Zaporizhia, with a population of 700,000, is Ukraine’s outpost against the occupiers of the East and the South.
Zaporizhia the city is crossed by the Ukrainian life stream on the Dnieper. It can only be crossed by two bridges. Now one is allowed to drive east and the other west.
At the ends of the bridges are checkpoints with sandbags where soldiers monitor traffic.
When we drive to the checkpoint Lieutenant of the Ukrainian Army Konstantin Hartshenkon on board, he is asked for a password.
In Zaporizhia you have to be careful about the walkers. The city of 700,000 has become Ukraine’s outpost against occupying forces protruding from the south and east. The front is 30 miles to the south and 50 miles to the east.
Adapting to a well-known song, it will be clear here who will be able to look at the Dnieper for the last time.
In the city raising the will to fight with various signs and installations.
In one sign Putin supposedly admits: “Ukraine is above all. Crimea is Ukraine. I’m shit [huilo]. ” On the other side hangs a doll hanging from a traffic sign with the Z-mark of Russian troops on its chest.
Hundreds of thousands of Zaporizhia residents have fled to the west. It has been replaced by evacuees east of Ukraine.
Traffic will stop the curfew at 8 p.m. For the night, the city is darkened to confuse the enemy. Street signs are also covered.
Zaporizhia is a major industrial city, but now its car plant and aircraft engine plant stand. There are more empty shelves in supermarkets than in the western Ukrainian cities.
Zaporizhia receives electricity from a hydropower plant. Instead, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, 50 kilometers away, is being hijacked by Russia’s Rosatom.
Although Zaporizhia is close to the front, it has been quite peaceful during the war. Russia has hit missiles at strategic targets, such as an aircraft repair plant, but has not wanted or been able to fire rocket fire, which has become a trademark, into residential buildings.
Lieutenant Hartchenko does not believe that Russia is willing or able to attack Zaporizhia in the near future.
“Zaporizhia is not as important to them as it is [Mustanmeren] Mykolaiv, which they need to get to Odessa. It is not easy to fire rockets here, and they are not coming now because they would be at a loss. ”
But with the fall of Mariupol, Russia can move power here, Khartoenko adds.
At the front the main role is played by the troops of the Ukrainian army, ie ZSU. In the regions, however, they are assisted by regional defense forces made up of residents.
An exit route from Zaporizhia is controlled from the defensive station of the 37th Brigade of the Regional Defense Forces.
Here we live in field conditions. Accommodation mites are tired of the pushes that were already ready on the spot. The structures are surrounded by a mesh, the sewing of which has become the most popular form of handicraft in Ukraine. There are old Lados without license plates.
Staff sergeant Ihor Yakovenko offers compote and biscuits brought here by volunteers helping the army. Even the dogs that enjoy the camp would like to get a dividend.
Yakovenko, 57, presents his pistol, which is the 1967 Makarov.
He is a semiconductor technician by training, but on the second day of the Russian invasion he got a gun and became a soldier again. His twin sons also serve here.
“I have no choice but to defend here. So many relatives and friends have been killed. Sodin in the Donbass 2014-2015. If Russia takes over Ukraine, I will face 25 years in prison or the death penalty under their laws, ”Yakovenko explains.
The current war is quite different from him than in the Donbass. Now Russia is killing civilians with rockets, artillery and planes. Last Sunday, for example, Russia beat 30 kilometers from the village of Kamenskoye with rockets, mines and cannons.
Yakovenko finds Russia’s claims about defending Russian-speakers ridiculous because he himself is Russian-speaking.
Yakovenko and other men in the camp also dare to criticize Ukraine’s warfare, namely its early days.
“It was a big mistake for our generals not to immediately cut off Russian routes from Crimea. They had easy access to southern Ukraine, and now they have the Simferopol-Melitopol railway, along which they can service their troops, ”says Yakovenko.
“But badly they fought,” he adds.
Zaporizhia the area’s regional defense forces have been assembled into the 110th Brigade. It consists of six battalions of residents of different counties. Some of them work in the front line, some in the back.
The brigade’s deputy headquarters is located in a secret location in the town of Zaporizhia.
Chief of Staff, Major Roman Chernenko had already retired last year, but now he is in line again.
The brigade consists of reservists and volunteers.
“There would be far more newcomers than we can take and arm. We are called by all kinds of people, young women and men in their sixties, ”Chernenko says.
“We are mapping the skills of volunteers, because we need professionals to be pioneers, communicators and car mechanics.”
Newcomers will receive light infantry equipment. According to him, no one will be sent to the front line without proper equipment.
“This morning we finally got 500 bulletproof vests for one of our battalions. They are not donations, but bought with money. We still need helmets, heat sights and suits. ”
Chernenko praises the volunteers who help the army, who provide food, among other things. Companies in the area also assist the military, for example by handing over vehicles to it. Gas stations refuel military vehicles free of charge. There is still no shortage of fuel in the army, Chernenko assures.
According to Chernenko, regional defense forces are currently operating as part of the infantry.
“The line of defense is ready, and we are ready to take on the enemy.”
Attacks are also being made. The night before, one of the battalions evicted the occupier from Malinovka, well-known in Soviet film, more than a hundred kilometers from Zaporizhia. Wedding in Malinovka.
In the battle, he said, killed two and wounded six soldiers in the battalion.
“First, mechanized infantry surround the area and then we cleanse it of enemies,” Chernenko describes.
“We are made up of local people, and that’s why we don’t shoot residential houses unlike the Russians.”
Chernenko considers air defense against Russian aircraft, rockets and missiles to be Ukraine’s main problem.
“We would desperately need fighter jets, anti-aircraft and missiles. One of our battalions had to give up its position because it was attacked by combat helicopters and we were unable to respond to the fire. ”
Ukraine is having difficulty producing rockets, among other things, because Russia has hit a jet fuel plant.
There is a shortage of anti-tank weapons as Russia struck arms depots in the Kharkiv, Kherson, Mykolaiv and Odessa regions in the early days of the war. Therefore, the troops largely use light dividends.
The 110th Brigade now also has its own psychologist as a child psychologist Olesja Moiseiko volunteered. Moiseiko, dressed in terrain, has just come to the front line from the soldiers.
“The hardest part is for those soldiers whose families are in the occupied territories of Russia. They don’t get asleep. For example, the family of one soldier is [venäläisten valtaamassa] In Melitopol, and he will not be able to contact him. ”
According to Ukrainian troops, the family of a soldier would have been taken hostage in the Chechen-controlled Tokmak. The family is required to obtain information about the status of Ukrainians. HS cannot verify the data.
It is also the job of the psychologist to assess the serviceability of the soldiers. At the beginning of the war he was recruited without a medical examination, but now the mentally unstable are being sent home, according to Moiseiko.
All overall, Ukraine’s main military resource seems to be the people.
On the roads to the east, convoys are driven, consisting mainly of buses carrying men entering service. The contrast is great with the armored columns that went to war on the Russian side.
In addition, every civilian has become a potential soldier. For example, a taxi driver using an HS carries a revolver. Under the new law, he could kill an enemy soldier without consequences.
“There is no force that would make us leave our own country,” says Lieutenant Hartchenko. “People no longer even want peace but victory.”
“But whichever one wins this war in the end, Ukraine will be in ruins after that, we have already understood that.”
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