Freezing to death, sub zero trenches & ice-encrusted uniforms – how Ukraine is facing down Putin brutal winter offensive

Freezing to death, sub zero trenches & ice-encrusted uniforms – how Ukraine is facing down Putin brutal winter offensive

FROZEN trenches, ice-encrusted uniforms and total exhaustion – brave Ukrainian defenders are facing down Putin’s brutal winter offensive.

As winter firmly sets in along Ukraine’s front lines, Russia’s grinding war of attrition remains at a painful stalemate.

GettyUkraine is battling to hold off Russia’s winter offensive in the east[/caption]

NewsflashThe brutal stalemate fighting summons images of the worst battles of World War One[/caption]

AlamyUkrainian troops look half frozen as they soldier on through minus temperatures[/caption]

Horror footage from Ukraine’s frozen front lines shows its troops not just battling Russia, but the winter itself.

Temperatures in eastern Ukraine are hitting below -5C, uniforms and weapons are coated in ice, new trenches can’t be dug and soldiers look half-frozen to death as they march through snow storms.

Kyiv’s military looks weary and cash-strapped as the second anniversary of the war approaches – but it’s still fighting on.

In scenes likened to the savage battles of World War One, thousands of soldiers from either side are dying over just miles of land.

And the winter is only likely to reinforce the misery.

Six months into Ukraine’s counteroffensive, underway since June, and no major breakthroughs have taken place.

Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief, General Valery Zaluzhnyi, recently described the war as moving towards a new stage of static, attritional fighting.

“Just like in the First World War we have reached the level of technology that puts us into a stalemate,” he said.

This kind of war, the general added, will allow Russia the time to rebuild its military power and strike back at Ukraine hard.

At present, Kyiv says its counteroffensive will continue through the winter, even if its primary objectives have failed.

Meanwhile, Moscow is relentlessly pursuing an offensive in the east, is throwing troops into meat-grinder battles for the cities of Avdiivka, Kupiansk, Lyman, and Mariinka.

Ukraine’s military estimates Russia lost 6,260 soldiers just in the week of November 20-26, almost 1,000 a day.

Neither side is succeeding.


Brutal sub-zero temperatures have set in, which complicates offensive actions for both sides by limiting their movements.

Russia still controls nearly a fifth of Ukraine’s territory and experts argue that the heavily dug-in, fortified and land-mined front lines hasn’t truly moved since summer.

Volodymyr Zelensky recently voiced his dissatisfaction with the counteroffensive, stating: “We did not achieve desired results. And that is a fact.”

Ukraine has admitted it has taken less than 100 square miles of land back, while Russia has suffered catastrophic losses in a continued costly eastern offensive.

More than 21 months into the war and Ukraine is still facing an enemy with an endless supply of conscript soldiers, however badly trained, and huge weapon’s stockpiles, regularly refreshed.

Ukraine is running out of money and time appears to be heavily on Vladimir Putin’s side.

“Last year, people were more or less optimistic,” said Solomiia Bobrovska, a Ukrainian MP who serves on the national security, defense and intelligence committee.

“But these days, they are exhausted. They are asking, ‘When will the war end?” she told NPR.

Ukraine’s military does not release casualty figures, but the US estimates their losses at 70,000, with 130,000 injured.

The UK Ministry of Defence puts the number of Russians killed at roughly the same, but with 250,000 wounded.

“Ukraine is in the worst position it has been in since it staved off the Russian invasion last year,” Retired Colonel Richard Kemp warned in The Sun yesterday.

He blamed lacklustre Western military support for their current losses.

He wrote: “Having seen it first hand on the front lines, I can’t fault Ukrainian military prowess.

“But the resolve of Western countries to give them the tools they need to finish the job has been sorely lacking. Heel-dragging is an understatement.”

Kyiv has voiced its criticism of waning Western military support as its allies have turned their focus towards Israel’s war in Gaza and the US’s last round of aid is due to run out at the end of the month.

In Congress, President Biden is still struggling to get an extra $111billion military package approved, while fears over Donald Trump winning the US election loom.

The White House issued a warning this week that if US aid for Ukraine runs out – they will lose the war.

AlamyThe UK MOD says Russia has lost 70,000 troops – the same as Ukraine[/caption]

AlamyThe US has warned that Ukraine will lose the war if American military aid stops[/caption]

APUkrainian servicemen board a boat on the shore of Dnipro river at the frontline near Kherson[/caption]

GettyUkraine has been making small break throughs across the Dnipro river and establishing bases inside enemy territory[/caption]


However, some military analysts take on a more positive outlook.

Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, a former commander of US Army forces in Europe, said the depressing narrative surrounding the war ignores Ukraine’s successful attacks on Crimea.

“The Ukrainians know that whoever controls Crimea wins this war,” he told NPR.

The annexed peninsula, captured by Russia in 2014, has been the target of Ukrainian special ops raids and an onslaught of sea drones and British-supplied Storm Shadow missiles.

A ferocious collection of weaponry, bravery and boldness has helped to turn Putin’s naval stronghold into an active war zone – exhausting the Russian war effort and making Crimea untenable to maintain control over.

Kyiv has been hitting military targets, including Putin’s prized £3billion Kerch bridge, in an apparent larger strategy of striking deep into Russia’s rear to disrupt supply lines and bring the war closer to home for Putin.

Colonel Hodges argues the pressure must remain on Crimea – which if it falls, could send the whole war spiralling into Ukraine’s hands.

He previously warned The Sun that the key for Ukraine has always been winning Crimea.

“That will be the decisive terrain. Once Crimea is liberated, it’s all over, it changes everything.

“Ukraine knows that it will never be safe without taking back Crimea.”

And yet terrifyingly this month, the Ukrainian military warned that Russia had stockpiled more than 800 missiles in Crimea alone and was preparing to fire them.


A major new flashpoint of the war is taking place along the 700-mile stretch of the Dnipro river that cuts Ukraine in half.

Ukrainian marines are now working to dominate the river and break through Russian defences on the other side, close to Kherson, Kozachyi and Krynky.

The river crossings, which only months ago were small special forces raids, have now exploded into full-scale offensive strategy.

Patrol boats dressed to the nines with anti-tank missiles, cannons, machine guns and grenade launchers have been wiping out any Russian opposition.

On Friday, the Ukrainian military claimed that its troops had fortified several bases inside the Dnipro’s Russian-occupied left bank – forming the most significant territory gain for Kyiv in weeks.

“The Ukrainian marines, in co-operation with other units of the defence forces, managed to gain a foothold on several bridgeheads,” the statement said.

On the other side of the river to Kherson, the city Ukraine liberated last November, important gains are being made.

Brave Ukrainian marines are facing up against Russian sea mines, artillery fire and bombs to try and establish bases inside enemy territory on its eastern riverbed and finally open a new front.

Up river from Kherson, marines are trying to drive Russia back 25 miles from the water to cut off Russia from supply lines and erect their own pontoon bridges to allow heavy machinery to be brought over.

“It’s like Vietnam, like a jungle. There are not many passages there,” deputy commander of Ukraine’s river fleet, Yaroslav Shevchenko, told The Times.

“Right now, our job is to look for routes to the left bank but the Russians have planted a lot of mines, and it’s very difficult to get there.

“In August I was blown up when my boat hit a mine. The boat sank. My guys thought I was dead, but I survived.”


In October, Putin responded to Ukraine’s troubled counteroffensive with a coordinated new set of deadly offensives in the east.

None has so far succeeded, but the Institute for the Study of War has shown that the assaults continue despite the snow and frost.

The worst of the fighting has been centred around Avdiivka, where Putin has thrown almost all he has at the key eastern Ukrainian city.

Since mid-October, Russian forces have been bearing down on the shattered city – known as the gateway to the major city of Donetsk that lies 12 miles to the east.

Now, the UK Ministry of Defence estimates 40 per cent of all fighting in Ukraine is concentrated on Avdiivka.

They believe Russia has committed up to eight brigades (around 40,000 soldiers) to a “major offensive effort” as Ukraine just about holds the line.

The heaving, costly fighting summons images of the brutal battle for Bakhmut just fifty miles down the line, where Russia and Ukraine are still engaged in the grinding tussle for the decimated city that so far has left 20,000 dead.

British military intelligence said the fighting in Avdiivka had contributed to “some of the highest Russian casualty rates of the war so far”.

But Moscow’s desperate bid to seize the city looks as if it might be finally paying off.

“Every day there are new fresh forces, regardless of the weather, regardless of anything – of losses,” one member of Ukraine’s 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade told Radio Liberty.

“But no matter what, they keep crawling, literally over the bodies of their own.”

Serhiy Zhuykov, a Ukrainian section chief and sniper currently stationed close to Avdiivka, told The Independent: “We try to stay but there are many, many Russian attacks on our army.

“It is difficult, very difficult.”

Elsewhere in the east, military analysts warn Russia will plough on with its bitter offensive deep into winter.

“The ground freezes, [but they will] try to make some moves because they’re desperate,” retired US colonel Seth Krummrich told Al Jazeera

“The soldiers won’t want to do it. It will be a disaster. There will be more dead bodies,” he said.

“Every single wave of soldiers that somehow survives and goes home, they’re telling everybody they can, ‘for the love of God, do not get pulled out to Ukraine’.”

GettyA Ukrainian tank drives along a frozen field last week close to Avdiivka[/caption]

GettyThe shattered eastern city has barely one building left intact after Russia’s recent onslaught[/caption]

GettyUkrainian troops are barely holding the line as Putin throws all he has at Avdiivka[/caption]

GettyPutin responded to Ukraine’s troubled counteroffensive with a coordinated new set of deadly offensives in the east[/caption]

AlamyPutin’s conscript soldiers are said to be terrified of being sent to Ukraine[/caption]

The winter is complicating offensive actions for both sidesRex

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