Heavy weaponry could turn the war in Ukraine’s favor

He has seen combat in West Africa, conducted training missions in Iraq and been rewarded for his exploits on the battlefield.

But the war in Ukraine is something else entirely, both in terms of the geopolitical stakes, which are enormous, and the scale of the destruction inflicted in less than three months.

“The amount of ordinances that have been fired in the last two months completely exceeds and eclipses the amount of ordinances and disasters that have been seen (in recent conflicts),” said Paul, a Canadian volunteer fighter who has requested that his full name not be used. For safety reasons. “It’s quite shocking.”

What he and others say they are looking forward to are the heavy weapons Western nations have promised to deliver to Ukraine.

As troops are fast-tracked through training in more modern and powerful foreign weapons, the hope is that these big guns will swing the battle against Russia.

“I think that’s going to change very quickly in Ukraine’s favor,” said Paul, a 27-year-old Ottawan who served with the French Foreign Legion in the Central African Republic, Niger and Mali, Dubai and Iraq.

In its third month, the war reached a sort of temporary stalemate, one in which the Russians and Ukrainians, armed with similar weapons, fired at each other with little restraint in bursts and firing retreats. the rope that move the front lines back and forth.

“It’s literally World War I in the modern era,” Paul said.

Another Canadian volunteer, Francis Dion, says the war has been greatly transformed from the urban fighting he experienced in March in Irpin, a suburb of Kyiv.

“It’s not the same war,” he told the Los Angeles Times from Ukraine in an interview published Friday. “It’s impossible. It’s a battlefield, trenches, artillery, constant artillery. It never stops.

One of the keys to overpowering the Russians will be the delivery of 155 millimeter howitzers.

The Russians and Ukrainians currently use a howitzer model with a range of between 15 and 21 kilometers, according to a report published this week by British security analyst James Rushton for the New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy.

The more modern M777 howitzers committed last month by the United States, Canada and Australia, as well as the self-propelled variants promised by France and the Netherlands, all have longer ranges than those used by the Russians.

The so-called Swedish Archer howitzers have a normal range of 40 kilometers and up to 60 kilometers with precision-guided shells that make them deadly accurate.

A US Department of Defense spokesman said this week that more than 80 of the 90 howitzers promised to Ukraine have already been delivered.

“We know some of them are used in combat because they’ve told us so,” John Kirby said.

Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand said last week that Canadian soldiers were among those training the Ukrainians on the M777 howitzers.

Their addition to the Ukrainian arsenal could be crucial in a city like Kharkiv in the northwest, which is trying to hold off invading Russian forces to the north and east.

If Ukraine can use its more powerful guns to force the Russians at a range of up to 60 kilometers, their own attack will be crippled, much like a boxer facing an opponent with a longer range.

“Russian artillery will simply lose the ability to strike,” Sergiy Grabskyi, a Ukrainian military expert, told Current Time TV.

Until then, it is a battle of blows exchanged on the front lines of the territories occupied by Russia. In Zaporizhzhia, where Russian forces are aligned to the south, authorities on Friday imposed a strict curfew from May 8 to May 10, covering the Victory Day holiday of May 9 on Monday.

The same warnings were issued in neighboring Mykolaiv.

“I think they will want to ‘congratulate’ us and intensify the shelling until May 9,” Mykolaiv Governor Vitaly Kim said.

Paul, who spoke to the Star from an undisclosed location in the south ahead of his first official assignment under Ukrainian command, said the situation was dire.

“Right now, Russia is sort of set up to take over the whole southern half of Ukraine, where all of its ports are and a lot of its manufacturing power is,” he said. declared.

A former recruiter for the Norman Brigade, a Western volunteer unit, he said he split from the group due to disagreements with the founder over security protocols and joined the International Legion of Ukraine with more than two dozen soldiers. other foreigners.

Those who had basic training in military service were directed to regular Ukrainian infantry units. Those with combat experience, like him, were siphoned off for a special selection process.

Paul is now part of a small group of foreign fighters with high security clearances and special, clandestine duties.

“We’re doing missions that won’t be in the trenches – that will be in front of the trenches or behind the enemy trenches,” he said.

His impressions so far are marked by the professional and cultural differences between the European and Western standards he is used to and those of some Ukrainian military leaders, who belong to the “very big old ‘shut up and do what I do’ corps”. tell you”. ‘”

This can lead to tricky situations best handled by translators and diplomats. But the overwhelming emotion is goodwill and gratitude.

“If they can see that you actually have something to give, that you’re not just wasting their time, they’re very, very grateful to the point that you’re hugging the generals – that kind of gratitude,” Paul said. .

“They have tears in their eyes sometimes. They can’t believe someone would fly from the other side of the world and spend their own money to come and fight with them. And that’s how it’s explained : we don’t fight for them; Were fighting with against the tyranny of Russia.

Allan Woods is a reporter in Montreal for the Star. It covers global and domestic affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @WoodsAllan

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