Ukraine Front Line is “Horror. Genocide. Slaughter”, Says Irish “Rambo” Who Is Leaving after 17 Months

Sky News international correspondent John Sparks spoke to an Irish volunteer, Rhys Byrne, who has been fighting on the frontline in the east of Ukraine for 17 months and is now leaving Ukraine “due to witnessing atrocities,” Sparks reports. Byrne called the fighting he witnessed “horrific.”

“On ‘Zero Line’ it’s horror. It’s horror. There is just a genocide. It’s slaughter”, says Rhys Byrne, codename ‘Rambo’, a 28-year-old from Dublin. Byrne fought for the 59th brigade in the Ukrainian territorial army, where he operated a heavy machine gun, Sparks reports.

“There are dead people everywhere. Russians dead. Ukrainian people dead…. the biggest problem we get when we’re going into trenches is stepping over all the dead bodies that are already there from the last people [who] went in – that kind of stuff really haunts you.”

Byrne and a fellow volunteer had decided to leave Ukraine after experiencing “the final straw” that nearly got him killed: an encounter with a Russian tank.

“We were told there was a Russian trench line and our job is to go into the trenches and clear them out and hold them until the auxiliary units come and then we go back.” Byrne said his unit, consisting of 40 Ukrainians, Americans and Britons, were taken to an area near the front or ‘Zero Line’ with no air cover or drones. A pair of Ukrainian tanks withdrew, leaving them with no support.

When they saw another tank approaching, they assumed it was friendly – but it was a Russian tank, which opened fire on their position. “Those who survived took cover in the woods,” Sparks reports.  The dramatic footage recorded of the Irishman’s body camera documents the incident.

The volunteers were rescued by a Ukranian Humvee pick-up under fire as the enemy tank began to chase them.  “Now we have the tank literally coming out, starting to chase us. And that’s terrifying when you see a big T-72 coming for you and you’re in a Humvee pick-up.  Yeah, it’s like a hot knife through butter. You’re finished. So, again, all of us are screaming, drive the Humvee, drive the Humvee. I was going mental.”

Byrne saw a Russian shell sail over their heads.  “We are not supposed to be alive. I mean, we were closer than close to death, it was closer than close… it was really f***** up.”

Sparks spoke to Byrne at a shelter for international volunteers run by New Zealander Pastor Owen Panoma, who called the shelter “a source of some sort of support, you know, to sit there, where are you from? You got kids? You know, basically to take their mind off the war.”

Many of the volunteers are haunted by what they have been through, Panoma says:  “They sleep talk. They scream. At night-time you come out to go to the toilet, ‘you guys alright?’ and the guys wake up. You know, they don’t realize what they’re doing. They may not be aware of what they’re actually doing because it’s quiet here, out there it’s not.”

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