Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stealth war of attrition may be paying off. As evidence mounts that pro-Russian separatists are being supplied with new weapons from across the border, some Ukrainian soldiers are now refusing to fight.
In Novoazovsk, a Ukrainian unit staring down tanks, artillery and infantry personnel responded to shelling by sitting down, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
“Anybody who refuses to fight, sit apart from the others,” a commander from the 9th Brigade from Vinnytsiaordered, The Times reported. Eleven men obliged.
“Some troops were in a full, chaotic retreat: A city-busload of them careened past on the highway headed west, purple curtains flapping through windows shot out by gunfire,” The Times said.
The newspaper said that the presence Russian troops in the northern border town of Novoazovsk constitutes a “third front” in the battle for control over eastern Ukraine.
“Russia is clearly trying to put its finger on the scale to tip things back in favor of its proxies,” a senior American official told The Times. “Artillery barrages and other Russian military actions have taken their toll on the Ukrainian military.”