The price of the Ukrainian counter-offensive


« I can’t shout hurrah, because I know the price of these victories. Through her computer screen, Oksana Osmachko struggles to fully rejoice in the recent advances of the Ukrainian army around Kharkiv. Without news from her brother for almost six months, and after having seen her husband only five days since February 24, the 32-year-old young woman recalls that the Ukrainians are paying a titanic tribute for this war and for the decline of the Russian army, news that ignited Western media headlines last week.

Deaths, there have already been too many and there will be many more, laments this mother of a five-year-old boy. “I started to pray a lot, whereas I didn’t pray before the war, she says with emotion. It is the only thing that can nourish our hope. »

For Eugene Kolomiiets, a lawyer who, since the start of the war, has taken command of an anti-tank defense unit, this is no time for celebration either. “We have to take back our territory. We have to do it,” he said. “But when we were in a defensive position [sur le front est], many fighters lost their lives. And now, going on the offensive, even more soldiers will die. Maybe three times more. And that, the government [ukrainien] don’t talk about it. »

The personal goal he has set himself is to « make sure to save the lives of the 25 soldiers who are under my responsibility », he says. A task he has fulfilled successfully so far, first in the Chernobyl region, defending the northern border of Ukraine to prevent Belarus from entering the war, then in eastern Ukraine, protecting the defense line of the Ukrainian army.

“Every day, from morning until night, the Russians bombarded us. We weren’t attacking. We kept our positions by hiding underground, in trenches “, even to sleep at night, reports the father of three children.

The new offensive posture of the Ukrainian army, which has enabled it to achieve gains calculated in thousands of square kilometers, applauded in Ukraine as elsewhere in the West, transforms this reality on the ground. « We are paying a very high price for these counter-offensive operations, » says Eugene Kolomiiets, who is on leave at his residence in kyiv.

At his side, his wife, Iryna Pushanko, recalls that the Ukrainian army is much smaller in number than that of Russia. And it is not only soldiers who lose their lives, but also civilians, notes her husband. « Putin does not want to fight only with the Ukrainian army, he also targets women, children and the elderly », he denounces, adding that the mass graves discovered in Izium, near Kharkiv, point to the worst. « They are no longer human [qui se battent], they are animals. »

In an interview with Reuters news agency on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed rapid gains in the Kharkiv region, but refrained from describing recent victories as a turning point in the conflict. armed. “It is still too early to talk about the end of this war,” he said.

« I don’t know if I will grow old »

Although her husband, Ivan, is in the area recaptured from the enemy, Oksana Osmachko says she does not have much information about what is going on there. « He doesn’t give me details when we talk on the phone, because we know that the Russians can listen to us, » she reports from the central region of Poltava, where she is staying with her parents, with where she has lived since June.

Days are tough, both on the battlefield and at home, she says. “You never know what will happen in the next second. I don’t know if I’m going to get old or not, ”she says. From the height of his five years, his son is haunted by the same questions, unthinkable there are still seven months. “He asks me: what will happen if dad dies? What will happen if I die? What will happen if you die? »

Chilling questions that took on sadly concrete airs on April 5, when Oksana’s brother, Nazar, a professional soldier who will be 29 on Saturday, stopped giving news. « We hope he’s alive, but we have no information, » she said, her throat tight, adding that her brother may have been taken prisoner by the Russians.

« I asked questions to the Red Cross, I filled out all the government questionnaires, but we got no information, » says the young woman. And since he has “value” as a professional military, Russia tells us nothing either. When she heard that unmarked graves and torture chambers had been discovered in the recaptured area near Kharkiv, her breath caught, she said.

“I try not to think that maybe it’s my brother, sobs Oksana Osmachko. I don’t understand why this happens, why people want to kill other people because they are Ukrainians. » For safety reasons, The duty agreed to keep quiet about the circumstances under which Nazar was allegedly taken captive.


In kyiv, Eugene Kolomiiets, like his wife, continues to believe fiercely in a victory for Ukraine. « I have no doubts, » says the soldier. I don’t know when, but it’s only a matter of time. »

Even though the war has moved away from the capital, sirens still sound there almost daily, and sometimes several times a day, which reminds the inhabitants that they could be the target, at any time, of a Russian attack. “But we resumed a semblance of normal life, specifies Iryna. There are traffic jams, cafes and restaurants are open as usual. »

In central Ukraine, Oksana Osmachko is equally confident that her country will be victorious. But she deplores the corruption, which paralyzes the Ukrainian army and which puts the security of the soldiers at stake. « Everything is not as good as our media say », she denounces.

The training offered by the army and the equipment provided do not always live up to what is promised, she says. » When [des militaires] witness corruption and realize that it can cost them their lives,” it becomes difficult for them not to be critical of the military, she says. A cohesion that will however have to be maintained in order to be able to accumulate victories on the ground.

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