In a snow-covered field in western Poland, Ukrainian soldiers are being trained in trench warfare, just days before being sent to the front in what has become a grinding war of attrition against Russia.
Reuters was among a number of media organizations invited this week to watch the training, which was conducted by soldiers from Poland, France and Belgium, in Wedrzyn, around 40 kilometers from the German border.
“Most of the people have actually no military experience and they are taught how to execute some basic tactics,” said one Ukrainian soldier. “We are taught how to use weapons in urban areas and in trenches.”
The training was conducted by the Combined Arms Training Command, which was established as part of the European Union’s efforts to aid Ukraine’s military. Exercises have been held in 24 out of the bloc’s 27 member states.
“We will keep adapting because the situation on the battlefield is changing every day,” said Lieutenant General Michiel van der Laan, Director General European Union Military Staff.
Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and now controls nearly a fifth of its territory. A Ukrainian counteroffensive, under way since June, has made no major breakthrough.
Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief General Valery Zaluzhnyi has said the war is moving towards a new stage of static and attritional fighting which could allow Moscow to rebuild its military power.
Operations could be further complicated by the weather as the bitter winter cold sets in.
“I would say that winter is the most demanding season when it comes to the war. It severely limits our movement and manoeuvrability while the enemy clearly sees us through heat cameras and drones,” said the Ukrainian soldier.
A second Ukrainian soldier said the training the troops were receiving in Poland would help them make progress in the counteroffensive.
“Fighting in the trenches is one of the most important elements in this war... I think that improving skills in this area will help our soldiers succeed on the battlefield,” he said.