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No time for fears

world mirror

Since the beginning of the war in the Middle East, Russian attacks in Ukraine have increased in intensity. Soldiers and medics at the front see a connection in this – and are concerned about international support.

By Susanne Petersohn, ARD Studio Kiev

“Our feelings stayed at home with our family,” says Volodymyr, commander of a medical company not far from the hotly contested town of Avdiivka. He and his unit cannot afford to have feelings in war. In the shelter of the trees they wait for their next mission.

The front is very close here. The drones of the Russian troops come here again and again, searching fields and forests for Ukrainian soldiers and firing at shelters.

The thought of death is omnipresent

Volodymyr and his comrades prepared themselves for the fact that they might not return home either, he says. In recent weeks, the attacks by Russian troops have become more violent again, especially here, near the front near Avdiivka.

Volodymyr is convinced: “Many will not return home.” The paramedic stares blankly into the distance.

Ambulance under camouflage nets

A little later the radio goes off. Three seriously injured soldiers were rescued from the field nearby. Volodymyr sends medic Dmytro. The 22-year-old runs to the ambulance – they have also hidden it in the shelter of the trees. Camouflage nets are hung over a hollow in the ground. The car is there.

We go to a secret meeting point, where Dmytro and his colleagues take over the wounded soldiers. An artillery shell was fired into the entrance to their shelter. One of the soldiers hit has shrapnel in his head, face, arms and hands.

The care of the injured near the front is usually carried out under the simplest conditions – and under great time pressure.

The number of deaths usually remains secret

Dmytro concentrates on caring for his patients, constantly encouraging them as the ambulance races to a nearby small hospital. Here, injured soldiers are medically stabilized as best as possible. Only then can they be taken to better-equipped clinics.

But the doctors there only manage to stabilize two of the three injured people. The third one doesn’t make it. Another death in the cruel war statistics.

Nobody will give official figures on deaths and injuries here. This could benefit the enemy and demoralize their own troops, says one of the doctors.

Estimates put the number at several hundred a day – still much less than on the Russian side. These are numbers that cannot be verified in the middle of a war.

Hide, maintain and repair – ambulances and military equipment are protected from attacks by the Russian army in shelters.

Russia intensifies attacks

A few kilometers away, soldiers from a tank unit are repairing broken tanks. They say: Since the terrorist organization Hamas attacked Israel, the Russian army has been putting more pressure on Avdiivka. “It feels like they’re trying to take advantage of the moment,” said one of the soldiers. “They speculate that the United States and its partners do not have enough strength to fight on two sides.”

What the soldiers say corresponds to the analysis of international observers. “We don’t have the luxury of concentrating on just one crisis, one war, one conflict,” says Claudia Major, security expert at the Science and Politics Foundation. There is actually a competition for political attention.

Many of the political debates currently revolve around Israel and the Middle East. This is a “huge challenge” with regard to Ukraine when it comes to ensuring military, financial, economic and humanitarian support. But right now it’s all about political attention. “It’s not a competition for resources yet,” says Major. This would be a problem in the medium to long term.

The war aims remain unchanged

The Russian army’s overarching goal of wiping out Ukraine as an independent state has not changed, explains Major. “The current offensive seems to be about Russia still taking over an important hub and possibly using Avdiivka as a winter base.”

As long as Russia does not change its goals, as long as Russia still questions Ukraine’s own statehood and as long as Russia is still a militarized state that believes it can achieve its goals through war, “there will be no stability and no stability.” provide reliable sovereignty for Ukraine,” said Major.

The soldiers at the front are determined: they want to hold on. Even though they know that many of them will not return home.

You can see these and other reports in Weltspiegel – on Sunday, November 5th, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. on Erste.

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