Russian prisoners and Ukrainian soldiers describe two sides of the conflict
KYIV, Ukraine — With dirty hands still off the battlefield, a dozen Russian prisoners of war sat in a conference room of a Ukrainian news agency on Saturday, and were captured by ambushes on their armored columns.
Lieutenant Dmitry Kovalensky, who fought in a Russian tank unit and spoke at the behest of his Ukrainian captive, said he had recently come under fire An armed drone and shoulder-launched anti-tank missile on a road near Sumy in northeastern Ukraine. “The whole pillar got burnt,” he said.
Around the same time and a few miles away, at a makeshift Ukrainian military base in an abandoned building on the western edge of Kyiv, Ukrainian troops prepared for a similar ambush that took out Lieutenant Kovalensky’s unit.
A Ukrainian official, Lieutenant Yevgeny Yarantsev, said his country’s soldiers fight the Russians differently. Under his command, soldiers are organized into small, agile units that can ambush and ambush wooden columns of Russian tanks.
“They have a lot of tanks, we have a lot of anti-tank weapons,” said Lieutenant Yarantsev, who previously fought with a volunteer group against Russia in eastern Ukraine. “In the open field, it will be even. Fighting in the city is easy.”
Two young officers – the same rank, but each representing a different country – gave few direct accounts of the fighting that erupted in the 10-Day War. The Russian prisoner of war was under the watchful eye of heavily armed Ukrainian security officials. Ukrainian spoke as he displayed newly acquired, refined weapons from the United States.
The accounts of soldiers on both sides give a small glimpse into how the war is being fought around Kyiv in the north. There, relying largely on ambush tactics, Ukrainian forces have slowed down the Russian campaign to encircle and capture the capital, even barreling down Russian troops to the south.
Lieutenant Kovalensky and other Russian prisoners were presented at a news conference intended to support Ukraine’s claim that it had captured a large number of Russian soldiers. In their statements, the prisoners denounced Wood’s phrases of leadership of their own country with real-sounding descriptions of the early firefighters of the conflict.
In accordance with the rules governing the treatment of prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions, governments are supposed to protect a prisoner of war from becoming a “public curiosity”, a concept sometimes introduced in any public setting. is interpreted as not doing. The Russian soldiers seemed exhausted, but they showed no outward signs of abuse.
The prisoners’ comments and the fact of their capture supported descriptions by Western military analysts and governments of a Russian invasion, which has suffered a severe setback. However, the Russian military’s improved numbers and equipment could reverse that trend.
“Near the end of the day’s movement on February 27, our column was attacked,” said Pvt. Dmitry Gagarin of the Russian army told reporters. “My commander got burnt and died. I ran into the forest and later surrendered to the local people.”
Lieutenant Kovalensky said he had learned that Russia would invade Ukraine the evening before the tank column moved, and that sergeants and lower rank soldiers were not told where they were operating until after crossing the border.
All of the prisoners captured after they were ambushed on their armored columns in the streets are described, supporting Ukraine’s claim that its forces made good use of Western-supplied anti-tank weapons, such as That American-made Javelin missile. But independent analysts have also described more mundane problems for the Russian military, including logistical snarls and fuel shortages.
The Ukrainian officer, Lieutenant Yarantsev, described what appeared to be a mobile group of about 500 soldiers as skirmishes with the Russians on the western approach to Kyiv. He said his prospects were boosted three days ago when he found Barrett 50-caliber sniper rifles in a shipment from the United States.
Sleek and black, with barrels so long they almost look like spears, the rifles were being opened and inspected. One sniper, who declined to be named, said he had shot one in a fight on the outskirts of Kyiv.
Lieutenant Yarantsev noted that soldiers were more comfortable garrisoning in buildings than in fields or forests. “I’ve seen something about the war,” he said. “Soldiers want to be somewhere where cell phones work and where there is internet.”
The building where the soldiers worked in the city’s green residential area was full of ammunition boxes. Two grenades were lying on the floor near a sofa. The soldiers had an electric kettle and offered coffee. In a hallway, a soldier oiled his Kalashnikov.
The battle is approaching the capital. Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksey Reznikov, said in a statement on Saturday that the Russian military’s primary objective is to encircle Kyiv, a strategy they have pursued along with smaller towns such as Mariupol on the Azov Sea, which it now surrounds with. Heat and power cut off.
The fighting around Kyiv is mostly in Irpin and Buka, the two outlying cities in the northwest, where conditions are dire. A central road in Bucha is now littered with the burnt husks of a Russian armored personnel carrier, destroyed in an ambush.
Stanislav Bobritsky, a computer programmer who arrived by phone in Irpin, said he had not left his apartment since Tuesday. “All the windows are shaking” from the blasts, he said. “It’s so scary.”
At a press conference with captured Russian soldiers in the center of Kyiv, Ukrainian security officials present declined to speak. A moderator passed a microphone, giving journalists a chance to question the prisoners.
Lieutenant Kovalensky said he was appealing to the Russian people to overthrow President Vladimir V. Putin because the Russian leadership had deceived army officials about the objectives of the war and under the guise of military exercises to prepare for the invasion. was used.
The prisoners said that they did not know what would happen to them after the news conference. While he said he was treated well, days after he was caught it was not clear whether he had taken a bath or was given clean clothes.
Maria Varennikova contributed reporting from Lviv, Ukraine.
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