Visit to the Luhansk front: Life after the “ceasefire”

Ukrainian checkpoint near Sumy, May 2014, visited by the author.

Ukrainian checkpoint near Sumy, May 2014, visited by the author. 

2015/03/03 • News, Stories from the Front, War in the Donbas

Article by: Fritz Ehrlich

About the author: Fritz Ehrlich is a German engineer and businessman who first became connected with Ukraine in the late Soviet period. He is a longtime resident of Ukraine and currently involved in projects supporting Ukrainian civil society.

I am deeply sad. Today I talked with soldiers [of the 55th brigade of the Ukrainian army] at the Luhansk front. Guys from the very front line, which really isn’t a line but instead already surrounded on its flanks by Russian units, under constant Russian bombardment, just as in Debaltseve. The Ukrainians don’t return fire since the Russian units are deployed in the surrounding villages; civilian residents would be hit. By contrast, the Ukrainians took up positions on a hill outside of the populated areas so that no civilians are hit if their posts are fired upon. And they are fired upon, day and night, without interruption. The Ukrainians are de facto fighting against the Russian army; at least in this section of the front there are no longer any pro-Russian separatists, just Russian units.

FE_Ukr_roadblock_2

Sumy checkpoint, May 2014

Equipped with drones, electronic warfare tools and modern weapons, the Russians are fighting against the bravest soldiers in the world – Ukrainians who don’t want their country to be lost. They have torn uniforms, but they fight. They often aren’t supplied with any rations, but they fight. Sometimes they set out with only two magazines [of ammunition], but they fight. Over the radio they even challenge the Russians, equipped with their modern gear, to leave the cover of the villages and fight one another on the open field, since the Ukrainians as a matter of principle do not shoot at the houses behind which the Russians hide. They have no fear of the Russian soldiers; they fight with conviction. Each soldier in the unit has two hand grenades with him: one for the enemy, the second for the enemy and himself. Some were already in [Russian] captivity and were able to escape – they would rather take their own lives than repeat this experience.

They don’t have a single night vision device; they don’t even all have bulletproof vests, but they fight. Sadly, they also die…

Last May, at a checkpoint [near Sumy, pictured above], I met a young refugee from Crimea. I remember him as being humble and reserved. I didn’t know that I would never see him again. Only today did I find out that he was fatally wounded, as a member of this unit, after he had knocked out four tanks and armored vehicles with five rounds during a battle against a Russian division from Pskov.

The soldiers send their best regards to all Germans [Ed. note: the author is German] who actively support Ukraine, or at least have sympathy for their situation. They asked me to say thanks again. Thank you, friends.

Translated by: Andrew Kinder
Source: Fritz Ehrlich FB

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  • Garry Ko

    The world should not abandon these brave men and women

  • James from Dallas

    So, we have an envelopment, I assume from the northern forces. Is there any possibly backdoor movement of Russian forces coming out of Crimes towards Mariupol. This could create double-envelopment or pincer movement completely surrounding and cutting out forces in Mariupol. Without a fight yet, I would already consider this a breach of the truce. New western sanctions should move forward and lethal aid given, if this story is true.

    • Milton Devonair

      That’s been the russian plan all along, IMHO. They’re going to use the Dnieper river as a natural barrier to keep the humans out so they can set up a mini cesspool of rape, looting, murder…..ya know, just russian trash doing russian things.

      Humans are never safe around russia or russians. History says so, right up to this moment.

      • James from Dallas

        Russians soldiers have been known for mass rape in WWII. However, your accusatory view is extreme here, one of strong conjecture and speculation about potential future events. Since the rebellion, civil war, and Russian invasion started, you may know facts that I do not. I have heard of 500 dead civilians in Debaltsev. If I were a woman in Mariupol right now, nevertheless, I would have great concern.

        • Milton Devonair

          Like Churchill said, they have turned into little more than a rabid troop of baboons. Look at what the places were like and look like that the US/The West took over since WWII vs. what the rapists/lootering russians did ,the places they ruled.
          Every last one of them state/mafiya ran. Look at dagestan, ingushetia, chechnya. Look at how Crimea was given over to the mafiya, a whole section to the chechen mobsters. Heck, look at the cesspool of russia itself.

          Don’t care about history back then, just modern history and the world has fared far worse since the baboons took over russia in 1918. We humans are still infected by their disease, the disease of russia.

    • Brent

      It’s disgusting how NATO hides behind Article 5 of their Charter when it comes to Ukraine, but it never stopped them from stopping the murderous Serbians from creating more war atrocities in the Balkans, and it never stopped NATO from going into Afghanistan.

      The vacuum is the Western leadership. If Poland gets attacked, Merkl and all the other German sellouts will be screaming to the U.S. to come protect them when they are the biggest obstacle to assisting Ukraine. Obama is a massive failure as a “World Leader”. Look at his initial policies towards the Middle East when he was first elected, welcoming the “Arab Spring” and then leaving many in Egypt, Libya and Syria at the mercy of their tyrant leaders and terrorists. He called ISIS the “J.V. Team” last year and was scrambling to put together a coalition months later.

      For every atrocity that Europe has been complicit in allowing Russia to commit against Ukraine will be even worse when a stronger and larger Russian army comes knocking on Europe’s door. I fear for the Batlics because they are counting on NATO and the EU to come to their assistance but I’m sure there will be just as many excuses when Putin invades them next.

      • James from Dallas

        Brent, you make very many good points. This scenario in the Balkans was more complicated than you know or realize, more than just a case of ethnic-religious genocide or cleansing. You should remember that there are many places in the world that had cases of national-ethnic-religious genocide or cleansing going on where Europe, the USA, and NATO were not involved in. Serbia lost Kosovo to independence, which Russia and Serbia claim violated international law. This governing treaty, “Helsinki Final Act of 1975”, says that European borders are inviolable, basically cannot be changed. In this case, it happened anyway; there was a punitive exception made for genocide on face, a decision Russia, an ally to Serbia, did not like. Russia has used this same logical claim as part of its militaristic expansionist reasoning to invade Georgia and Ukraine; but the issues in these cases are clearly not about national-ethnic-religious genocide or cleansing, no matter what Russia would like you to believe.

        You must also know that German troops are not permitted to leave Germany under their constitution unless there is a direct threat to Germany or NATO countries. Yugoslavia or Serbia was not part of NATO. And, you believe it was only about national-ethnic-religious genocide or cleansing. German federal troops deployed to Kosovo, not seen since the end of WWII. Do you think this is simply the case because the mission changed from United Nations control led by France to NATO control? So, you might ask yourself the deeper question, why, what causes, circumstances, or evidence did Germany have which opened the door, or gave right, possibly even obligation to venture to the Balkans with other NATO forces? There just might be more going on than meets the eye. That is all I can say to you.

        In the current world crisis over Ukraine, please keep in mind there is much going on that is not being said as well as what we see in print. And, you should not believe everything you read in print as that could be propaganda. The more you read on both sides, however, the more you might be able to piece things together. But, so do not expect or assume that you will know everything.