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“Dying is the worst thing that can happen”

NThe Ukrainian army is training north of Kiev. Lieutenant General Serhiy Nayev speaks in the ARD-Interview about the threat of Wagner mercenaries, German arms deliveries and his expectations of the NATO summit.

Vasily Golod

An armored car pulls up at the Kiev Sea, the reservoir north of the Ukrainian capital. Armed soldiers jump out of the massive vehicle. The young men look around, running purposefully to their positions. They call each other short orders and shots are fired.

What is described here is an exercise by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Media is invited because the military has an interest in presenting a picture of strength to the public. Also because there have been no visible successes along the front line so far.

Objective of the exercise: An enemy sabotage reconnaissance group is to be stopped. On land and on water. The Ukrainian soldiers are crossing the reservoir in boats. Other armies also conduct such exercises. But the soldiers here actually have to fight at the front. The threat is real.

Military exercise of the Ukrainian army on land and sea.

Threat from Wagner mercenaries in the north?

Only on Friday did Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj order increased protection of the north of the country. One of the reasons is the possible settlement of Russian Wagner mercenaries in Belarus. Lieutenant General Serhij Najew is responsible for the northern sector. Nayev is one of the highest-ranking military officers in Ukraine. Najew is personally present at the exercise at the reservoir. In an interview with the ARD says the lieutenant general:

In view of the current threat situation, we are fulfilling our task and the forces are sufficient. But in order to be able to do this even when the threat increases, a certain strengthening of forces and means is necessary.

Lieutenant General Serhiy Nayev

According to Najew, there are currently no recorded movements of the Wagner group. “But we have calculated the worst-case scenario and are preparing for it under such conditions.” Najew currently sees the greatest potential danger “in nuclear blackmail” by Russia, including around the occupied Zaporizhia nuclear power plant.

Lieutenant General Serhij Najew is personally present at the exercise at the reservoir.

Minefields are problematic

Asked about the pressure from Western capitals on the high expectations of Western partners in relation to the counter-offensive, the Ukrainian lieutenant general says: “Personally, I don’t feel anything about it. That’s the area of ​​politics. I deal with military matters. We want to as soon as possible to win.”

But there is currently no sign of rapid military success. The Russian soldiers dug deep into their positions along the front, and the Ukrainian soldiers had difficulty overcoming the numerous minefields. They are also under constant artillery fire.

Slow progress and high casualties

The Ukrainian commander-in-chief Zalushnyj stressed to the “Washington Post” that his soldiers still advance a few hundred meters every day. A slow progress with high losses. According to Zalushny, faster military successes require more of everything.

Najew is grateful for the Western support and praises Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Defense Minister Boris Pistorius in particular. With a view to the ongoing counter-offensive, he joins Sauschnyj. In his estimation, more deliveries are needed – also from Germany: “Of course tanks, of course anti-aircraft systems that Germany has. And of course artillery ammunition and rockets. We are grateful for any help and I would like to emphasize that we use it exclusively for the purpose to defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

High expectations of the NATO summit

The Ukrainian lieutenant general has high expectations of the NATO summit in Vilnius in mid-July. He is counting on “a clear signal with concrete dates when Ukraine will become a full member of the defense alliance.”

“Dying is the worst thing that can happen.”

Huge explosions are heard during the interview with the lieutenant general. They are mines laid specifically for training. But despite real mines, “the difference is huge,” says soldier Andriy Telychko. The father of the family was fighting in eastern Ukraine a few months ago, was wounded and is now responsible for securing the north. “In combat, everything is much more immediate. It’s more about the enemy. This is about developing skills that we can later draw on on the front lines.”

Soldier Andriy Telychko in conversation: “In combat everything is much more immediate”.

What scares him the most on the front lines? “Dying is the worst thing that can happen,” says Andrij. And yet he would immediately return to the front. “I have a wife, a daughter. I must do something to protect my parents, family and loved ones so that future generations do not have to experience what we are seeing.”

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