When he’s not engaged in gun battles with Russian-led forces on Ukraine’s eastern front line, Stas, a scruffy 26-year-old soldier, likes to cozy up in his bunker and brush up on his English skills by watching Stephen Colbert and Saturday Night Live. He cracks up at Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of President Donald Trump.
Watching political satire on American TV — when he’s able to get a strong enough signal on the battlefield to access YouTube — is also how Stas learned that Trump had frozen $391 million in US security aid meant for the Ukrainian armed forces over the summer. The news made him angry. The fighting was hot at the time, and he and his fellow soldiers were stuck with mostly crappy, old gear.
“Look at this. It’s old and falling apart,” he complained of his Ukrainian government–issued bulletproof vest in accented English. It was barely stitched together and slouching on one side. “It’s a piece of shit.”
There’s one thing Stas and the soldiers in Ukraine’s 72nd Mechanized Brigade positioned in the village of Novooleksandrivka do have, which they say has helped them spot enemy soldiers who creep within grenade-throwing range of their trenches at night: a pair of US-made night vision sights.
The only problem? They don’t fit on the Ukrainian rifles.
He explained that “they would definitely be more effective if we had them on our rifles,” which is impossible without a special adapter. He demonstrated how he has to hold the sight in one hand, pick a target, lower the device from his eye, and try to remember where he was looking as he aims and fires his weapon. Despite all this, an extra pair or two would be good, he said.
He wondered: Would his brigade have gotten at least another sight if the security aid hadn’t been held up? If only Americans knew how much the equipment would help…
“Nobody in your country knows what’s happening here,” Stas continued, waving his arms in frustration. “They don’t know how we are fighting for our lives with almost nothing.” [Continue reading…]