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“High-precision weapons were an absolute shock for the Russians” Donetsk frontline soldier Petro Okhotin tells Kyiv Post.

Petro Okhotin is a well-known Ukrainian political strategist who decided to defend Ukraine by enlisting in the army. Currently in the Donetsk Region, Okhotin talks to Kyiv Post about the changing situ

Petro Okhotin is a well-known Ukrainian political strategist who decided to defend Ukraine by enlisting in the army. Currently in the Donetsk Region, Okhotin talks to Kyiv Post about the changing situation on the frontline.

Before the war, you worked as a political strategist. What motivated you to serve in the army?

[Okhotin] I signed up for territorial defense in Kyiv on February 25, which was logical at that time. On February 24, my friend, who is a conflict specialist called me and the war had begun. Explosions were heard right during our conversation. On the 24th, I took my friends out of the city, and the next day went to army enlistment centre to defend Ukraine, but all the military offices were full with volunteers. In the end, I signed up for the territorial defense in Shevchenkivsky District of Kyiv, where I served until April 23, and then I moved to Luhansk Region.

The situation has changed, and the Ukrainian army is successfully attacking Russian weapons depots. What is happening at the front in Donetsk Region now?

[Okhotin] There is a huge difference between what is happening now and what happened two weeks ago. The fact that HIMARS appeared and we can attack the enemy’s bases increases morale. A week ago, many fighters were depressed because we could not always respond to Russian artillery strikes. If you look at the analytics, the ratio of the number of shells fired by Ukraine and Russia was one to twenty. Now with the supply of high-precision weapons, we will take quality, not quantity and, of course, this inspires our fighters.

Are Russian troops continuing their offensive in the East, or is there still an inevitable slowdown?

[Okhotin] Ukraine is trying to carry out a counter-offensive and regain lost positions, but Russia is trying to resist. I noticed that the “courage” that the Russian troops had the day before was decreasing. Instead, Russia is involved in a protracted positional war and its offensive is slowing down.

Those blows inflicted by high-precision weapons are also an absolute shock for the Russians because they are used against them with impunity. If you look at the videos that the Ukrainian military has, the Russians did not even did not think about how to hide their centers and warehouses, as they’re used to being able to store their weapons and equipment in the open air, and now it is evident that they will have to adapt to new conditions.

The reaction of the Russian social networks is symptomatic. Russians criticize Putin for allowing the supply of weapons to Ukraine, and that he has failed to advance Russian troops deep into Ukraine by this stage. Of course, it is delightful to read such news – the enemy is lost and confused.

Do we need more weapons to achieve final success on the front?

[Okhotin] The war has entered its long-term stage. The fact that Russia changed the head of the so-called “special operation” after the unsuccessful attack on Kyiv shows a particular feature of how Russia fights. These are signs of a long-term conflict, the same way as when the Russians fought in Syria.

In addition to military power, it is also a war of resources and diplomacy. Russia is pressing on painful points, such as fuel prices and the food crisis. Ukraine must find answers to these problems and not surrender its positions. Ukraine has been successful so far.

Can you predict what the course of the war will be like next?

[Okhotin] Now, several aspects are essential both on the front line and at the economic level. We have now entered the phase of the resource war. Russia has been preparing for this offensive for a long time. The country with gold and currency reserves is interested in exhausting Ukraine through infrastructure, food, and energy crises.

In such a situation, Ukrainians should understand that fuel prices are rising not because President Zelensky is doing something wrong but because of the pinpoint strikes by Russians on oil refineries, including the destruction of the Lysychansk Refinery. I’ve seen it myself, that was hell, over which there was a rainbow in the sky due to the evaporation of oil – it was such a surreal sight. We need to understand that the enemy is not playing around. If someone has a feeling of peace, there is no reason for this.

Also, there is a partisan movement in the south, which is increasing. I recently spoke with people whose relatives are involved in the partisan movement directly in Zaporizhzhia Region. The mass media paid little attention to this, but people organized themselves and damaged the infrastructure, and destroyed collaborators – those who betrayed Ukraine, which led to the occupation of these territories. I think that the names of these people will be put on the pages of history.

Do you think Ukraine can recapture its territories that are currently occupied by Russian forces?

[Okhotin] The example of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) immediately comes to mind. We remember that these countries were divided. Even at UN meetings a separate corridor was set up so that the representatives of the FRG and the GDR did not cross each other. With all that, the country was united. We remember that Germany took a long time to achieve this and obtain the status of a NATO member. This was a complicated path for the country after the Second World War. There were certain agreements that Germany would become a member of NATO but not use Article 5 to return its territories; however, after all, Germany was united. After joining the European economic unions and NATO, the Federal Republic of Germany built up such geopolitical power that it led to the country’s unification.

This example personally inspires me.

You were personally in Lysychansk. Why where the Armed Forces of Ukraine forced to retreat?

[Okhotin] I was 10-15 kilometers from the Lysychansk oil refinery. I also visited the refinery several times as a command and observation post. The refinery itself looked like a bunker from the movies about the Matrix. There are many fighters, that were constantly changing, sleeping on such bunks or deckchairs, but performing their tasks. When there were battles for the refinery, the echo was very far away, and the factory was visible even at night.

I think that the main reason at that time was Russia’s numerical advantage in weapons and, as our intelligence officers told me, the leadership of the Russian army put a great deal of pressure on its personnel so that the Russians feared punishment from their superiors more than death. Also, Russia used mobilized militants from the Luhansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic for combat reconnaissance – those whom Putin personally does not feel sorry for, no matter how unfortunate it sounds. It created a certain mass of soldiers – this is my personal opinion.

Can you tell us about the morale of the Ukrainian army in more detail, and is there enough equipment and weapons at the moment?

[Okhotin] There is always something to fight with, this is a matter of military cunning. I understand that many people watch videos about the “poor” territorial defense without weapons or ammunition that people complain about. But you need to realize that there are units with light weapons, which is always covered and has coordination. That is because we cannot afford to keep all types of troops along the entire front line, there is usually coordination when air reconnaissance is carried out, and when there are suspicious movements on the side of the enemy, support is called for.

I personally did not see that special operations forces did not reinforce or that the artillery did not work. I think there is a difference in how Russia and Ukraine are fighting: the Russians can afford a more extensive method of fighting when the Russians don’t care about the lives of people, weapons, or tanks. Instead, the Ukrainian command tries to avoid human losses and make sure that all available resources are used efficiently. I have observed close coordination and cooperation between our divisions, and it is effective.

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