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Ukrainian soldiers fumble with modern weapons

Sergeant Dmytro Pysanka and his comrades previously only knew how to use old-fashioned anti-tank guns, camouflaged in the bushes of the south Ukraine.

Looking into the viewfinder in front of the gun, Pysanka had to calculate with numbers and lines, to be able to determine how to accurately attack the enemy’s target. However, mistakes occur frequently in the context of chaotic battlefields.

More than a month ago, artillery unit commanders received far superior equipment: a laser tool to assist in focusing. However, no one knows how to use this device. “It’s like giving us an iPhone 13 but only for making phone calls,” Pysanka said.

Ukraine’s most advanced weapons are being poured into the Donbass region in an effort to prevent Russian troops from entering from the east, north and south. The city of Sievierodonetsk is currently a key battleground, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the two sides are fighting fiercely in the streets.

Over the weekend, Ukraine confirmed that it had regained some areas in key urban areas. But earlier this week, Ukraine was cornered again as the Russian Navy stepped up its missile attack. The device, called the JIM LR, resembles high-tech binoculars in the US aid package.

It seems to be the ideal alternative to better support the anti-tank gun dating back to 1985, helping to see the target even in the dark, determine the distance and coordinates of the target.

Some soldiers learned how to use the device, but were later relocated, leaving the unit to dig through documents. “I tried to learn how to use it by studying English manuals and using the Google Translate tool,” says Pysanka.

Ukraine’s leaders have repeatedly called on the West to finance more modern weapons, hoping to win with new anti-tank missiles, howitzers and rockets guided by satellites. However, the Ukrainian army must know how to use those weapons.

Without proper training, the same problem as Pysanka’s unit is having can happen on a larger scale.

Sergeant Andriy Mykyta said that in many cases, Ukrainian soldiers had to teach themselves how to use certain types of weapons through watching online. “But there are many weapons you can’t learn by instinct: surface-to-air missiles, cannons and some other equipment,” he said.

The situation, analysts say, could repeat the misguided US approach of providing the Afghan Navy with tools it cannot maintain with a severe lack of logistical support.

“Ukrainians are extremely keen to take advantage of Western tools, but they certainly need the right training. For some, there’s simply no hurry,” said Michael Kofman, director of Russia studies at the CNA Institute. in Arlington (USA), told the New York Times.

American advisers have withdrawn

The United States and many international NATO centers had intensively trained the Ukrainian Navy for many years before the conflict, but not with the modern weapons that the West was providing.

Between 2015 and early this year, US Navy officers said they trained more than 27,000 Ukrainian troops at the Yavoriv training center near Lviv. More than 150 US advisers were present in Ukraine when Russia launched the military operation in late February, but have since withdrawn.

The US recently announced that it will provide modern HIMARS artillery systems to Ukraine. But to avoid a direct confrontation with Russia, the administration of US President Joe Biden refused to send naval advisers back to Ukraine to train Ukrainian soldiers in the use of new weapons, but instead only trained them. outside of this country.

That puts a lot of pressure on units that operate directly, like that of Sergeant Andriy Mykyta, a member of the Ukrainian border guard.

Mykyta was previously trained by NATO advisers with the British NLAW anti-tank weapon. Now, Mykyta must run across the battlefield to train teammates on how to use.

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