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Exhaustion at the front: Boris Belov has to fight against Putin’s troops – despite a concussion

published3. October 2022, 17:54

exhaustion at the frontBoris Belov has to fight against Putin’s troops – despite a concussion

The sergeant-major of the Ukrainian army fights non-stop in Donbass. Boris Below is unusually critical in an interview with 20 minutes.

von
Ann Guenter

(from Donbas, Ukraine )

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Boris Below: “I’m not the only one who is exhausted.”

20 minutes/ Artem Below

The Ukrainian sergeant has been fighting in Donetsk Oblast for months.  First north of Mariupol, now…

The Ukrainian sergeant has been fighting in Donetsk Oblast for months. First north of Mariupol, now…

20 minutes/ Ann Guenter

...near the front lines near the strategically important city of Lyman for both sides.

…near the front lines near the strategically important city of Lyman for both sides.

REUTERS

  • The morale in the ranks of the Russian soldiers is not good.

  • But soldiers in the Ukrainian army are also exhausted.

  • The first sergeant of a battalion of the 54th brigade speaks openly – and unusually critical.

Boris Belov looks tired. He has just come from the hospital in Horliwka, Ukraine. Here he was put on some medication for a concussion – his second in six months – and other ailments.

“At 57, I’m too old for this war,” says the senior sergeant of a battalion of the 54th Brigade of the Ukrainian Army. “The ability to react is decreasing. Instead, there are heart problems, leg and back problems.”

«Not the only one who is drained»

But it doesn’t help. In an hour his bus goes back to Slavyansk and from there to the frontline in Donetsk Oblast, where he and his men hold two villages. They were only recently moved there. Previously, they had set up “fake artillery positions” north of Mariupol for three months to distract the enemy and pass on their positions.

This mission seems to have cost Below the most strength: “Dummy positions are tightly manned and are in the sights of the Russians every day, who are increasingly shooting at us with captured Javelin missiles and NLAWs,” he says. 80 percent of his battalion suffered shrapnel injuries to their legs and hands during this time. “I’m not the only one who’s exhausted,” says Below. In the six months of war he had a two-week break – which he spent in the hospital because of his complaints.

“Commanders are afraid that the men will desert”

They are not allowed to recharge their batteries. Because: “The commanders are afraid that the men will not come back and desert.” Not only in the Russian, but also in the Ukrainian army, obsolete Soviet rules of war are sometimes still followed, says Below.

These are unusual tones that are rarely heard from the ranks of the Ukrainian army. On the other hand, a different wind seems to be blowing in the volunteer battalions subordinate to the Ukrainian National Guard. “We have a rotation principle, the men can go home every ten days. That boosts morale enormously,” a commander of “Dnipro1” tells us. He adds: “So far, everyone who has been injured has come back.”

20 minutes in Ukraine

20 Minutes is back in Ukraine, for the third time since Moscow’s war of aggression against the neighboring country. How does the country look after more than half a year of war? What are people feeling and experiencing today? What is the situation in the cities on the fronts, for example in Donbass? And what do the people say who like in Isyum or Balakeja lived under Russian occupation and whose towns and villages have only just been recaptured? Even if 20 minutes each with members of the Ukrainian Army and the National Guard speaks, we are and have always been independent and not «embedded».

Shortly before the start of the war on February 24, 20 minutes was in the Ukraine to talk about the growing fear of war and the Report preparations to the civilian population. We traveled to the (then still Ukrainian areas) of the Donbass and finally followed how the megacity of Kyiv turned into a ghost town within 24 hours. In early summer, 20 minutes returned, spoke with the mayor of Kiev Vitaly Klitschko and Ukrainians about Russian President Vladimir Putin, visited a occupied by Russian units in the Kiev suburb of Hostomel Swiss glass factory and drove to the embattled Kharkiv. Since a visit to the Russian Federation is not possible due to the restrictions imposed by foreign media, the Russian side cannot be illuminated. (Ann Guenter)

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