'50/50 chance of dying': Soldiers fight for 'Ukraine's future' despite dwindling supplies

When Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, international support for Kyiv was quick and generous.

But two years on, it's hard to avoid the sense that President Zelenskyy's government is running short of aid, weapons, and men of fighting age.

Video report by Europe Editor James Mates and words by Natalie Wright, Foreign Producer

This week marks two years since the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. Towns and cities across the country still frequently receive the deadly morning alarm of rocket attacks or explosions from drones. But the real slog is in the snowy, muddy trenches in the East and the South. Ukraine is running low on ammunition, on equipment and due to high casualty numbers on the front line, low on numbers of fighting men. The 3rd Assault Battalion is renowned in Ukraine as a fierce and elite unit. As a result, it is seen as somewhat of a prize to fight as one of them. At their training centre for new recruits in Kyiv this week ITV News met two men who told us their reasons for signing up. As with most men in the armed forces there they are known by a call sign.

Greyhound says the choice to fight Russia is an easy one: 'They hate Ukrainian's and I am Ukrainian. If I do nothing, I will be destroyed.' Credit: ITV News

'Greyhound' and 'Prince' are both more than aware of the severe danger to their lives. ‘Prince’ tells us that most of his family don’t yet know that he has signed up and that he knows "there is a percentage chance of dying. Maybe like 50/50 yes or no. But I’m OK with that. Totally. If you call yourself a patriot then you’ve got to be there." His message to his fellow Ukranian men is one of encouragement. "Come and join us. This is your mission. This is your duty."

At the same training exercise ‘Greyhound’ tells us of his hopes for the future of Ukraine.

He said: "For me the most important reason, my biggest value is the next generation. I am ready to do everything for them. I am only one person and there are millions of children. For me, the children are the most important. And the Ukrainian mind of the children, I want them to be Ukrainians not Russian."

'Maybe it is like 50/50 yes or no, I am okay with that,' Prince said to ITV News when asked if he worried about dying. Credit: ITV News

Further into the centre of Kyiv is a cemetery adorned with flags fluttering in the icy wind. The blue and yellow of Ukraine and the red and black of the resistance are ubiquitous in this land.

There we speak to Kateryna Reutska looking up at a huge poster of her father Mykhaylo.

This time last year he was the highly respected commander of a platoon in the vicious battle for Bakhmut. As the Russians swept in and took the city, Mykhaylo stayed put allowing his men to escape. He was killed but his bravery saved many lives.

He was rewarded posthumously with the title of Hero of Ukraine.

Ukraine does not release official figures on those killed in battle but independent analysts estimate it to be more than 30,000 over the past two years.

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Kateryna appreciates that she is not alone in this grief.

“Of course, I think that my dad is special because he was my dad, but I realise that we have a lot of heroes like that. And it is thanks to them that we can now speak Ukrainian, that we live in Ukraine, not Russia, and I hope that all the occupied territories will return home thanks to their contribution. Because they gave the most important thing; their lives.”

She is a daughter in mourning but she is, above anything else, proud of the legacy her father leaves behind. She is now working hard to raise money for those fighting on the front lines. “I am driven by love and by hatred for the Russians because they took away the most precious thing from me; my father. I am very sorry that my father will not see the end of the war because he is someone who did everything possible for that to happen.” There will inevitably be many more Mykhaylos. In just the last few days the Russians have gained control of the destroyed city of Avdiivka and are pushing to advance further west. A year ago there was optimism that Ukraine could win but time is not on their side.

For now, this war is not even close to being over and every day it continues there will be more casualties, more destruction and more loss.

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