Conflicts & War

Artillery battles claim more unidentified Ukrainian soldiers

By Luis Lidón

Dnipro, Ukraine, Jul 2 (EFE).- A funeral can reveal many things, among them how the war in Ukraine has turned into a brutal artillery duel in which Russia has the upper hand. Of the 13 Ukrainian soldiers laid to rest in a Dnipro cemetery this week, eight were unidentified.

“A temporarily unknown defender of Ukraine,” reads the sign that accompanies the cross of these soldiers, whose bodies will undergo DNA testing.

Each Friday, mass funerals are held tat the city’s Krasnopilske cemetery — individual funerals are held daily. This Friday, of the 13 coffins draped in the Ukrainian flag, only five were buried in the presence of family and friends.

In the vast section of the cemetery dedicated to the soldiers killed in the war that Russia launched on February 24, there are dozens and dozens of unidentified graves. In recent weeks, they have become the majority.

In the absence of relatives, members of the military carry the coffins on their shoulders during the funeral.

Dnipro is a relatively safe city and less affected by the war compared cities in the eastern Donbas region, where most of the cemetery’s casualties lost their lives.

Among the identified bodies is Oleksiy Suvorov, a member of a combat engineering unit who died on June 20, aged 38, near Vuhledar, in the Donbas region.

Some of his colleagues have come to bid him a final farewell. His family were unable to travel to Dnipro as their home is now behind the front lines, in territory occupied by Russia.

“He died from a Russian artillery attack, from a Grad system,” the commander of his engineering unit says.

“His parents are now in occupied territory, in the Luhansk region, including his two-year-old son,” adds the soldier, who has just called them by phone to tell them that their son has been buried in Dnipro.

Fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine has come down to a constant exchange of artillery fire. Russia has the advantage in terms of equipment and ammunition.

Ukraine fires only a 10th of Russia’s daily 50,000 to 60,000 shells, according to the Ukrainian government sources’ estimations.

Russia’s slow advances in the Donbas region come after its artillery paves a path of obliteration. It is a scorched-earth tactic that leaves Ukrainian soldiers with little choice but to seek cover.

“Many of these soldiers have not been identified due to how brutal the war is now, much worse than before. They have been found without documents or anything that identifies them,” the commander says.

“In other cases, they are soldiers from body swaps, they were Ukrainian soldiers killed in areas now occupied by Russia and they were handed over without any documents that would allow us to know anything about them,” he adds.

Some people who come to say goodbye to their deceased relatives are so overwhelmed by grief that they cannot stand.

One of the wives leans on the coffin of her partner and hits it, another woman cries as she receives the folded Ukrainian flag that covered one of the coffins.

In the case of the unidentified soldiers, no one sheds a tear, although somewhere in Ukraine someone is probably wondering where their husband, father, brother or son is and no one is able to give them an answer.

“This is the price we pay for our independence,” says one of the soldiers who bid farewell to Oleksiy. EFE

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