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Ukrainian 'Grandpa' Leads Elderly Artillery Unit Against Russia

Photo : STRINGER/REUTERS

In the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine, Oleksandr Taran, known as "Grandpa" among his comrades, leads a unique battalion known as the Steppe Wolves. This group, primarily comprising Ukrainian men over 60 years old, operates as a mobile artillery unit, independently targeting Russian positions despite lacking official military status. With a mix of humor and determination, Taran explained that their operations are self-funded, relying on pension funds to sustain their efforts.

The Steppe Wolves are a volunteer force, filled with individuals considered too old for conscription but eager to contribute to Ukraine's defense against Russian aggression. Armed with truck-mounted rocket launchers, they operate behind the front lines, receiving orders from field commanders and collaborating with other units to support the war effort.

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Despite facing challenges such as limited resources and equipment, the Steppe Wolves persevere, relying on donations and repairing faulty ammunition themselves. Additionally, they utilize captured enemy weapons and ammunition provided by front-line troops to bolster their arsenal.

During a recent visit to their base, the Steppe Wolves were seen preparing rocket rounds, which were later utilized by another unit in combat. Their dedication and effectiveness in targeting enemy positions have earned praise from commanding officers, who appreciate their contributions to the ongoing conflict.

However, despite their success on the battlefield, the Steppe Wolves have faced obstacles in their attempts to formally integrate into Ukraine's armed forces. Despite efforts to join the military and gain access to official support and resources, they have encountered bureaucratic hurdles.

Interestingly, the Steppe Wolves also include younger men who, while deemed unfit for frontline combat, contribute in various capacities to support the unit's operations.

As Ukraine continues to grapple with the challenges posed by Russia's invasion and the strain on its military resources, President Zelenskiy recently approved measures to bolster the country's defense capabilities. These include expanding military recruitment efforts and tightening penalties for evasion. Additionally, the mobilization age was reduced from 27 to 25 in an effort to bolster Ukraine's fighting force.

However, Taran believes that genuine enthusiasm and willingness to fight cannot be compelled through coercion alone. Drawing from his years of experience in combat, he emphasizes the importance of intrinsic motivation and dedication in confronting the enemy. For Taran and his comrades, the fight against Russian aggression is fueled not by obligation but by a steadfast commitment to defend their homeland against all odds.

April 29, 2024 11:24 a.m. 4092

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