Army is still advancing but painfully slowly against an entrenched Russian enemy protected by minefields
By Matthew Day. 16 September 2023 •
As Alina Mykhailova, an officer and paramedic in the Ukrainian Army, spoke about how the killing of her commander had “orphaned” her unit, her pain was palpable.
“On losing this man, whom I loved so much and with whom I had shared so much, I realised that we in the battalion were now all orphans,” she said, wiping away tears while the audience before her struggled to contain theirs.
The sombre mood marked a stark contrast to the buoyant atmosphere at last year’s Yalta European Strategy conference, attended by the regional heads of state and government.
At the time of the 2022 gathering, Ukraine’s army had just started its first counter-offensive, liberating a swath of territory and persevering over Russian troops in an attack that had caught almost everybody off guard.
Toasts of ‘Slava Ukraini’ (glory to Ukraine) were shared because for the first time in a war that none of them had wanted, Ukraine was advancing, while the Russians were retreating.
Fast forward a year, and the Ukrainian Army is still advancing but painfully slowly against an entrenched enemy protected by minefields that sometimes can be over three miles deep. Last year, one person compared the fighting to El Alamein, the beginning of the end of the Second World War. This year, it has instead been compared to the bloody battles of the First World War.
“Perhaps the biggest difference from 2022 is that so many people have now died,” said Dmytro Natalukha, a Ukrainian MP attending the conference. “One in two people now know somebody who has died in the fighting. I’ve lost count of the number of my friends I’ve lost.”
One officer, speaking off the record, spoke about the toll that attacking across minefields against well-dug-in defenders without air cover had taken on his company. The men replacing those who had fallen, he added, lacked the same level of training and motivation. And, if the war drags on for one or two more years, the strain on Ukraine’s limited human resources could become immense.
But for all the death and suffering Ukraine has endured, it still remains defiant.
“The reason I fight is for revenge,” said Masi Neyyem, a soldier whose face still bears the scars he got from a mine blast in June last year. “I want revenge in the most horrific way that international conventions would allow. The more Russians die, the better it is. As a combatant I still have the right to kill the Russians. And this is what I want most of all.”
Victory at a cost
But even when victory comes – for the Ukrainians at the conference there was no “if” – it will be a bitter-sweet moment for a country that has already lost thousands of people and is bracing itself to lose many, many more.
“For me there will never be victory without the people we have lost standing beside us,” said Ms Mykhailova. “This is the sad reality. There will never be the victory I was craving for. We will not have anyone to celebrate it with. The victory will come at a very great cost because victory will be measured in people’s lives; the people you read about in the obituaries every day.”
Russia ‘stockpiling missiles’ for winter attacks on energy infrastructure
16 September 2023 •
Russia is stockpiling cruise missiles as it gears up for winter attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure, according to British intelligence.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) reports Moscow is increasing its production of rockets while deploying them less frequently, amid warnings that it intends to freeze Ukraine into submission
It said: “Since April 2023, ALCM [air-launched cruise missile] expenditure rates have reduced, while Russian leaders have highlighted efforts to increase the rate of cruise missile production. Russian is therefore likely able to generate a significant stockpile of ALCMs.
“There is a realistic possibility that Russia will again focus these weapons against Ukrainian infrastructure targets over the moment.”
It comes after Annalena Baerbock, the German foreign minister, warned Russia wanted Ukrainians to “freeze to death” as the cold weather draws in. Oleh Kiper, governor of the Odesa region, warned yesterday that it faced a “difficult” winter.
British volunteer feared murdered in Ukraine as body is found
Police are investigating whether corpse belongs to Daniel Burke amid rumours he had been shot by a fellow foreigner
By Colin Freeman 16 September 2023 •
The family of a British military volunteer missing in Ukraine have paid tribute to him as they revealed that police investigating his disappearance had discovered a body.
Daniel Burke’s mother, Diane, said that Ukrainian detectives were trying to confirm whether a decomposed corpse found in Zaporizhzhia in south-east Ukraine was that of her son, who vanished from his flat in the city five weeks ago.
Efforts were being made to check whether the corpse had Mr Burke’s distinctive tattoos, including insignias from his time serving with a Kurdish anti-Isis militia in Syria. “They are going to do DNA tests, and we will wait for the results,” she told The Telegraph. “It is heartbreaking.”
Mr Burke, from Manchester, was last seen on Friday, Aug 11, when CCTV showed him driving out of Zaporizhzhia in his pick-up truck with a fellow volunteer, Australian Nourine “Adam” Abdelfetah.
Police are now understood to be investigating the case as a murder. According to unconfirmed reports on online military chat groups in Ukraine, another foreign military volunteer has confessed to shooting Mr Burke during a military practice drill but claims it was done accidentally.
Mr Burke was a well-known figure among the foreign volunteers serving in Ukraine, some of whom he mentored. Originally from Manchester, he served with the Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan before leaving the Armed Forces to work as a builder. In the wake of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, he took up arms again with Kurdish anti-Islamic State forces before being among the first wave of British military volunteers to head to Ukraine.
His family said that while they had always feared for his safety in foreign warzones, they respected his choice to take the risks.
“Daniel just wanted to help people,” said his mother. “He has been in warzones from 2007 onwards, and when he was home, he was just a joy to be around. I had to respect it – for him, life would have been pointless doing a 9-5 job.”
His brother Chris added: “He’d have preferred to go the way he’s gone now, rather than working on a building site all his life and dying at the age of 80. It breaks my heart to say it, but he could never have done things any other way.”
The family said their grief had been made worse by a lack of communication from the authorities. His mother said she reported her son’s case to Greater Manchester Police when he first went missing but had been told there was little they could do. It was not until Friday night that they finally visited her in person and told her she would get a “family liaison” officer.
“I have had nobody official guiding us through anything. We get no help from the Foreign Office – they don’t really know anything because the Ukrainian police don’t seem to liaise with either them or our own police.”
Detective Superintendent Lewis Hughes, of Greater Manchester Police, said: “My team and I are working with the Ukrainian authorities to make formal identification with a view to repatriating Daniel following that process.”
To add to the mystery, she said that a social media account linked to Daniel’s phone was continuing to show online activity. “It was active online last Monday evening, and when I send messages on it I get a green tick, which means the messages have been accepted.”