After a year of war, Kupol, a lieutenant colonel, said his battalion is unrecognizable. Of about 500 soldiers, roughly 100 were killed in action and another 400 wounded, leading to complete turnover. Kupol said he was the sole military professional in the battalion, and he described the struggle of leading a unit composed entirely of inexperienced troops.
“I get 100 new soldiers,” Kupol said. “They don’t give me any time to prepare them. They say, ‘Take them into the battle.’ They just drop everything and run. That’s it. Do you understand why? Because the soldier doesn’t shoot. I ask him why, and he says, ‘I’m afraid of the sound of the shot.’ And for some reason, he has never thrown a grenade. … We need NATO instructors in all our training centers, and our instructors need to be sent over there into the trenches. Because they failed in their task.”
He described severe ammunition shortages, including a lack of simple mortar bombs and grenades for U.S.-made MK 19s.
Even with new equipment and training, U.S. military officials consider Ukraine’s force insufficient to attack all along the giant front, where Russia has erected substantive defenses, so troops are being trained to probe for weak points that allow them to break through with tanks and armored vehicles.