Ukrainians angry over handling of war

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Ukrainians angry over handling of war

KYIV, Ukraine - Russia's invasion in February prompted a wave of public support for the government of President Vlodymyr Zelenskyy, as millions of Ukrainians raced to defend their homeland. Four months later - amid Russian advances and spiking casualties - anger and frustration over the handling of the war is swollen.

Many Ukrainians who have family members fighting the invaders said they were upset with the military leadership for deploying inexperienced people to the front lines, and sending them into battle without as much as a medical or psychological examination.

"I am ready to protest," said Viktoriia Bilan-Rashchuk, 43, of Kyiv, whose husband, Volodymyr, has no previous military experience, is fighting on the eastern front line in Sievierodonetsk. She raised money to send his unit protective headphones, which are standard military equipment used to prevent hearing loss for soldiers firing off rocket systems.

The government isn't doing enough to support them. The longer this goes on, the more people will become upset, Bilan-Rashchuk said in Ukrainian, speaking through a translator.

Ukraine's defense ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Since Russia invaded in February, thousands of Ukrainians with no military background have volunteered to fight. In order to boost its war efforts, the Ukrainian government has banned men aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country in case it needs to start a draft. In May, Zelenskyy said the country's military had 700,000 service members, including women.

Through a relentless campaign of appearances, interviews and statements, Zelenskyy has fought to keep morale high among troops and the general public and plead the country's case to the international community. In an interview earlier this month, Mykhailo Podolyak, an aide to Zelenskyy, said that Russian artillery attacks have intensified in the east, pushing the Ukrainian military death toll to between 100 and 200 soldiers a day in combat, with at least 500 wounded every day.

In his daily address on June 14, Zelenskyy called the losses painful but said Ukrainians have to hold on. Ukrainian officials have maintained that troops are well taken care of, with adequate training, food, equipment and rest, despite the high death toll.

Some Ukrainians are angry about the lack of basic military equipment for those on the front lines because of the war. Military families have been forced to organize donation drives to send medical supplies and military equipment to the front lines.

Svitlana Lukianenko, whose husband worked in information technology before the war but is now fighting near Sievierodonetsk, worries that the Ukrainian military is not replacing the dead and injured soldiers fast enough, leaving her husband at greater risk with each passing day.

The government needs to mobilize more people, but they also need to train them. She said there was not enough training and it is a big problem. That is why we have such a high death toll. Zelenskyy has also dismissed reports that some front-line troops had poor protective equipment.

He said that the reports I receive are significantly different from what is discussed by society. He said that everyone in the areas of hostilities must have everything they need to protect themselves. The state provides such supplies. Luiza Dorner, 25, of Kyiv whose husband is fighting in the Donbas region, said that statements from Zelenskyy and other government officials have started to ring hollow. She said when she talks to her husband on the phone, she can hear the fear and exhaustion in his voice.