Ukrainian War: “We need serious equipment and more tanks”, says defending commander Severodonetsk | world news


It is dark in the bunker and the air is thick with smoke.

There’s not much room to move around with wooden crates full of weapons and cigarettes stacked in every available space.

Living conditions are hardly ideal but the commander of the Ukrainian Svoboda or Freedom Battalion does not seem worried.

His name is Petro Kuzyk, a former politician and environmental activist who now helps lead the defense of the city of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine.

Svoboda Battalion Commander Petro Kuzyk

We meet him in the nearby town of Lysychansk. As we arrive, he greets us with a smile and a six-pack of Redbull, then walks over to a pile of new shoulder-mounted rocket launchers.

“The difference between Soviet and Western weapons is that Soviet weapons have almost no safety systems,” he explains.

“And Western weapons have three, four, even five on each unit.”

Commander Kuyzk is not a fan of security systems. “This one (is) very easy to use,” he says as he picks up a weapon made in Spain. “Only one safety catch.”

He says he’s grateful for the supplies now coming into the country – and his bunker – but says the country’s allies are going to have to think on a different scale.

A Ukrainian soldier familiarizes himself with a new shoulder-mounted rocket launcher
A Ukrainian soldier familiarizes himself with a new shoulder-mounted rocket launcher

“We need serious equipment and need more tanks,” he adds. “Right now we are getting equipment for the infantry. Accordingly, we have to conduct guerrilla warfare.”

He offers a critique of his arsenal – that it’s not big or powerful enough.

“The (British) NLAW destroys a tank at a distance of 400 meters,” he says.

“The (American) Javelin does not work in a city where there is a lot of debris. Terrain conditions are needed. But the Russian tanks hit us at a distance of two kilometers and hide behind buildings.

“To destroy them, we have to ambush them under constant artillery fire. That means constant casualties.”

A soldier walks through the rubble in Lysychansk

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A brutal competition is now being waged. In footage provided to Sky News by the Svoboda Battalion, we see Russian tanks spraying the streets of the city with machine gun fire and shells – while Russian artillery pound buildings, factories and businesses.

Commander Kuyzk says they have retained, on average, 40-60% control of Severodonetsk, although the front line is constantly changing.

“The buildings we held yesterday will be destroyed by their artillery today. We must withdraw from there because there is no more sense.”

” It’s like that ? ” I ask. “Take a building and then it is destroyed.”

“Yes. Their tactic is that if they see Ukrainians holding a position, they don’t attack or capture the buildings. They just flatten them.”

Lysychansk was devastated

This is a major change for the Russians after trying to capture big cities like kyiv and Kharkiv with long columns of troops and equipment. Their expeditionary forces were quickly routed by the Ukrainians.

In Severodonetsk, the Russians used artillery to blow up three bridges that connect it to Ukrainian-held territory. The city is now cut off from all forms of road transport and many have predicted a complete withdrawal from Ukraine. Still, Commander Kuzyk says they were able to cope.

“Now that the bridges are down, we use boats, ropes, even swimming. The logistics are difficult. Either way, it’s our land and we shouldn’t give it to our enemy.”

The huge Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk
The huge Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk

Many concerns have been raised about the approximately 500 civilians taking refuge in the giant Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk. It is one of the largest facilities of its type in Europe, manufacturing fertilizers, methanol and household chemicals.

The battalion chief says the threat posed by the Azot plant is something everyone needs to start worrying about. He also thinks it’s the worst place to run to.

“They are at the most vulnerable place because sooner or later the factory will be destroyed. It will be a disaster because it has a large stockpile of chemical substances.

“It will be an ecological disaster for the whole region. If an unpredictable explosion occurs, there will be no city, no city defenders, no attackers. It will demolish everything.”


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