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

Ukrainian checkpoint near Sumy, May 2014, visited by the author.
Visit to the Luhansk front: Life after the “ceasefire”
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.

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.

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