Ukraine’s military commanders say they’re preparing for a long, brutal war: Reporter’s notebook

(NEW YORK) — No movie can capture the sweat, blood, pain and tears, said Serhiy.

“The scariest things you can imagine and can’t imagine, you find here,” Serhiy, a commander of Ukraine’s 3rd Assault Brigade, added.

Amid the destroyed villages and desolate landscape in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian forces are slowly advancing, inch by bloody inch.

It was troops from the 3rd Assault Brigade who spearheaded the final stages of a monthlong operation to recapture the ruined village of Andriivka this month.

The battles in eastern Ukraine are “a living hell,” according to Victoria Torri, a 23-year-old combat medic in the region who only 10 months ago was working as an investment banker in New York.

“You lose someone you know every single day,” she told ABC News, describing the Russian enemy as “a living evil” which is “much bigger than you and has unlimited resources.”

The 3rd Assault brigade is one of Ukraine’s most formidable fighting forces.

It has been at the forefront of steady Ukrainian advances near Bakhmut which, to date, is one of the Ukrainian army’s clearest areas of success since it launched its counteroffensive around four months ago.

During that time Ukrainian forces have not been able to achieve any decisive breakthrough on the battlefield.

Today, Ukrainian commanders a few say they are preparing for a long fight.

The commander of the 1st Battalion of the 3rd Assault Brigade, who goes by the callsign “Rolo” and who planned the successful assault on the village of Andriivka, described the war today as one of “attrition.”

“It’s going to be a long and hard war and we need to get ready for that,” he told ABC News, adding that his Russian enemy was “technologically advanced” and calling Russia’s superiority in the air “a huge problem.”

One soldier warned that Russia has a large stockpile of its feared Lancet explosive attack drones, which have been used to kill Ukrainian forces.

Rolo also said his men had little way of responding to Russia’s advanced Ka-52 “Alligator” attack helicopters, which can fire armor-piercing missiles from a range of several miles.

As Rolo acknowledged, his men are now facing a formidable Russian enemy.

That said, Ukrainian troops stationed to the south and north of Bakhmut have been making slow but steady progress toward encircling the ruined city, which Russia finally captured in May after a year of bitter fighting.

Given the huge losses Russia sustained in the battle for Bakhmut, President Vladimir Putin cannot afford to give the city up and Ukrainian attacks, officials said, have forced the Kremlin to send reinforcements into that area.

The hope is that forcing Russia to commit more resources in the east will help Ukraine on its main axis of attack in the south.

In Ukraine’s Southeasterly Zaporizhzhia region, there are small but significant signs of progress by Ukrainian forces, with a military spokesperson claiming troops are advancing “on some days by 300 to 400 meters.”

Recent videos verified by ABC News which are circulating online show Ukrainian armored vehicles operating beyond three formidable layers of Russian defenses, close to the settlement of Verbove.

Military analysts from the Institute for the Study of War assessed that Ukrainian forces had indeed “broken through Russian field fortifications.”

They cautioned, however, that it was “too soon to forecast if Ukraine will achieve an operational breakthrough” in that area of the front lines.

Despite the heavy human toll from each battle, and the fact that rain forecast for the coming weeks is likely to slow any progress down, soldiers of the 3rd Assault Brigade remained optimistic and highly motivated for a fight which one commander predicted could last “one to two years.”

Torri said she felt angry and sad when people criticized the slow pace of Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

“We are fighting the biggest evil in the world right now,” she said. “And if we lose, the rest of the world will lose, because Russia will not stop.”

Asked if he felt frustrated by the fact that Ukraine did not get more help to combat Russia’s dominance in the air, Commander Rolo said Ukraine was fighting for western civilization and democracy and against “Russia’s dictator-led fascism.”

“If the western world is not willing to defend its values, this disappoints me,” he added.

 

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