Ukrainian soldiers hope for Western arms to speed up counteroffensive

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NEAR BAKHMUT, Ukraine: Despite recent battlefield gains, Ukrainian soldiers fighting on the eastern front say they need more Western weapons to speed up their grinding counteroffensive against Russian forces.

Kyiv says it has in recent fighting recaptured two villages south of Bakhmut which will help its forces advance on the shattered eastern city occupied by Russian forces since May.

But troops taking cover in a bunker near Bakhmut this week said they were still heavily reliant on Soviet-era Grad multiple rocket launchers, and dream of receiving the more sophisticated US-made HIMARS rocket launchers.

“Things would be brighter, a lot more interesting if we had HIMARS,” one soldier, who gave his name only as Denys, said as explosions echoed nearby.

“Or at the very least one of those made Czech-made Vampires (rocket launchers),” he said.

The West has provided Ukraine with arms worth billions of dollars since Russia’s invasion nearly 19 months ago, and some Ukrainian troops have deployed Vampires and HIMARS.

But Denys echoed President Volodymyr Zelenskiyy, who is meeting global leaders at the U.N. General Assembly this week, by saying Ukraine needs yet more weapons to drive out Russian forces.

“We have to win. And set Moscow ablaze,” Denys said. “We need more weapons, more. Good weapons, more accurate weapons.”

Troops who spoke to Reuters near the front line said there was now more optimism than at the start of the war.

“The worst, most fearful times were when we thought they would come here, to our homes,” said a soldier called Ivan, his thoughts interrupted by a loud bang.

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