DONETSK REGION, Ukraine — For the Ukrainian soldiers battling Russia’s offensive, signs of renewed Western support are more than just diplomatic results.

“I can tell you that your money is not wasted here,” said First Sgt. Dmytro Pryimak, a tank commander in the eastern Donetsk region where Kyiv’s troops are struggling to hold back Moscow’s military.

He spoke to NBC News on the ground from a remote area several miles from the front lines, where Abrams tanks provided by the United States are being repaired and refitted for battle.

“We see all this support that the U.S. and all the other allies are providing to us and we appreciate it. Because you fund us, we can maintain our vehicles, we can buy new equipment and we can protect ourselves,” Pryimak said.

The Kremlin’s forces are pushing forward in a number of hot spots across this industrial heartland, which President Vladimir Putin laid claim to again Friday as he outlined Russia’s demands to begin peace talks.

Dmytro Pryimak onboard an Abrams tank close to the front lines in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region.
Dmytro Pryimak onboard an Abrams tank close to the front lines in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region. Marc Smith / NBC News

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rejected what he said was little more than an ultimatum to give up territory to his country’s invaders. Ukraine has been buoyed by a 10-year security pact and new military aid from the U.S., the loosening of restrictions on its use of Western weapons, and allied support at the G7 summit and then a weekend peace conference.

But with Russia absent from that gathering in Switzerland and some key developing powers declining to sign up to a joint communique, there was little sign of a way forward beyond prolonged war.

‘It will devastate us if we stop now’

Zelenskyy will nonetheless see this flurry of activity as a significant show of support, a galvanized response after months in which his country’s backers seemed to be wavering.

The war’s front lines have scarcely shifted in 18 months, but Ukrainian soldiers say this is only down to their continued fight — and the support they now feel once again in both words and weapons. 

Pryimak said the idea that the war had reached a stalemate was an “illusion,” and insisted U.S. aid was helping Ukraine defend ground it would otherwise have lost to Russia. 

“Once we cede more territory to Russia, it will not stop,” he added. “We can have some temporary cease-fire, it will last for several months, or for one year or for two years. But in the long run, Russia will come again, more prepared with more equipment, and it will devastate us if we stop now.”


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