A long-awaited offensive by the Ukrainian military to retake Russian-held areas in eastern and southern Ukraine has been underway for about two weeks. Although little is known about the exact details and a lot of propaganda and misinformation is being spread, one thing is clear: the fighting was fierce and bloody. As SRF Ukraine expert David Navier says, so far they have been too tough for Ukraine.
David Nauer is a foreign editor at Radio SRF. From 2016 to 2021, he worked as a correspondent in Russia. He has traveled to Ukraine several times since the start of the Russian war of aggression.
SRF News: Why has Ukraine captured only very small areas so far?
DAVID NAVYER: The main reason is that the Russians probably dug in well in the front area. There are large systems of trenches, mines, and anti-tank barriers. Experts say that breaking such a line of defense is very difficult. The Russians in particular fight better and more efficiently than expected.
It is clear that the fighting will continue for weeks.
What role do weapons from the West play?
You play a very important role. Where the Ukrainians could advance, Western artillery and tanks made it possible. YOU SHOULD WATCH: The Ukrainian offensive has only just begun. They are currently firing Western missiles specifically at Russian supply routes such as bridges, cargo yards, but also warehouses. If the Russians run into serious supply problems, the dynamics of this attack could change. It is clear that the fighting will continue for weeks.
You were recently on the front line in Ukraine – how are you enjoying the war now?
I was in the Ukrainian trenches, where the fiercest fighting is now raging. I mean, I have pictures in my head, I know what it’s like when the Ukrainian soldiers come out of these trenches to go forward through the mines – and then the Russian machine gun fire comes from the next row of trees, and then the artillery fire. . I also spoke to the frontline players. So war is a face for me. There are real people who fight and die. We are not dealing with a strategy game, but with a deadly reality. We must not forget this in all strategic considerations.
What does social media show about war?
There are terrible records. One video in particular shocked me: you can see from the point of view of a Ukrainian soldier how he attacks a Russian trench. Then Russian soldiers appear in front of him, and he shoots at a very short distance – because he knows that they will shoot him. Like World War I or World War II, it was a matter of life and death in these trenches, man against man.
What do videos like this do to viewers?
That generally cannot be said. But I think there are two things that apply to many people: First, you simply get used to these kinds of images, including images of the dead, images of murder. Second, I note the brutality of debate in both Ukraine and Russia, especially on social media.
Dead enemy soldiers are no longer people, but ‘bastards’, ‘Nazis’ or horrible monsters, called orcs.
So, cheering on dead enemy soldiers or dehumanizing enemies is to some extent. These are no longer people, but the so-called “bastards”, “Nazis” or terrible monsters, orcs. There is a lot of hatred between Ukrainians and Russians. I think this war of Russian aggression will poison the relationship between the two peoples for years or even decades.
The interview was conducted by Ivana Bribakovic.
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