According to a retired U.S. Marine fighting in Ukraine, the frontlines are a “meat grinder,” and soldiers typically live an average of “four hours.”
Troy Offenbecker has joined the fight against Moscow with Ukrainian forces in the Donbas region, where Russia has been fighting to capture the city of Bakhmut and has slowly been making gains in the area.
Back in January, Germany estimated that Ukraine was losing a “three-digit number” of soldiers every day during the fight for Bakhmut. Three months ago, when that estimate was released, President Joe Biden and his administration believed that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was being too careless with Ukrainian lives in his defense of the city.
Offenbecker’s comments make one suspect that the situation is getting more dire for the Ukrainians.
“It’s been pretty bad on the ground. A lot of casualties.” Offenbecker said. He added that “the life expectancy is around four hours on the frontline.”
The marine went on to say that Moscow’s attack on Bakhmut has been relentless and that Russian forces show no sign of letting up. “[The artillery] is nonstop,” Offenbecker said. He added that Russian forces fight around the clock and said, “[The Russians] have maybe run into a shortage of shells lately, but the past couple of weeks, it’s been nonstop. All day and night.”
Russian forces are not the only ones potentially facing a shortage of artillery shells, with NATO telling Zelensky last month that Kyiv’s allies are struggling to find more shells to send to Ukraine. According to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the U.S. will begin training Ukrainian troops in fighting methods that require fewer munitions.
Western leaders are anticipating a Russian offensive either this winter or spring after the Kremlin ordered a mobilization of 300,000 troops last year. Offenbecker agrees with Ukrainian officials who believe that the much anticipated Russian offensive is now underway. “With the amount of shelling, the amount of armor that they’ve brought in, I think it’s started,” he said.
With both Kyiv and Moscow keeping casualties close to the vest, it is unclear how significant the death toll is for each country. Since the beginning of the war, Zelensky has nationalized his nation’s media, imprisoned citizens who have opposed his administration, and outlawed his political opposition.
Regarding the state of Ukrainian journalism, press union leader Serhiy Guz, “We never know what’s the basis of these accusations, what’s the pro-Russian link…It starts to look like a political accusation rather than a genuine crime.”
“A lot of journalists self-censor now,” Guz concluded.