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Frontline Frustration: Ukraine’s Soldiers experience depression

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Ukraine’s enduring resistance to a full-scale invasion, which was initially projected to last just 48 hours, is a testament to the remarkable determination of its frontline soldiers.

For over 600 days, these brave men and women have faced a relentless adversary, but the toll on their physical and emotional well-being is becoming increasingly apparent. Melinda Haring, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and an expert on Ukraine, recently shared insights from her visit to the country, shedding light on the challenges faced by these soldiers and the deep sense of frustration that simmers beneath their steely exteriors.

 

Soldiers’ Resilience and Frustration

 

Ukraine’s soldiers on the frontline exhibit unwavering determination and resilience, but they are not immune to the strains of prolonged conflict. Haring, who spoke with soldiers in the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia, where Russian troops occupy roughly two-thirds of the territory, highlighted their remarkable resolve. Yet, she also emphasized that frustration simmers beneath the surface.

 

One major issue that plagues these soldiers is the limited time they can spend away from the battlefield. With only 30 days of leave annually, and restrictions allowing for a maximum of 10 consecutive days off, many have spent months away from their families. This isolation has created significant tension and strain on their personal lives, with stories of divorce, family separation, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) becoming all too common.

 

A Sense of Isolation

 

Soldiers often feel isolated, believing that the broader Ukrainian society isn’t fully engaged in the conflict. While they bear the brunt of the struggle, many citizens in Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine appear to lead normal lives, posing for selfies and dining in restaurants. This disparity intensifies the sense of abandonment among soldiers, leading to feelings of isolation and resentment.

 

Desire for Air Power

 

Soldiers on the frontlines also express a yearning for air cover, as they believe they are being asked to fight in ways that would not be demanded of soldiers from other nations. They emphasize the critical need for air power to gain an upper hand in the ongoing conflict.

 

Human Toll on the Frontlines

 

The toll of this protracted conflict is deeply felt on the frontlines. Surviving soldiers yearn for an end to the bloodshed, not at any cost but for peace and the opportunity to return home. However, this desire for peace should not be misinterpreted as an acceptance of Russia’s terms. Most Ukrainians have given too much, with approximately 70,000 soldiers killed and 120,000 injured, to settle for anything less than the complete expulsion of enemy forces.

 

The Fight for Survival

 

Ukrainians are exhausted, they crave normalcy, stability, and safety in their lives, but they remain steadfast in their resolve. The fight is existential for them; it’s about preserving their homeland and territory. Ceasing the fight would mean surrendering their land and jeopardizing their very lives.

 

Putin’s Intentions

 

While some may argue for a ceasefire, Haring stresses that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions are far from peaceful negotiations. Ukrainians remain skeptical of any pause in the fighting, as they believe it would only serve the Kremlin’s interests, allowing Russia to regroup and return to the conflict.

 

In conclusion, the Ukrainian soldiers on the frontlines are displaying remarkable resilience, but their physical and emotional burdens are substantial. Their desire for peace should not be mistaken for acquiescence to Russia’s terms. The fight for survival and sovereignty remains unwavering, and the soldiers are determined to protect their land and their lives, regardless of the challenges they face.

Abu Bakr Alvi
Abu Bakr Alvi
Mr. Abu Bakr Alvi, Senior Journalist Based in Faisalabad

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