A mere kilometre away from the Russian positions that defend the eastern city of Izium captured by Russia, Ukrainian and other foreign fighters hide in a damp basement. They are surrounded by artillery, which rains down every night, sweeping away the plaster and filling the room with dust.
The Carpathian Sich Battalion is at the end of all efforts to stop Russia’s advance in eastern Ukraine. This unit, made up of Ukrainians and foreigners, was created to respond to Kyiv’s request for assistance.
It’s now more of an artillery conflict. “It’s a harder war, a more scarier war, where only those who are strong in spirit can fight,” stated Dzvin, a battalion field commander who requested to be identified under his nom de guerre due to his leadership position.
They claim they are bound by a strong commitment to Ukraine, which is now being tested.
Dzvin stated, “Each of our soldiers understands that at one point they will come face to face with a tank.”
One was captured by the unit almost intact. It must also deal with Russian drones, which fighters call “black clouds”, that direct artillery fire at their positions.
It is becoming more difficult out there. It is getting more tiring the longer it goes on,” Conor, a British volunteer who was formerly an army medic and served on the frontline, said.
“They shelled at 12:30, 2 and 4 AM yesterday morning so that’s clearly disrupting our sleep schedule up. You have to remain positive.
Each fighter, whether Ukrainian-born or foreign, has his reasons for fighting, and is aware of the dangers of injury, death, or capture.
Dzvin stated, “We all know what the consequences could be of us being here and have all made peace with it.”
He stated that the battalion’s mission at Izium was to stop a Russian advance that could result in other Ukrainian units being outflanked.
It is vital. It is impossible to encircle our troops with our deterrence.
Denis Polishchuk, another fighter, stated that he hoped serving on the frontline would give a worthwhile answer to questions from his children. He still hopes to tell them what he did during the war.
“I felt that the only dignified answer would be that I was doing my part,” said Polishchuk. Polishchuk, who was born and raised in Ukraine, said that he was fighting alongside everyone else. He also spent many years living in Vancouver, earning him the “Canada” nom de guerre.
Conor stated that images of children, women and soldiers wounded in battle had inspired him to leave Britain to fight on the frontline. He also said that some of the skills he’d been taught would be of benefit.
He said, “And we’ve helped to set up field hospitals.”
The Carpathian Sich, one of many paramilitary nationalist organizations, was formed in 2014. It was founded by volunteers after Moscow annexed Crimea’s Black Sea peninsula. They also supported pro-Russian armed separatists within Ukraine’s eastern Donbas.
However, the fighters of the battalion have been able sign military contracts since May, which allow them to receive pensions and treatment at military hospital. Kyiv claims this is a sign that nationalist units have been reformated and integrated successfully into the regular Armed Forces.
Russia justified its invasion of Ukraine by claiming it wanted to “denazify” Ukraine, and labeling some former paramilitary groups far-right extremists. This is a charge they strongly deny.
Leo, 33 years old, is a Carpathian Sich new recruit who worked previously in video production in Lviv, Ukraine.
“I respect other countries… All people, regardless of skin colour, are my friends. These are our enemies.
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