Ukraine's volunteer unit supporting the infantry on the frontline
Iolo ap Dafydd in Donetsk

In the year-long conflict in Ukraine, fighting has been going on along an almost 600-kilometer frontline. An estimated tens of thousands of lives have been lost on both sides of the conflict, although there has been no official confirmation of numbers.

CGTN Europe went to the Donetsk region and spoke to soldiers from Ukraine's 72 Brigade, a volunteer unit recruited from a city in western Ukraine, made up of both male and female soldiers.


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Entire villages and towns have been engulfed in the conflict causing extensive damage.

"The main thing is to hit the target. I like to work with Browning [machine gun] more as the DShK cracks sometimes. But mostly I just focus on the target," says Oksana Rubaniak, a Ukrainian riflewoman.

Eastern Ukraine is heavily militarized, with the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk currently the main battlegrounds. 

Soldiers are rotated from the fighting every five days and in between frontline duties, they train and practice their skills. They hope modern tanks and jets will be given by NATO countries.

"The main task of our platoon is to support the infantry with heavy machine guns," explains Oleh Koylyak, Sergeant, 72 Brigade.

"But since at this war, there's a constant lack of resources, sometimes we have to perform air assault tasks, shoot the planes, etc."


'We can push back the occupiers'

Volunteer units and the national guard are all part of Ukraine's armed forces and they train at the same locations. 

All basic equipment is funded by Ukraine's government but these units say they also depend on donations to buy specialist equipment like drones, night vision and sometimes even vehicles.

"Most of the time, really young people die, younger than 25. So, we want to get those weapons as soon as possible to be able to end this war," says Koylyak. 

"If we get enough military support, we can push back the occupiers from our country by autumn this year." 

Frontline women soldiers in Ukraine often attract attention. There is a deliberate policy to promote Rubaniak, 20, to attract donations internationally. 

"I think that the war will be long. We may not have even reached the middle yet,' warns Rubaniak.

"Every day we lose those who've been fighting since day one," she adds.

Ukraine's industrial heartland is being destroyed, homes are being bombed and burned, but the full human cost of this conflict is yet to be calculated. 

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