Winter bites on the Ukrainian Donbass front

Power cuts and trenches: winter bites on the Ukrainian Donbass front

Power outages in Ukraine are frequent as electricity is rationed

Donetsk region:

Soldiers fight in the trenches as rain and snow have turned roads into mud and ongoing power outages have left many wondering how they will cope with the approaching cold as winter is hitting the front lines in eastern Ukraine.

But despite the cold and miserable conditions in Donbass to the east, the Russians keep arriving, according to Ukrainian forces near the front lines.

“They are like zombies. You shoot at them and more are constantly coming,” a 30-year-old Ukrainian soldier, whose call sign is Kit, which means whale, told AFP.

The fighting on the front is only getting colder and wetter as the first snows have dusted the area and melted in addition to the freezing rain patches that flood the area almost daily.

“I’m suffering from the rain. We literally live in a swamp. Yesterday I went to the hospital and I looked like a big pile of mud.” said Kit.

Other soldiers told AFP that many soldiers were beginning to suffer from trench foot, a medical condition associated with swelling and numbness in the feet that also affected a large number of soldiers during the First World War.

“The infantry is the heart of every army and they are suffering a lot,” Taller, the nickname of a 24-year-old fighter in a Donbass special forces unit, told AFP after a recent coaching.

“Their boots are always wet. They sleep very sporadically. Sometimes they have food supply problems,” he added.

Morale “extremely high”

To help combat the onset of winter, volunteers near the front have organized vast depots filled with donated supplies which are provided to neighboring units.

At a distribution center in the city of Sloviansk, Slava Kovalenko said he distributes thousands of kilograms of goods a week, including clothes, basic medicines, candles and canned goods.

“Warm clothes are in great demand, long underwear, flu medicine, medicinal tea, painkiller ointments. Everyone comes here asking for it,” Kovalenko said.

And as temperatures drop, the fighting in the Donbass remains relentless.

On Thursday, on the outskirts of Bakhmut, the sun managed to break through the overcast skies as lines of Ukrainian artillery batteries, infantry fighting vehicles and tanks dotted the rolling steppe near the front line.

The sound of battle was deafening as a reserve infantry fighter with the call sign Rambo watched the ensuing clash from a hilltop position.

“We are preparing for a counter-offensive,” he told AFP, pulling out a vape pen.

Following the withdrawal of the Russian army from the southern city of Kherson earlier this month, Donbass has become the main theater of combat in Ukraine, with front lines now shortened and force density increased.

“Our morale is extremely high,” said another soldier nicknamed IT Guy.

“In this area, we have increased the number of our troops and increased our offensive movements.”

“We are going to freeze”

With battlefield casualties mounting, the Kremlin has doubled down on attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure, sending waves of drones and cruise missiles targeting power plants and basic utility sites.

Power cuts are now frequent as electricity is rationed, forcing area hospitals to rely more on generators to keep lights on as they treat wounded soldiers and civilians near the front lines.

“The way they fight and target civilian infrastructure can only cause fury,” said Oleksiy Yakovlenko, chief administrator of a hospital in Kramatorsk.

But even as power cuts become more frequent, Yakovlenko has vowed that his resolve remains unwavering.

“If they expect us to fall to our knees and crawl towards them, it won’t happen,” Yakovlenko told AFP.

For civilians caught in the crossfire, the coming winter promises only more pain after their communities were left largely in ruins after the summer fighting season.

In Lyman, the town’s few remaining residents are largely dependent on donations from humanitarian aid groups and firewood to heat their homes.

Electricity and gas have mostly been non-existent in their buildings since the spring, with electricity arriving only in sporadic bursts.

Most are too poor and too old to move on their own.

“I don’t know how we’re going to get through the winter,” said Lyman resident Tatiana Kutepova, 62.

“Maybe we will freeze and they will take us to Maslyakivka, our cemetery.”

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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