War amputees are returning to the frontline

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“When I got back from captivity, I realised the war wasn’t over,” said Mango, who like Odin and most Ukrainian soldiers goes by his military call sign for security reasons.
Reuters interviewed 20 military amputees for this article, seven of whom had returned to the army or intended to do so.
“The nature of the conflict is leaving lots of limb loss,” said Bloomfield, whose team has spent time with wounded Ukrainian soldiers to help them adapt to limb loss, adding that artillery barrages were a major cause of the injuries.
“The difference here again, for Ukraine, is that if you leave the military, your country is still at war.
Soldiers say they are outnumbered and outgunned along the 1,000-km front line in the east and south of Ukraine.
War amputees also receive payouts that vary according to the severity of the injuries.
While the traumas of the war remain, the 33-year-old is focusing on his future outside of the military.
Ex-soldier and lawyer Masi Nayyem, co-founder of Pryncyp, a human rights organisation representing soldiers, estimated that between 20,000 and 50,000 soldiers had become amputees in Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

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In an explosion caused by a mine last year, the lower leg of Ukrainian commander Odin was severed. That he is back in the trenches now.

The 32-year-old member of the 28th Separate Mechanized Brigade stated from a small bunker on the front lines in the eastern Donetsk region, “I had offers to go back to my local academy as a teacher or to work at a draft office in Odesa.”.

“I said that these positions don’t interest me. “.

Two years prior to his capture by the Russians, Mango, a 28-year-old tank gunner, witnessed his hand being torn apart by shrapnel during combat in Mariupol. A battalion in the Azov Brigade, which resisted for months in the defense of the southern city, has him back at the front as the logistics chief.

The exhausted and depleted army of Ukraine requires all the assistance it can get. Though under increasing pressure at other points along the front, it is being driven back by its much larger and more powerful enemy around the eastern city of Avdiivka.

Mango, who shares a military call sign with Odin and the majority of Ukrainian soldiers for security reasons, said, “When I got back from captivity, I realised the war wasn’t over.”.

“I am still useful even though I am unable to sit inside a tank. I can still put up a little fight. “.

Following Russia’s full-scale invasion in early 2022, thousands of Ukrainian soldiers have suffered limb losses, including the two soldiers in question. Leading military personnel’s human rights organization Pryncyp estimated that between 20,000 and 50,000 people had lost their legs in the conflict, despite the Kyiv government refusing to release statistics on casualties because it considers them to be sensitive.

Mines are everywhere on battlefields, and artillery and drone attacks are a constant threat, so the alarming number is steadily increasing.

Reuters spoke with twenty amputees from the armed forces for this story; seven of them had either rejoined or planned to rejoin. Many who are able still have a strong desire to help their struggling fellow soldiers in combat.

Co-founder of Pryncyp Masi Nayyem stated that it was not uncommon to see soldiers with prosthetic limbs remaining in service, but he was unsure of the number who had left the military and returned.

According to Nayyem, who lost an eye in combat in June 2022, the nature of their role will frequently depend on the severity of the wounds. According to Pryncyp, soldiers who have had amputations below the knee, for instance, are frequently considered fit for duty in support units but not in highly mobile or specialized roles.

Although it is usually exceedingly uncommon for soldiers who have lost a limb to return to combat, Tony Bloomfield, operations director at the British military charity Blesma for limbless veterans, stated that this was occurring in Ukraine.

Asserting that artillery barrages were a primary cause of the injuries, Bloomfield, whose team has spent time assisting wounded Ukrainian soldiers in adjusting to limb loss, stated that “the nature of the conflict is leaving lots of limb loss.”.

He stated, “Some of the Ukrainians we met want to go back and fight if they can.”. Once more, for Ukraine, the distinction is that even if you are not in the military, your nation is still at war. You also remain vulnerable to harm. “.

Restocking its ranks is vital for Kyiv.

Over the 1,000-kilometer front line in Ukraine’s east and south, soldiers claim they are outgunned and outnumbered. There were reports from some Ukrainian troops that they were outnumbered seven to one during Moscow’s months-long assault on Avdiivka.

While a mobilization bill aiming at drafting hundreds of thousands more troops has made its way through parliament only slowly, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed a bill this month lowering the draft age from 27 to 25.

In spite of their injuries and ability to live in relative safety away from the fighting, both Odin and Mango—career soldiers who served in the military prior to the Russian invasion—expressed feelings of guilt and responsibility for the soldiers they had left behind in the trenches.

Once he had recovered from surgery and prosthetic limb rehabilitation, Odin asked his superiors for permission to rejoin the fight without hesitation.

He is able to freely move up and down the trenches at his mortar position in Donetsk, interacting with other members of his unit and giving orders. He claims, though, that he still fears greatly setting off a mine while battling Russian forces.

Later, as he sat on a bed in the bunker and lifted his trouser leg to show his prosthetic limb, he declared, “Despite some saying everything was bad and that continuing a normal life was impossible, I’m living a full life.”.

He went on, “It’s just different twice a day: in the morning when I put on the prosthesis and at night when I take it off.”.

Mango was among several hundred Ukrainians who protected the Azostal steel plant during a final, ultimately ineffective attempt to save Mariupol before its collapse in May 2022.

He recalled the day of the injury, saying, “I wanted to check my watch to see what time it was.”. “When I lifted my hand, I realized my watch had disappeared. With protruding bones, my hand was in a shredded state. “.

It was difficult to persuade top brass that he still had a military role to fulfill. Mango stated he needed to request that his commander provide a report to the authorities verifying that he had a suitable position within the unit.

Mango, who hopes to have a bionic hand fitted so he can use artificial fingers, said, “At every medical check-up, there was always one surgeon who would ask if I had reconsidered my decision, and each time I said “No.”.

According to the amputees surveyed, transitioning back into civilian life can be particularly challenging for those who choose not to rejoin the military.

After leaving the army, one must navigate a new set of difficulties, such as navigating a town or apartment, looking for work, and interacting with non-amputee civilians who don’t always know how to treat them.

For those who lose limbs in combat, the government offers both rehabilitation services and top-notch prosthetics. Depending on the extent of their injuries, war amputees are also awarded different compensation. Funds are available for the upkeep of prosthetic limbs, and people can organize fundraisers for more sophisticated prosthetics like bionic hands either privately or through charities.

The government is not doing enough to assist amputees in finding work, according to Nayyem of the soldiers’ rights organization Pryncyp, and the initiatives that are in place are concentrated in large cities.

He said, “I mean, the state prioritized sending you to die, but they didn’t prioritize helping you recover when you got hurt.”. The injured are all aware of this. “.

He continued by saying that as long as there was no end in sight to the war, the number of people who would be directly or indirectly affected by amputations would only rise.

When questioned about complaints that it was not doing enough to support amputees, especially in the long run, the Veteran Affairs Ministry of Ukraine, which is in charge of managing amputees, remained silent.

In the course of fighting Russian forces during the southern counteroffensive last summer, Oleksandr Revtiukh was severely injured by multiple mine explosions, losing most of his left leg and arm. As a result, he is unlikely to ever fight again.

The 33-year-old is concentrating on his future away from the military even though the scars from the conflict are still present. The former electronics technician wants to establish a social media profile as an inspirational boxing coach for other amputees. He enlisted to fight months after Russia invaded the country in February 2022.

He urged them not to be scared to make mistakes. “Seek a way out; the stars are accessible via a path that passes through the thorns.”. My motto is this. “.

Thomas Peter wrote this.

The experienced fighter in front of him is struck viciously by a hook fired by Oleksandr Revtiukh. Eight months after fighting in Ukraine and losing his left arm and most of his left leg to mine explosions, he is back in the boxing ring.

Revtiukh responds with a growling stab. The life he knew is gone. Before returning to Ukraine to enlist and fight against the Russian invasion, he had lived a comfortable civilian life as an electronics technician abroad just two years prior.

A violent uppercut, roaring with the exertion. Trauma from the war remains. He must now come to terms with his loss and learn how to live without his amputated limbs.

During a break from training at a gym in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, the 33-year-old says, “It’s like being a newborn child.”. You must start from scratch in order to understand the world. “.

Among the tens of thousands of combat amputees from Ukraine who must adjust to a new life as civilians or return to the military is Revtiukh, who wears a prosthetic leg.

To promote her brother on social media, where he is attempting to establish himself as a role model for others in his situation, his sister Natasha records their sparring session with top Ukrainian boxer Aram Faniyan.

Reuters was told by Revtiukh, “I can’t be afraid to make mistakes.”. Seek for an escape route; there is a way to reach the stars through the thorns. This serves as my moto. “.

Revtiukh lost both his arms and legs in June of last year during the summer’s counteroffensive and came dangerously close to death. He left a well-paying job in Hungary in April 2022 to return to fight in Ukraine. While receiving state-funded surgery and rehabilitation, he benefited from his family’s support.

In a nation where numerous amputees claim that financial limitations, societal stigmas, and a dearth of employment prospects are making the transition more challenging, he will have to forge his own path for what comes after.

Masi Nayyem, a lawyer and former soldier who co-founded Pryncyp, a human rights organization that defends soldiers, calculated that since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, between 20,000 and 50,000 soldiers had lost both of their legs.

Since the military views the numbers as sensitive and does not release official figures, they will only increase as the war continues into its third year with no end in sight.

According to Nayyem, there were not enough jobs available for the injured, and the majority of programs created to assist them took place in urban areas, leaving injured soldiers stranded in small towns and rural areas.

What will happen to an individual who is not integrated? They will become depressed and unable to work. “.

The official data regarding the number of soldiers who have lost limbs was declined by the Veteran Affairs Ministry of Ukraine, which is responsible for managing amputees. After receiving initial hospital rehab with prosthetic limbs, it was criticized for not doing enough to assist amputees when they reentered society, but it did not address this criticism.

Rostyslav Prystupa, a former soldier who was left partially paralyzed after shrapnel struck his spine during combat in Mariupol, acknowledged that veterans also needed to learn how to support themselves in the civilian world.

“People will never learn to do things on their own if you constantly taking care of them,” he continued. You can’t take care of them in every way for the rest of their life. It will become necessary for me to handle it on my own one day, and nobody will be around to assist me. “.

Revtiukh is close to his family and was just at his parents’ house in Nizhyn, which is northeast of Kiev. His grandmother, who was waiting outside, hugged Revtiukh with tears in her eyes. She hadn’t seen him since his leg and arm were severed in two different mine explosions.

“Sasha, my tiny one. She sobbed, utilizing his first name in lowercase, “I thank God that you are alive.”.

Revtiukh detailed his injuries sustained during tumultuous fighting to retake territory from the Russians in the southern Zaporizhzhia region. He also mentioned setting off anti-personnel mines.

After one explosion, he remembered almost asphyxiating from the dirt and shrapnel in his mouth; however, a wounded soldier named Gleb, 22, cleared his airways and preserved his life.

The boxing enthusiast Revtiukh is currently attempting his hand at motivational coaching as he embarks on his journey into civilian life. Eventually, he hopes to work as a history teacher in his hometown of Nizhyn, in northern Ukraine.

Saying he and other veterans like him would set an example for the next generation, he has no regrets about the path he has taken.

They’ll look up to us as role models in the fight for liberty, free speech, and the protection of human life. “.

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