Whispering from the Russian border, Ukrainian troops are waiting for the next attack on Sumy Ukraine

Whispering from the Russian border, Ukrainian troops are ready for the subsequent assault on Sumy Ukraine

Tthe enemy on the opposite aspect of the woods may be heard because the wind blows in the direction of the deep Ukrainian trenches. Russian voices carry the freezing chilly air as do the growls of tanks and the excitement of kamikazes and reconnaissance drones.

However that is not all that is coming via the pines to interrupt the disarming silence on this barren part of Ukraine’s defenses in Sumy, a northeastern area that shares a 560-km (350-mile) border with Russia.

“After January 7, the shelling was intense. For the previous 10 days, shelling has occurred nearly every single day,” says Lt. Col. Roman Tkach, 51. What type did the assaults are available? “The Russians are firing barrel artillery, mortar fireplace, the Grad rocket salvo system.” Aviation is used. They fireplace unguided aerial missiles from helicopters and drop bombs from airplanes,” says Tkach. “Two days in the past they dropped a giant bomb from a aircraft that destroyed a home. They appear to have limitless photographs.”

Tkach is talking from a tangle of trenches and machine-gun emplacements able southeast of Sumy, 1,500 meters from the official Russian-Ukrainian border. His phrases are interrupted from time to time by the comfortable crunch of the sound of artillery fireplace someplace additional up the line of defense.


“It is simply small now,” he says soothingly. The Russians threw every thing right here, the troopers say. Related testimony may be heard from Ukrainian troopers buried all through the area, the place a quiet New Yr gave strategy to a loud, harmful and complicated January.

On Sunday alone, 4 condominium buildings and 28 homes, in addition to a lodge, an administrative constructing, a church, a gymnasium, three outlets, a restaurant, a kindergarten and a submit workplace have been hit by missiles within the metropolis of Sumy. A complete of 88 strikes have been recorded in at some point. Nonetheless, it hasn’t been uncommon over the previous month.

A gaggle of Russian saboteurs was caught final week attempting to cross the border for an unknown goal. They ran away underneath fireplace. Two weeks in the past, an assault helicopter fired seven missiles at targets solely 800 meters away from this place. “And the rockets from the Grad system landed on that hill over there,” says Artem Volynko, a 25-year-old lieutenant within the State Border Guard, pointing to a totally uninhabited and nondescript hill. However why? “It is in a Ukrainian nationwide park – possibly they needed it to burn?”

It is a idea, if not maybe one of many stronger ones.

Lt. Col. Roman Tkach (left), Volodymyr Zhylchenko (center), and Artem Volynko (right) talk near a network of trenches just 1,500 meters from the Russian border.
Lt. Col. Roman Tkach (left), Volodymyr Zhylchenko (heart), and Artem Volynko (proper) discuss close to a community of trenches simply 1,500 meters from the Russian border. Picture: Ed Ram/The Guardian

There’s a lot theorizing within the Ukrainian army about this sudden and disturbing improve in exercise. As a result of, reality be advised, a lot of the sniping appears to be fully random and chaotic. A blizzard right here, a hearth there. Pot photographs and drones dropping small bundles of explosives harass the protection traces from morning to nighttime. However troopers are usually not killed in important numbers. A number of items of army gear are decommissioned. It is most likely a waste of ammo.

There’s, in fact, one rationalization. The Russians have been pressured in another country by Ukrainian forces in March final yr after the debacle of the February 24 assault on the north. Might they be attempting to melt Sumya’s defenses for one more crack? Oleksiy Danilov, the chairman of Ukraine’s Nationwide Safety and Protection Council, which is coordinating the nation’s response to the invasion, stated this week that Russia was making ready for “most escalation, gathering all attainable forces” for a possible repeat on February 24 from the north, south and east.

Volynko was within the entrance line after they first got here. Together with 10 others, he manned a checkpoint within the village of Velyka Pysarivka, not removed from these trenches and beforehand recognized for the homicide of 36 of its inhabitants in the course of the Nazi occupation in 1941.

A soldier oversees the Russian positions.
A soldier oversees the Russian positions. Picture: Ed Ram/The Guardian

“The Russians began hitting our checkpoint with small arms, however we could not see them in the dead of night, it was chaotic fireplace,” he remembers. “Additionally they used underbarrel grenade launchers. They have been ordered to fall again to order positions, however Volynko was tasked with going ahead once more to an commentary submit to conduct reconnaissance because the defenders tried to seize the extent of the invasion.

“There was a lot Russian army gear that the smoke from their exhaust obscured our view of the checkpoint. I could not even see our checkpoint due to the massive cloud of smoke.”

Artem Volynko, 25 years old, carries a gun like soldiers on the front line.
Artem Volynko, 25, carries a gun near the entrance line. Picture: Ed Ram/The Guardian

It was the beginning of a four-day battle through which the Russians closed in on the closest city of Okhtyrka, however have been ultimately pushed again, forsaking a jumble of destroyed villages. Having seen what weapons the Russians had final time, Volynko is skeptical of the suggestion {that a} related assault could possibly be imminent.

There’s exercise on the opposite aspect, nevertheless it seems to be defensive, he suggests. “The Russians can theoretically go on the offensive in that route, however we’re doing fixed aerial reconnaissance right here. And we see how they’re continually constructing engineering fortifications on the territory of the Belgorod area of Russia. They construct anti-tank defenses and dig anti-tank ditches. And it is particular to us.”

Tkach has an alternate view: Sumy is utilizing pounding to persuade the Ukrainian Normal Employees that it can not afford to maneuver forces to Donetsk – and especially the city of Bakhmut – to facilitate Ukrainian efforts there. Zelensky lately admitted that the scenario there’s “very tough” as Russia claims to have made important features in current days.

“The quantity of army gear that we now see on the territory of Russia close to us doesn’t pose a risk for a serious invasion,” Tkach stated. “Maybe they need as many Ukrainian army personnel as attainable to stay in these positions and never be transferred to different hotspots.”

This leaves Kiev in bother. Troopers combating in Donetsk report that they’re brief on artillery, dropping management of their defensive positions within the face of a Russian onslaught looking for to destroy every thing in entrance of them earlier than sending in infantry to wash up. Ought to Zelensky’s generals begin shifting their items? It is a query past the pay grade of these in Sumy’s trenches. As a substitute, it is time to batten down the hatches and hope they will proceed to climate no matter comes their manner.


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