Kyiv, Ukraine – Irina Muzychiuk doesn’t always agree with the decisions her commanders make on the battlefield.
But the former literature teacher, who volunteered to fight pro-Moscow separatists in 2014 and now serves on the sun-dried prairies of southern Ukraine, remains focused on his main goal: the defeat of Russia. increase.
“I see self-sacrifice and motivation as the main advantages of our military,” she told Al Jazeera. It’s something everyone understands it’s a fight for the future,” she told Al Jazeera via the messaging app.
Moscow is understood to have the world’s “second best military” after the United States, and has been involved in the second Chechen conflict, the war with Georgia in 2008, and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Boasting victory in relief.
And when Moscow invaded Ukraine in February, many Western observers and governments expected a quick Russian victory.
But as the war with Ukraine rages on, the Kremlin’s haughty plans to capture Kyiv and replace the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky with a pro-Kremlin puppet have failed to materialize.
The motive, along with the increased supply of Western-made weapons, is indeed seen as Ukraine’s main advantage.
But experts point to centuries of clash-like conflicts and warring demographics as other factors contributing to Ukraine’s resilience.
Cossacks vs serfs?
“For our freedom we give our souls and bodies, and show that we are brothers of the Cossack lineage.”
These lines from the Ukrainian national anthem help you understand how proud Ukrainians are of the Cossacks, a caste of medieval frontier warriors somewhat similar to the cowboys of the Old West.
Living in a quasi-democratic community in what is now central Ukraine, the Cossacks elected leaders, perfected cavalry tactics, and repelled conquest attempts by Poland, the Ottoman Turks, and Russia.
They were devout Orthodox Christians.
In 1654 they made a pact with Moscow, the only independent Orthodox state at the time, paving the way for their eventual conquest of Ukraine.
According to the late British historian Arnold Toynbee, the Cossacks spearheaded Russia’s conquest of Siberia, Central Asia and the Caucasus, winning “the road to domination of Eurasia”.
But they were elite cavalry, and the emperor’s infantry consisted of slave-like serfs who were forcibly recruited and often used as cannon fodder.
Some observers say Russian and separatist leaders are now using infantry in similar ways in Ukraine.
Captured Russian servicemen and men conscripted from separatist areas say many were tricked into signing contracts to fight in Ukraine.
Since Moscow has never officially declared war on Ukraine, military personnel were able to refuse to fight, and hundreds of military personnel did so despite pressure and threats.
However, some of those who ended up on the front lines reported low morale, bad food, and serious miscalculations by their bosses that led to heavy losses.
Russian intelligence officer Maxim Chernik, who was captured on the outskirts of Kyiv, said at a press conference on March 9, “It feels terrible to realize the mistakes we made while here.”
Many Ukrainians understand how big the difference is between the “Cossack” spirit of the army and the “serf” spirit of the enemy.
“Individualism against facelessness, initiative against strict orders, fraternity against obedience, independence against theft, courage against despair,” Kyiv-based analyst Alexei Kushchi told Al Jazeera.
They also believe the war is part of Moscow’s centuries-old strategy to annihilate and “Russify” Ukraine and its language and culture.
“Their strategy is very consistent. Cafeteria owner Roman Nabojniak, who re-enlisted on the first day of the war, told this reporter in July.
Tens of thousands of Ukrainian men and women of all professions volunteered join the army or “territorial defense” paramilitary units, often paying for weapons and equipment.
“I don’t know if in recent decades in Europe there has been an army that is so blurred from civilians,” said Maksim Butkevich, founder and president of the No Borders Human Rights Organization.
He enlisted in the army in early March and was soon appointed as a squad leader for the other volunteers.
He said the war made Ukrainians forget about regional differences and political strife.
“With this invasion, they have united Ukraine like never before,” Butkevich told Al Jazeera on May 24.
A month later his parents learned that he had been held captive in the Luhansk region.
The Russian army, on the other hand, is mostly made up of men in their early twenties and hail from “depressed” areas with high unemployment and low incomes. Often they are uneducated.
A BBC report confirming that at least 4,515 Russian servicemen had died in Ukraine by early July said: only 10 I come from Moscow, a city of 12 million people.
Combined with a rigorous top-down command system, the education component will be important when it comes to combat decision-making, defense analysts say.
Russia-based expert Pavel Luzhin said, “The initiative, flexible thinking and decent education levels of Ukrainian military personnel contrast with the authoritarian nature of the Russian Armed Forces. It stifles initiative and flexible thinking and is based on the cultural catastrophe of the Russian state,” the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington, D.C. think tank, told Al Jazeera.
mercenaries and prisoners
Moscow reportedly fought in Ukraine’s Donbass and Syria in 2014, Capture of southeastern Luhanskwhere former rights defender Butkevich was taken prisoner.
Evgeny Prigozhin, known as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “cook” and owner of the Wagner Private Army, recruited hundreds of inmates in Russian prisons and promised them hefty salaries and pardons. It is said
Another addition to the demoralized horde of Russian military personnel is the “Kadyrovtsi”, the army of the pro-Kremlin Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov. They have been accused of extrajudicial executions, abductions and torture in Chechnya for decades.
“Russian military personnel are instruments of despotism with an abyss between itself and the masses,” Luzhin said.
“I don’t trust the Russian government. [the army and the public] Therefore, counter them with mercenaries, Kadyrovtsy and other vulgar people. “
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/8/9/what-makes-ukrainian-soldiers-tick What are the motives of the Ukrainian military in the face of Russian aggression? | | Russo-Ukrainian war news