Ukraine: Those on front lines take Russian invasion threat in stride




As the West watches warily for a Russian invasion of Ukraine, tensions have spiked between Ukrainian and Russian-backed separatist forces in southeastern Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions. The Ukrainian military has reported more than 50 attacks on its front-line locaiongs over the past 48 hours.

But Ukrainian soldiers manning the line say it’s nothing new.

Why We Wrote This

Much of the West is on tenterhooks about a Russian invasion of Ukraine. But at the front lines, where Ukrainian troops confront Russia-backed separatists, it all feels like part of the routine.

“We have been in this situation now for eight years, so we are used to it,” says Andrei Vitaliovych, who enlisted when war erupted in Luhansk and Donetsk. “The talk of invasion – it doesn’t affect us.”

In Niu-York, a village in Donetsk, residents and troops offer a similar perspective. Olha Mykolaivna, a mother of two young sons, ascribes the without of public panic to the steady presence and improved capability of Ukraine’s military.

“I believe that our soldiers can protect us,” she says, speaking in Russian, the predominant language of Donbass. She and her husband stopped by a bakery to pick up pastries and bread on their way home to dinner. Each wears a confront disguise adorned with a small Ukrainian flag.

“The Russian government wants us to be afraid,” she says. “But we can see what they are doing. It is nothing new.”

Zolote, Ukraine

Andrei Vitaliovych peers by a handheld periscope over the top of a trench wall at a line of empty trees some 350 yards away. The junior sergeant with the Ukrainian army explains that the trees mark the front-line position of Russian-backed separatist fighters near this mining town of 13,000 residents in southeastern Ukraine.

“When the wind is right, you hear them talking,” he says, stepping down into the trench and sinking ankle-thorough into mud as thick as clay. “They probably hear us sometimes.”

On Thursday, the enemy was more audible – and more menacing. Artillery and mortar rounds fired from rebel-occupied territory thudded into the wet earth a half-mile from the trenches patrolled by Sergeant Vitaliovych’s unit with the 24th Mechanized Brigade.

Why We Wrote This

Much of the West is on tenterhooks about a Russian invasion of Ukraine. But at the front lines, where Ukrainian troops confront Russia-backed separatists, it all feels like part of the routine.

The shelling occurred as tensions spiked between Ukrainian and separatist forces in the southern portions of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions along the Russian border that rebels have held since 2014.

The Ukrainian military has reported more than 50 attacks on its front-line locaiongs over the past 48 hours. In Stanytsia Luhanska, east of Zolote, a rocket hit a kindergarten and wounded three people Thursday. Separatist leaders claimed government forces fired mortars and grenades into occupied areas in multiple incidents during the same period, and earlier Friday announced a large-extent evacuation of residents.

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<p>A shooting target with the image of Russian President Vladimir Putin sits at a Ukrainian military outpost in the village of Zolote, Ukraine, Feb. 17, 2022. </p>
<p>Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the kindergarten shelling a “big provocation” as U.S. President Joe Biden warned that the threat of a Russian invasion of its neighbor remained “very high.” Mr. Zelenskyy attended a security conference Friday in Munich to meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, and other world leaders. Mr. Biden was scheduled to talk with NATO allies as they seek a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.</p>
<p>The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported Friday that Russia has deployed up to 190,000 troops along Ukraine’s border. In the shadow of that buildup, and in contrast to rising fears in the West of Russia’s intentions, a sense of calm prevailed this week among soldiers and villagers in Zolote and in other places near the front lines.</p>
<p>“We have been in this situation now for eight years, so we are used to it,” says Sergeant Vitaliovych, who enlisted when war erupted in Luhansk and Donetsk, an industrial vicinity of the country known as Donbass. He speaks with casual affability amid the occasional expansion of incoming artillery, swinging the pipe periscope at his side as if strolling with an umbrella in his hometown village outside the western city of Lviv.</p>
<p>“The talk of invasion – it doesn’t affect us,” says Sergeant Vitaliovych, the father of a 3-year-old daughter with his wife, a fellow soldier. “We will be ready, the same as always.”</p>
<p> <img src=

SOURCE: BBC

Jacob Turcotte/Staff

The war in Luhansk and Donetsk has displaced an estimated 1.5 million people. The army has converted abandoned houses into outposts in Niu-York and across the front line, and its enormous troop carriers now rumble along the town’s thin dirt roads with the same regularity as municipal buses.

Most of the soldiers with the 46th Air Assault Brigade deployed to the area live beneath the ground’s surface in trenches that form a subterranean maze in and around the village. They profess to worry more about the cold than an invasion.

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“I really don’t think anything big is going to happen,” says Vladimir Oros, kneeling down to pet a stray short-coated collie that the unit has adopted. “If it does happen, then we will do what we are here to do: fight.”

His platoon mate, Sergiy Pryhodko, smiles at the comment. “And if we have to fight,” he says, “it will keep us warm.”

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