‘The West can change the outcome’: A plea for heavy weapons on Ukraine’s front line | Ukraine

a A pile of lethal weapons lines the corridor next to Roman Kostenko’s office in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv. Giant, tube-like Javelin rockets and a sturdy looking green cylinder. This is an NLAW anti-tank weapon provided by BritainKostenko – a member of the Verkhovna Rada and commander of the special forces – explained. “We used it.”

When Russia On February 24, Kostenko was in Kyiv. He replaced the politician’s suit and tie with a uniform and hurried to Mykolaiv On the southern front line. By this point Russian forces had virtually encircled the city and its port on the Bug River. They had captured the Mykolaiv airfield and were advancing from the northeast. “I was the last car in,” he said.

Citizens were piling tires and making Molotov cocktails in preparation for street-to-street combat. However, the Ukrainian army managed to repel the Russians. Kostenko showed a video he had taken of a Russian stand on the outskirts of Mykolaiv. There were corpses of enemy soldiers killed in Ukrainian artillery shelling, as well as field guns and abandoned wagons.

UK Javelin and NLAW anti-tank missiles.
UK Javelin and NLAW anti-tank missiles.

Since this failed incursion, Kostenko said, the fighting has turned into a “war with missiles and artillery.” In the south, the front line runs approximately along the administrative border between the Russian-occupied Kherson Territory and Mykolaiv, 12 miles (20 km) to the north. It is a shimmering spectacle of green wheat fields and steppe villages, now under constant fire.

Russian howitzers are able to easily target Mykolaiv. saturday rocket Crashed into an apartment building in the cityAs a result, one person was killed and seven wounded. Kostenko said the Ukrainians lack long-range missile systems that would enable them to respond, as well as anti-aircraft defense batteries. Meanwhile, they are sitting in makeshift trenches under the flames.

“It is very difficult to survive the 24/7 artillery shelling of you,” Kostenko added. He explained that the Javelin missiles sent by the United States were ineffective because the Russians hid their armored vehicles in a network of Soviet-era irrigation canals. Our anti-tank weapons do not see them. If our partners provide us with heavy artillery and advanced systems such as the MRLS [multiple-launch rocket systems] We can win and take back the occupied territories.”

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At the moment, Ukrainian soldiers can only make local tactical gains. On Monday they recaptured a village in the northeast of Kherson. Kostenko said Russia has plenty of tanks and ammunition supplies left. Fighting in the south and in the east is where the battle rages Severodonetsk cityHe said it resembled World War II with modern weapons. Admit that the Russians have the advantage.

deputy, Secretary of the Committee on National Security, Defense and IntelligenceHe spent 15 years as a soldier. He was injured twice in late 2014 Fighting in Donetsk airport against the Russians and their separatist proxies. He said he grew up in a village outside Kherson now controlled by Moscow, where Russian soldiers broke into his parents’ house, looted the parade uniform and took away all the furniture.

Kostenko suggested that Vladimir Putin’s goal was to seize Donbass and annex Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, making it a “non-marine state”, after he had failed to achieve his original goal of overthrowing the Kyiv government to return. Ukraine Russian influence and prove Moscow’s military immunity.

Films Roman Kostenko destroyed a Russian convoy near Mykolaiv in the first days of the invasion – VIDEO

A member of the pro-European liberal Golos party, he praised the United Kingdom, the United States and Poland, saying: “We love Boris Johnson. Britain is a country that has expressed its position clearly. He sticks to his values. It is not afraid of the Russian Federation. We have many British volunteers fighting with us.” The whole civilized world is fighting Russia, not just Ukraine. ”

He was less enthusiastic about Germany and France. “Some of our partners are behaving very cautiously. It is inexplicable. They are not calling the enemy. We are fighting totalitarianism,” said an exasperated Kostenko.

Meanwhile, the inhabitants of Mykolaiv are accustomed to the massive uprisings that shake the city every hour. For more than a month, there was no water after one of the pipelines was destroyed. Last week, supplies for washing were finally reconnected. There is no water to drink. It is delivered to the city, a major shipbuilding center in the times of the Soviet Union, in large plastic packages. About 40% of its population has left.

A humanitarian aid point has been erected in a dilapidated 200-year-old theater and concert hall once used by Navy officers. There are supplies of clothes, shoes and medicine. Residents fill out a form stating what they need. Victoria Veselowska, a journalist who works in a basement pharmacy, said she doesn’t have mosquito repellent. “Insects are a big problem for our soldiers,” she said.

A humanitarian aid point set up in a 200-year-old theater in Mykolaiv
A humanitarian aid point set up in a 200-year-old theater in Mykolaiv.

Morale is high among those who decided to stay in the bombed Mykolaiv. Olga Bedosona, a volunteer and pioneer in the port’s customs department, called the war “a very long bad day”. Russia is trying to eat us. But she will break her teeth. We are a very powerful nation. I am proud to be Ukrainian and I am proud of our army and our volunteers.

She said that in peacetime, 10 cargo ships leave the port of Mykolaiv daily. Most of the grains are exported. The Russian naval blockade of the Black Sea brought the port out of service. Bedosona said that the Ukrainian victory should include Crimea, “which the Kremlin stole in 2014,” adding: “I have relatives in Crimea. They want to return to Ukraine. They can’t say it publicly, of course. They are afraid.”

Few people in this city of half a million would expect to find themselves living in an old school war zone. One person who was not surprised by how 2022 will turn out was Makar Kostyuk, a student from Vladivostok. Kostyuk volunteered at the local office of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. He left the country for Ukraine before Navalny was arrested and imprisoned.

When the bombs started falling I was working on my second novel. “The blasts made me write faster,” Kostyuk said. A shrapnel landed in his yard, making a hole in the glass in the stairwell. Kostyuk said he did not face any bias against Russia. But his bank cards were blocked and he was likely to have to leave Ukraine in the summer when his residence permit ran out.

Many shops were closed on the main Sobornaya Street in Mykolaiv. Canned music is played from speakers connected to maple trees. There were a few people shopping and a guy in Lycra got on his mountain bike. Much destruction was visible. A bomb dropped from the air had flattened the Ingul Hotel. In the Russian March Launch a cruise missile In the regional administration building, killing 12 and wounding 33.

Nobody knows when the Ukrainian army will be able to retake Kherson, which was overrun in the first days of the invasion. The Kremlin says the area now belongs to Russia. Recently, it prevented residents from fleeing and mined the road to Mykolaiv. Plans to hold a “referendum” on joining Moscow have been put on hold due to a lack of popular support. “Ninety-nine percent of the country does not want Russia,” the deputy said.

Kostenko gave The Guardian a souvenir: a ragged piece of a Russian Caliber warhead, which he carefully wrapped in kitchen roll. “Victory now depends on our international friends,” he said. “We have a lot of Kalashnikovs and machine guns. If we get enough heavy weapons, Russia will not be able to move forward.” He stressed, “The West can change the outcome of this war.”