(Reuters) – Some soldiers in eastern Ukraine believe they will have no choice but to fight until the war is over, despite attempts by the government in Kiev to mobilize more troops to replace those serving long periods at the front.
The bill aimed at replacing exhausted and depleted combatants is stalled in parliament, but one of the proposed changes is to ensure that soldiers who have fought for three years can be discharged.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that the military has proposed mobilizing another 450,000 to 500,000 Ukrainians for the war.
The families of some who are in long periods of battle have asked Zelenskiy to find ways to relieve them, but members of a drone unit fighting near the ruined city of Bakhmut believe these hopes are unrealistic.
“Thirty-six months is a big part of life, but what can you do? You have to fight the enemy,” said a 51-year-old drone pilot, codenamed “Mac”, speaking late at night in a bunker as machine-gun fire crackled nearby.
“Personally, I can’t imagine demobilizing and living a civilian life while the war is still going on,” added the soldier from the drone battalion of the 92nd Separate Assault Brigade. “I’ll stay until we win.”
The battalion commander, Yurii Fedorenko, said that more soldiers are needed to allow the assault troops, in particular, to retreat to positions further from the front to recuperate and be replaced by new units.
But he also cast doubt on the idea of being discharged after three years.
“Let’s not fool each other, that’s not going to happen,” he told Reuters at his command post in a separate location.
“If we let these people go, experienced officers, sergeants, soldiers, people capable of carrying out combat tasks… if we let them go, there will be no one left to fight.”
Donetsk region hit by up to 2,500 Russian attacks daily, says governor
Russia is firing between 1,500 and 2,500 shells and rockets at Ukraine’s war-torn Donetsk region every day, targeting vital infrastructure to make it harder for people to stay there during the winter, the governor told Reuters.
The eastern province, 57 percent of which is occupied by Russia, has been at the forefront of the war since 2014, when Russian-backed separatists seized the region’s capital, also called Donetsk, as well as many other major cities.
Since Russia launched a full-scale invasion in 2022, it has been in this region that many of the war’s most vicious and protracted battles have taken place.
“The enemy shells (the region) 1,500 to 2,500 times a day,” Governor Vadym Filashkin said in an interview on Friday, adding that he believes Moscow still intends to capture the entire region.
“The enemy’s shelling is very dense, very heavy, almost every day.”
The governor said that the Kurakhove power plant, one of the few remaining sources of large-scale electricity generation in the region, was forced to close a week ago due to Russian bombardment. According to him, this is part of a wider campaign.
“The enemy is trying to destroy critical infrastructure objects so that people will find it difficult to stay in the region during the winter.”
Filashkin said that the city of Avdiivka, home to Europe’s largest coke plant and the target of a massive Russian attack since October last year, had been “95% to 98% destroyed”
“The enemy has dropped around 200 guided aerial bombs on Avdiivka alone in the last month. They are totally destroying it,” he said.
Local authorities say that the number of civilians in the town has dropped to less than 1,000. Filashkin said he was urging those who remained to leave for their own safety.
Recently, a bomb hit an apartment block in the frontline town of Niu-York and it took 10 days to clear the ruins by hand and recover the bodies of five residents, as the bombing was too intense for the machines to be carried away.
“As soon as we started bringing in cranes and excavators to help the people, the enemy started bombing.”