymore. Tanks don't seem to be shooting at us because there is no point. Tanks were shelling more valuable targets such as our artillery positions.
You have to go to the toilet wherever you are and then carefully throw it away. You could go down to the basements, but we keep our dead there. We had losses the very next day and, the day after that, guys are always getting wounded.
The city where we are fighting looks surreal. Russian corpses are piled everywhere, and everything is charred and in ruins. The scariest thing is seeing the destroyed children’s’ playgrounds. All the houses with two or more floors are in ruins.
In front of the ruins is a field with broken tanks, trenches and a couple more ruined houses. Behind that field, a kilometer away, is a village where the Russians are stationed. To the right is also village under Russian control from where artillery, tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and rocket-propelled grenades constantly fire at us.
That would be fine, but we have to try and take control of the field, dig in and move our positions there, but Russian 82-120 caliber mortars are zeroed in on that area, so we have so many casualties.
You walk across that field, and everything explodes around. You fall, get up, move another 20 meters and they shoot again. If you hear it coming, you can take cover. If you don't hear it, you are likely to be killed or wounded. The problem is that the 82-caliber mortar is almost entirely inaudible. In addition, the evacuation point for the wounded and dead is also shelled, because it is only 300 meters away from that field.
When you get to the position where you have to dig, it's the same – more shelling. Command reports that we have taken 300 meters from the Russians – it’s the third time for the same piece of land. In my opinion, our commanders should work to ensure that we silence the Russian mortars, stop the drones from dropping grenades on us, and give us communications before they send us to capture positions.
In general, we have a shortage of weapons and don't even have shovels, so we dig with Russian ones that are lying around. It's also terrible to move around at night without thermal imagers and night vision devices, we don't have them, they’re not provided. I'm thinking of buying them myself.
We sleep in basements, ruins, or trenches under broken equipment or stoves. Two nights out of six, I didn't sleep at all but maybe grabbed a couple of hours during the day. We sleep with our clothes on, but I take off my boots, in sleeping bags with waterproof covers so you don't get wet in puddles.
The bigger problem is that there is no toilet and no water and to get to the water you have to walk 3 kilometers under artillery fire. We eat canned food or special bars because we don't want to die hungry, and after the battle, we are very thirsty.
You are sitting there, surrounded by Russian corpses and their clothes, equipment, and backpacks, but we only take weapons. In general, getting Russian weapons is a special achievement. We already have more Russian than Ukrainian weapons.
Besides, the ammunition is the same, so everyone digs in the rubble to find such a trophy. I have seen Russian kits - everything is the same as ours, but there are thermal imagers, binoculars, and night sights, and everything is marked as belonging to the Russian army, while volunteers supply ours.
Our corpses also cannot be taken away by our comrades in the territories captured by the Russians. I think Russians just leave our corpses lying around. We also have bodies without documents in signed bags, some bodies are in basements from previous assaults. I don't know why they are not taken away.
When we got to the position, my friend, who was drafted two months ago, was digging a trench in that field, and a mortar hit – wounding my friend and killing the comrade he was with. We went to evacuate them, but the shooting started immediately. I later found out it was our own guys firing.
Eventually, we took the dead and got back to our lines, but we had to flee the position. We all got back, but my wounded friend was gone. It was dawn so we sent a drone to look for him, but we couldn't see him. Then, three hours later, he crashed into our shelter.
At first, we thought it was a Russian - he was barely conscious. His helmet was covered in blood, had holes in the front, like a sieve. He had been walking around the Russian positions all this time, then somehow came to his senses and found us. We evacuated him. He was able to walk. I hope he is being treated because we have no contact with him yet.
I came back to the base all dirty. I had two kilos of clay sticking to my shoes. The locals have developed a business where you can take a bath for a hundred hryvnia and wash your clothes also for a hundred hryvnia.
The remaining locals are usually pro-Russian, but don't shoot you in the back. When I sit in their "saunas with peacock" fireplaces, which people have been building for years, I hear that the Russians keep hitting them monotonously from both sides with artillery. They think the Russians are on their side, but they’ve been deceived.
By the way, Russian planes fly 10-20 kilometers into our territory and drop bombs on villages. The thermal power plant at Kurakhove was recently bombed.
I am trying to decide what to take with me to the frontline next time. If you have more protection, you move more slowly: you have to take cover in shell holes 15 times in 200 meters. So, jumping faster is better than being well protected. I think that our unit will, optimistically, last another three months at the rate we are taking casualties.
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