DONETSK REGION, Ukraine - Soldiers are battling trench foot while the rain and snow have turned roads to mud and ongoing power outages have led many to question how they will manage to endure the coming cold as winter descends on the front lines in eastern Ukraine.
But despite the cold and miserable conditions in Donbas to the east, the Russians just keep coming, according to Ukrainian forces near the front lines.
“They’re like zombies. You shoot them and more come constantly,” a 30-year-old Ukrainian soldier with the call sign Kit, which means whale, told AFP.
Fighting on the front is only getting colder and more wet as the first snows have dusted the area and melted in addition to the sheets of freezing rain that drench the region almost daily.
“I’m suffering from the rain. We literally live in a marsh. Yesterday, I went to the hospital and looked like a big pile of mud.” said Kit.
Other soldiers told AFP that many troops were beginning to suffer from trench foot, a medical condition associated with swelling and numbness of the feet that also afflicted large numbers of soldiers in World War I.
“Infantry is the heart of every army and they suffer a lot,” Taller, the nickname for a 24-year-old fighting with a special forces unit in Donbas, told AFP following a recent training session.
“Their boots are always wet. They sleep very sporadically. Sometimes they have trouble with food supplies,” he added.
Morale ‘extremely high’
To help fight back against the arrival of winter, volunteers near the front have organised sprawling depots full of donated supplies that are provided to nearby units.
At one distribution centre in the city of Sloviansk, Slava Kovalenko said he hands out thousands of kilogrammes of goods a week, including clothing, basic medications, candles and canned food.
“Warm clothes are in high demand, long underwear, flu medicine, medicinal tea, pain killer...