The Ukrainian military has struggled to work through Russia’s heavily mined defensive lines as its counteroffensive has dragged on for ten weeks with little to show. Kyiv is now appealing to its allies for more demining equipment. Ukrainians assigned to be deminers – known as sappers have taken heavy losses in the counter offensive.
Speaking with the Guardian, Oleksandr Slyusar, a Ukrainian sapper, said his deminers have suffered significant casualties, and he had to take painkillers just to keep fighting. “On paper, our brigade has 30 sappers. In reality, it is 13. As for those who are active at the moment, it is five.” He added,” I inject myself with a painkiller every day.”
Sappers are playing a critical role in Kyiv’s counteroffensive. For several months, Russian forces built several layers of fortified defensive lives that Ukrainian forces are now attempting to push through. During the opening days of the counteroffensive, Kyiv committed thousands of troops to push through the Russian defenses. Moscow’s defenses held, and Kyiv suffered substantial losses of troops and equipment.
Over the past two months, the Ukrainian military has relied on sappers to de-mine the Russian lines to allow other forces to push through. The task is massive as Ukraine has become the most heavily mined county on earth. Slyusar says the sappers are underequipped and often rely on metal poles and TNT to clear the minefield.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, described the difficult situation facing the Ukrainian de-miners and appealed for more aid. He told the Guardian, “We have skilled sappers and modern equipment, but they are extremely insufficient for the front that stretches hundreds of kilometers in the east and south of Ukraine.” He continued, “At this stage of our de-occupation campaign we critically need more mine clearance equipment, from minesweeping trawls to Bangalore torpedoes.”
Ukraine’s counteroffensive has drudged on for ten weeks. Last week, the Washington Post reported the lack of progress is contributing to declining morale in Ukraine.