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Friday, March 31, 2023

American Fighting In Ukraine Shares Cruel View From Frontline Trench

A video captured by an American fighting in Ukraine shows the intense daily combat experienced by all soldiers.

James Vasquez is a US Army veteran on Tuesday celebrated its one year anniversary to help repel Russian aggressors in Ukraine. He regularly posts war videos on his Twitter account, which has amassed over 444,000 followers.

As he fights abroad, support at home for continued US aid to Ukraine is waning. A poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and released in mid-February found that 48 percent of Americans polled supported sending more US arms to Ukraine — up from 60 percent in the first three months of the war.

American support for Ukraine’s recapture of the Crimean Peninsula has also dwindled. A recent survey for news week found that just 28 percent of respondents said Kyiv should seek to regain all territory lost since February 2014 before a peace settlement — a view strongly shared by Republicans like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Vasquez’s latest video, released Wednesday, shows his vantage point from a wooded area. Shot against a backdrop of a hail of bullets, Vasquez takes cover in a trench that is “in a hot zone.” He says that one of his vehicles is constantly firing at the enemy.

warning: Some viewers may find this video disturbing.

He points in a straight direction and explains that Russian soldiers are nearby.

There’s a dead Russian soldier lying about 12 feet from me,” he said while zooming in on the body.We expect others to come shortly.

The video had been viewed over 462,000 times as of Wednesday morning. The location could not be verified by news week.

The Connecticut native decided in March 2022 to go to Ukraine and support her cause. He told News 12 Connecticut last June that there was no option for him not to go, especially knowing that his grandmother fled Soviet-controlled Latvia during World War II.

He collected medical supplies, military gear and renewed his passport – and reportedly even shipped his Jeep overseas while selling numerous other belongings in preparation.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do, where I was going,” Vasquez said last summer. “I just knew that somehow I would make it to the front.”

He flew to Poland and then to Ukraine where he eventually met other soldiers through contacts he had. His first forays were helping clear villages outside of Kiev before taking on heavier action in Donetsk Oblast in eastern Ukraine.

After US military service, Vasquez teamed up with retired US Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Ripley “Rip” Rawlings to provide local support through a foundation called Ripley’s Heroes.

In July, the two testified before the Helsinki Commission, a US government agency made up of congressmen and federal officials.

Vasquez is among an unidentified number of Americans who traveled to Ukraine to fight.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba said in a March 2022 statement that more than 20,000 volunteers had already joined to fight alongside Ukrainians, including “an estimated several thousand” American citizens.

One was a US Army veteran from the Midwest who had previously fought in Iraq. He spoke to news week in October on condition of anonymity, calling the conflict “crazy” compared to what he had witnessed in the Middle East.

Others included US Marine Corps veteran Andy Huynh and US Army veteran Alex Drueke, both from Alabama, who were captured by Russian forces and tortured daily for 105 days, according to ABC News – including a month at a Russian “secret site.”

Retired US Marine Corps Colonel Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said news week that Kuleba’s estimates were likely much higher than the actual number of Americans fighting in Ukraine.

There are also no official statistics to determine such amounts.

“US citizens seem to be one and two,” Cancian said. “If it were several thousand, there would be entire units made up of Americans. It may be that during the year several thousand Americans cycled through Ukraine for one purpose or another, but the number of Americans on the front lines would be under 100 by my personal estimate.”

One reason for his low estimate, he added, is what he called reliable reports in the infancy of the war that the majority of foreign volunteers were deemed unfit to take part in the action.

“They had no military experience and were ineffective in combat,” he said. “Ukraine has introduced much stricter recruitment standards, so the numbers have fallen sharply. But the people who got through would be better suited.”

news week contacted Vasquez via email and social media, as well as the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs via email.

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