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16 Dec, 2023 23:14

Ukrainian soldiers ordered into ‘suicide missions’ – NYT

Waves of Kiev’s troops have reportedly been cut down in “futile” attempts to cross the Dnieper River in Kherson
Ukrainian soldiers ordered into ‘suicide missions’ – NYT

Ukrainian marines are reportedly frustrated over the orders they are being given to launch wave after wave of suicidal attacks across the Dnieper River in southern Kherson Region, resulting in heavy casualties that belie the claims made by government officials.

Conditions are so difficult – and so contrary to the optimistic statements made by President Vladimir Zelensky and other Ukrainian leaders – that half a dozen of the men involved in the fighting along the Dnieper River agreed to tell their stories to the New York Times. “It’s not even a fight for survival,” one of the soldiers said in an article published on Saturday. “It’s a suicide mission.”

The newspaper described the cross-river attacks as “brutalizing and futile.” Ukrainian troops are being struck down on the riverbanks or in the water, even before they reach the other side. Although commanders declined most media requests to visit troops in the region, drone footage of the area verified the accounts of the troops who were interviewed, the US media outlet said.

Russian airstrikes turned the riverbank into a “mass of mud and splintered trees,” the NYT said. One of the soldiers said new troops arriving on the east bank have to step over the bodies of dead marines tangled in the mud. Some of the bodies have been left there for months because the shelling is too intense to retrieve them.

“People who end up there are not prepared psychologically,” the soldier said. “They don’t even understand where they are going. They are not told by the command that [sent] them there.” He added that he hadn’t seen anything as devastating in Ukraine’s other fierce battles, including last year’s fighting in Artyomovsk (called Bakhmut in Ukraine). “It’s so wasteful.”

The marines expressed frustration that only optimistic accounts of the Ukrainian counteroffensive were being reported to the public. For instance, Zelensky has claimed that Kiev’s forces had gained a foothold on the left bank of the river. “There is no such thing as an observation post or position,” one soldier said. “It is impossible to gain a foothold there. It’s impossible to move equipment there.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Ukrainian leaders are essentially sending their troops to be “exterminated” as they try to advance toward a tiny beachhead on the Russian-controlled side of the river. He said Zelensky’s regime has grown desperate in the wake of a failed summer counteroffensive, sending its troops into a “killing ground” along the Dnieper.

Ukrainian forces have suffered more than 125,000 casualties since June, when their counteroffensive began, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. Zelensky has tried to paint a rosy picture of Ukraine’s battlefield results as he travels around the world seeking more military and economic aid. Major aid packages from the US and EU have stalled in recent weeks amid rising public opposition.