The heat of winter is here and the artillery duels are fierce, but the fighting spirit has not left “Viking”, a Ukrainian soldier on the northeastern front. His motivation is simple: to take revenge on the Russians. “The hardest thing for me is the death of my friends. I used to have motivation… but anger, aggression and hatred fueled it,” says the 26-year-old tanker, whose name is Viking.
Despite the Ukrainian army suffering heavy casualties in the nine months of fighting since the Russian invasion began in February, Viking and the rest of his platoon remain confident they can win the war. “We plan to take the Russians to the borders and even further,” he jokes.
His unit took part in the September breakthrough, which pushed Moscow’s forces east of the Oskil River, breaking through the defensive lines on Russia’s northeastern front. The counteroffensive has slowed since the Russians reformed their defenses, but Ukrainians say they are still making progress despite the winter cold, straining supply lines and road conditions.
“We have repulsed the Russians, we are standing firm and we are moving forward slowly,” explains a 23-year-old soldier, a member of the platoon “Patriot”, who is camping in a meadow surrounded by pine trees near the front. .
What to remember:
- The shooting continues in Ukraine.
- Ukraine is expecting another attack from Russia during the week
- Russia is preparing a new strategy after the defeat in Kherson.
- Ukrainians are still suffering from power outages.
Power cuts continue in Kyiv
A resident of Kyiv admitted the situation in the capital in front of the microphone of Europe 1. “It was very different from district to district,” explains Alina. “I had water and electricity, but my friend who lives elsewhere barely has electricity, but it’s cold and damp… People without heat have heating problems. Mold. There’s fungus on their walls.” But do not feel sorry for his fate. “It is more difficult for our soldiers in the trenches, so we are ashamed to complain,” he said.
“There are a lot of bombings. Last month I heard about 100-200 attacks,” he told AFP during a visit to a position held by the Ukrainian army. Nearby, the 44-year-old military mechanic, who did not want to be named, is working on the engine of a Russian tank that was seized in September and is now being used against its former owners.
“The condition of the Russian equipment is very bad. Everything was dirty and covered with diesel,” he added: “It’s almost ready.” After nine months in the field, the unit’s Soviet-era equipment reflects the dynamics of this war: one tank was acquired by the Ukrainian army, another from the Russians, and a third from Poland.
Ammunition is partly made up of Russian stocks captured on the battlefield. Another team member, calling himself “Agronomist,” jokes, referring to the US arms deal with Ukraine, “It’s Russia’s lend-lease law.”
In this area in the northeast of the country, Ukrainians hope to capture the main highway serving the Russian-occupied cities of Severodonetsk and Lisichansk. The two cities were captured after a brutal summer campaign in the industrial region of Donbass, in which both sides lost large numbers of soldiers.
Ukraine is waiting for new Russian attacks
Ukrainian officials said Monday that they expect a new wave of Russian bombing this week. Previous salvos have targeted critical infrastructure, causing massive water and electricity outages, particularly in the capital, Kyiv. On Monday, the spokeswoman of the Southern Command of the Ukrainian army, Natalya Gumenyuk, pointed to the appearance of a Russian missile ship in the Black Sea, saying “it is highly likely that the beginning of the week will be marked by such an attack.”
“This is a surface-to-surface missile carrier carrying eight Kalibr missiles. This shows that preparations are underway,” he added to Ukrainian television. According to the Ukrainian Navy, 11 Russian warships, including this missile carrier, are currently in the Black Sea off the coast of Ukraine, as well as several others in the Sea of Azov and the Mediterranean Sea, carrying a total of 76 warheads. .
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned in a video message on Sunday evening that “next week may be as difficult as last week” marked by Russian bombings and winter temperatures. “Our defense forces are preparing. The whole state is preparing. We are working with all scenarios, including with our Western partners,” he added, urging Ukrainians to pay attention to weather warnings.
“Adrenaline keeps you warm”
Since then, Russian forces have suffered a series of setbacks, losing much of Kharkiv Oblast and recently retreating from the southern city of Kherson, which they have occupied since the war began. “In this part of the front line, we are responsible for holding our position and sometimes launching counterattacks,” says Roman, a member of the main tank battalion operating in the area.
“The situation is completely under control and we are ready to take on new, even unexpected challenges,” he said. Military experts say that since the icy roads are now covered with mud, the pace of fighting could soon increase.
“Temperatures are expected to drop in Ukraine over the next week, which should freeze the ground and speed up the fighting as mobility increases on both sides,” says a recent review from the American Institute for the Study of War.
For fighters on the ground, the drop in temperature is less important than Russian artillery fire. “The adrenaline keeps you warm when you know you can be shot at any time,” says Patriot. “You don’t feel the cold.”