Frontline Ukrainians: ‘We need drones and freedom’ – Asia Times

Frontline Ukrainians: 'We need drones and freedom' - Asia Times

Russian journalist David Kirichenko describes his efforts to deliver essential items, including high-tech security uavs, to Ukrainian troops in Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia Oblast in his most recent statement from the battlefront. He bears witness to the mental strain these forces took after more than two years of conflict and considers how the final goal for those still struggling is to liberate Ukraine. The first of two pieces is here.

I returned to Ukraine in March 2024, purchasing and delivering robots to men on the front lines and providing reports on device war. Unlike the&nbsp, soon summer &nbsp, of 2023, when I also felt a sense of optimism from persons amid Ukraine’s counteroffensive, I presently saw the great pain and sorrow among many Russian troops on the front.

Would it be a real success even if Ukraine won the battle for a complimentary Ukraine if the greatest Ukrainians who perished in conflict were no longer there to witness it?

Some men frequently expressed the need to carry on the struggle to kill their fallen brothers. The heart of some of the bravest people I have ever met will have paid the price for Ukraine’s potential emancipation.

I have personally witnessed a decline in interest from both the British government and the Ukrainian community in the US since the Western media hype about Ukraine’s counteroffensive dissipated after the summers of 2023, followed by US help being stalled in Congress and then the fall of Avdiivka.

Chatter about Ukraine is becoming less frequent on the various charity channels I belong to. This is most likely due to the fact that some individuals no longer interact with models, while others have lost interest.

When times are most challenging, we must be more vociferous and work harder than ever. We must not let bad things happen to us. Individuals who may change the world must step up because the soldiers on the front have no choice but to fight and could rest. What greater power and value does one obtain than providing men with life-saving products?

My close associates Alina Holovko and Oleksandr Dovhal and I, all of whom also served as volunteers with me in Bakhmut while the area was under effective Russian assault, kept working with us. Over the years since the complete- level invasion, we have delivered dozens of drones, generators, Starlinks and clinical supplies, among other essential needs.

Drones: sight in the sky

When I travel to Ukraine, I always deliver specific drones to soldiers upon arrival at the front. At times, some friends may help obtain robots. Most recently, a near friend from South America bought a$ 2, 000 DJI Mavic 3 Pro helicopter, which I took with me.

As a South American who originally lived in Ukraine, where some of&nbsp, Russia’s first atrocities&nbsp, occurred at the start of the complete- scale invasion, he is more nationalist about Ukraine than numerous Ukrainians I’ve met in the Ukrainian diaspora worldwide.

I traveled from Poland by train from Dnipro to Dnipro, changing trains three times in two days with several pieces of luggage packed with drones.

In both the Donetsk Oblast and Zaporizhzhia Oblast, I spent time with drone units operating on the front lines. I delivered either a DJI Mavic 3 drone or a brand-new attack drone for each unit I visited. One soldier later told me that their senior commander was “happy like a little boy” when he saw the new attack drone that they had ordered because they had previously only had older models.

The value of individuals and volunteers purchasing drones for soldiers cannot be understated. A senior Ukrainian military official recently claimed that Ukraine was preventing Russian advances with” crowdfunded drones,” which are primarily being sourced by volunteers and military units themselves.

Vasyl Shyshola, a commander in an aerial reconnaissance unit from the 128th&nbsp, Separate Mountain Assault Brigade, also pointed out that it is a necessity for units to have social media. Being able to obtain more drones from people on the internet requires having a high-quality social media channel, according to Shyshola.

The more engaging&nbsp, content that soldiers can capture on the battlefield, such as first- person view ( FPV ) drones blowing up Russian positions or heavy armor, the more visibility it gets – and, ultimately, donations will flow to buy more drones.

Danilo Makarov, a drone pilot from the 108th&nbsp, Separate Territorial Defense Brigade, told me that you can no longer fight a battle without having a drone above. The drones that fly in the sky give commanders a comprehensive view of the battlefield and can instruct their men from an aerial viewpoint. The soldier is a “dead man walking” without a drone above to alert soldiers of enemy movements or to assist with an assault.

Kostyantyn Mynailenko, a commander of an aerial reconnaissance unit in the Liut ( “Fury” ) Brigade, said,” We are on the frontline 24/7, and we must have a permanent feed from the front streaming from our drones. The visuals of drones must never end.

Liut Brigade

attacking drones are being delivered to the 108th Separate Territorial Defense Brigade in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast. On the far right is the unit commander, Oleksiy Tymofeev. Photo published with his permission, as his identity has previously been revealed

The first drone unit that I spent time with was &nbsp, the Liut Brigade, an assault brigade of the National Police of Ukraine.

Following Russia’s first invasion in 2014, Ukraine transformed its loyal local police, militias, and volunteers from Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts ( regions ) into special- purpose units, specializing in assault operations.

The majority of the Liut men I spoke with were former police special forces or officers. As Russia entered their home countries, they fled the occupied areas to fight for Ukraine.

I had the opportunity to interview Kostyantyn Mynailenko for an interview at his unit’s front-facing base in the Donetsk Oblast. Prior to the full-scale invasion, Kostyantyn had been fighting in the Ukrainian army for a while. Originally from Sieverodonetsk, which is now occupied by Russia, he took his family at the start of the invasion and evacuated them to safety, but came right back to the fight.

We had some Russians enter the city wearing heavy armor on the night of the invasion, and we quickly managed to capture them.

Our interview was frequently halted because of a constant stream of calls, which required an immediate response from the frontline. I made an effort to get any positive information from him through a number of questions. The other men in the group would occasionally make additions to the conversation, but their expressions did not flinch and the voice was all over the place. They were able to tell that the war had had had a significant impact on them.

The Liut Brigade men have lost a lot of close friends and loved ones throughout the war, but they also have a sense of loss and anger among their fellow soldiers. They mention Russia’s brutal assault strategies, which require Ukrainians to shoot down waves of Russian soldiers as they charge at their positions in meat-grinding combat.

When asked about morale in the Ukrainian army, Kostyantyn looked up at me and said, with sadness in his voice,” We’ve lost many, many guys”. He claimed that neither the West’s coverage of the situation with US aid nor the news about him had an impact. ” I do n’t follow the news closely, it does n’t interest me that much. I am in the lead and worry about my guys every day. I am responsible for their lives”.

After spending time with the Liut Brigade and conducting interviews on drone warfare, we took some photos with the Mavic 3 Pro drone that the unit had given us. Kostyantyn Mynailenko, the unit commander, is the drone that is seen in the photo. Because many of the soldiers are from Donbass, they still have relatives who reside in occupied areas and need to keep their identities a secret. If Russian authorities discover that they are soldiers, their relatives in occupied areas could be prosecuted.After spending time with the Liut Brigade and conducting interviews on drone warfare, we took some photos with the Mavic 3 Pro drone that the unit had given us. Kostyantyn Mynailenko, the unit commander, is the drone that is seen in the photo. Because many of the soldiers are from Donbass, they still have relatives who reside in occupied areas and need to keep their identities a secret. If Russian authorities discover that they are soldiers, their relatives in occupied areas could be prosecuted.

The West is concerned about providing more weapons because it believes that if the West provides enough weapons to defeat Russia, they will continue the conflict there. ” But why would we care about Russian soil?” We only want to liberate our own lands. to give us what they stole from us.

On the procurement of drones, Kostyantyn said,” The Russians have many more drones than us. They are able to supply them with a reliable supply chain straight from China. We must indirectly purchase Chinese drones from Europe and ship them to Ukraine.

He also mentioned the need for some sort of victory to enthral the Ukrainian soldiers. But to make a breakthrough, he said,” We need more support, as they are just focused on defensive operations”.

His unit participated in the Kharkiv counteroffensive in 2022, but he mentioned how the Ukrainian army ran out of resources to keep the push moving and that they had to stop at some point. ” We do n’t have enough of everything, especially artillery. You feel it on the battlefield, at every moment, how we are outgunned”, emphasized Kostyantyn. When asked about negotiations with Russia, he replied,” What do we have to give them? What else can we offer them after they murder so many of our citizens?

Tomorrow: Visiting three more brigades, crowdsourcing a war supply chain

David Kirichenko is a freelance journalist and activist from Ukraine who has frequently traveled to and worked in the areas where conflicts are rife during the Russo-Ukraine War. He can be found on the social media platform X @DVKirichenko.

The Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University published this article for the first time. It is republished with permission.