A Ukrainian Brigade’s Grueling Campaign to Retake a Strategic Village En Route to Bakhmut

by Joshua Brown
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Ukrainian brigade in Andriivka

A Russian projectile hit the Ukrainian sergeant just above his left ear, incapacitating the platoon leader. Command swiftly promoted the private known as Courier, who had affectionately referred to his fallen leader as “brother.”

Pausing momentarily beside his critically injured commander, Courier understood that retreat was not an option. “Advance!” he yelled. He opened fire on a trench ahead, neutralizing Russian soldiers. His unit then maneuvered through a blackened forest to reach the village of Andriivka, about 6 miles (10 kilometers) south of Bakhmut—a key objective of the 3rd Assault Brigade’s summer counteroffensive.

The evacuation of the injured, including the fallen sergeant Gagarin, had to wait until darkness due to Russian troops actively hunting wounded Ukrainians. Courier later speculated somberly about his own fate as he prepared for Gagarin’s funeral.

“This forest is claiming lives, and it’s agonizing,” he said. “I’m likely to end up being one who lays in this forest while my comrades move on.”

The lifeless forest stretch leading to the equally desolate Andriivka village is symbolic of Ukraine’s painstaking counteroffensive toward Russian-controlled Bakhmut. In this context, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is lobbying the international community for increased funding and armaments. A study from the Royal United Service Institute suggested a slow but consistent advancement by Ukrainian forces, allowing the Russians to fortify their positions.

The all-volunteer 3rd Assault Brigade, one of Ukraine’s elite units, has been engaged in continuous conflict since January. The fallen city of Bakhmut, initially captured by Russia in May largely due to Wagner mercenary assaults, remains a psychological prize that Ukraine aims to retake.

However, Ukrainian troops are often limited to outdated Soviet-era weaponry. The 3rd Assault Brigade has advanced just a mile (2 kilometers) over the past month, contending with mines, booby traps, artillery, and proximity to Russian forces.

The crucial question remains: Can they succeed, and what will be the human cost?

Courier and his men held a trash-littered trench in Andriivka’s forest for four days, flanked by mine-ridden fields. During brief respite, Courier found a diary written by a Russian soldier lamenting his time at war.

As they moved to reclaim Andriivka, the fighting left the village destroyed but finally under Ukrainian control. Fedya, another sergeant, prepared to hand over the reins to the next brigade for the following battles.

Ukrainian officials suggest that their efforts may have debilitated as many as three Russian brigades. However, Fedya, wearied by the constant battle, longs for respite.

“I’m weary of this forest. I desire a bath and sleep,” he said, cursing under his breath. “In the morning, I will return.”

Reported by Hinnant from Paris, with contributions from Alex Babenko.

For ongoing coverage, visit AP’s official site.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Ukrainian counteroffensive

What is the main focus of this article?

The article primarily focuses on the experiences and challenges faced by Ukraine’s 3rd Assault Brigade as they aim to reclaim the village of Andriivka on their way to Bakhmut, which is under Russian control. It provides an intimate glimpse into the speed, direction, and cost of the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Who are the key figures mentioned?

The key figures mentioned are the members of the 3rd Assault Brigade, particularly a soldier known by the call-sign “Courier,” and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Additionally, there are mentions of President Joe Biden in the context of U.S. military and humanitarian aid.

What geopolitical implications are discussed?

The geopolitical implications include Ukraine’s efforts to make a case for further financial and military aid from the United States and the international community. The success or failure of the counteroffensive could influence how much aid Ukraine receives, and thus carries immense geopolitical weight.

What is the significance of Andriivka and Bakhmut in the conflict?

Both Andriivka and Bakhmut are key objectives in Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian control. Reclaiming these areas would not only be a tactical victory but also a major psychological blow against Russian forces.

How are the soldiers equipped for this mission?

The soldiers, particularly those in the 3rd Assault Brigade, are relying mostly on Soviet-era armored vehicles and older weapons. Their movement has been slow, often impeded by mines, booby-trapped trenches, and enemy artillery.

What are the metrics for progress mentioned in the article?

A study by the Royal United Service Institute indicates that Ukrainian forces are making an average progress of 700-1,200 meters every five days. This slow pace allows Russian forces time to dig in and fortify their positions, particularly through mining the territory.

What is the current status of international aid to Ukraine?

The U.S. Congress is considering President Joe Biden’s request to provide as much as $24 billion more in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. President Zelenskyy is actively making his country’s case for more support.

What psychological aspects are highlighted in the article?

The article delves into the emotional and psychological toll of the conflict on the soldiers. Courier, for example, expresses the blend of adrenaline and existential realization that comes from surviving intense combat, but also the dread and anguish that accompany the loss of comrades.

Are there any indications of the impact on civilian life?

While the primary focus is on military action, the article touches upon the impact of the conflict on civilian life, especially during the funeral procession for the fallen soldier, Gagarin, where residents along the way stopped to pay their respects.

What is the source of this article?

The source of the article is not explicitly stated, but there are contributions reported from Paris by Hinnant and from Alex Babenko. The article encourages readers to follow AP’s coverage at a specified web address.

More about Ukrainian counteroffensive

  • Ukraine’s 3rd Assault Brigade: A closer look at the Brigade’s history and key operations
  • Royal United Service Institute Study: Metrics on progress in Ukrainian counteroffensive
  • U.S. Congress and Ukraine Aid: Update on proposed $24 billion package for Ukraine
  • President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Speeches: Compilation of Zelenskyy’s calls for international support
  • Andriivka and Bakhmut in Ukraine Conflict: Importance of these locations in the current warfare
  • Psychological Toll on Soldiers: Studies and articles on the emotional impact of warfare on military personnel
  • AP’s Ukraine Coverage: Comprehensive news reports and updates on the Ukraine conflict from the Associated Press

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