The ex-British soldier is working with Ukrainian military reconnaissance units in the fight to retake the southern region of Kherson. He is the only three foreigners on the team.
Ayers, 48, told CNN, “The fighting was pretty intense and there was a lot of artillery fire.
Ayers suffered a severe shrapnel wound to his left leg on the second day of the counterattack, and four others were wounded from his unit.
But despite frontline casualties, he said Ukrainian forces were making slow but steady progress on the ground.
“It’s not fast. It’s a difficult, slow fight, meter by meter, position by position, because we don’t have the resources to do a massive blitzkrieg with artillery and masses of armor,” Ayers said. “So we must do it wisely and try to keep casualties as low as possible.”
So far, Ukrainians have claimed to have captured a handful of settlements in the Kherson area during the offensive, which British intelligence experts say was likely achieved through “some degree of tactical surprise”. said.
Ayers, from London, has fought alongside former U.S. Marine Michael Zaffer Ronin. Ronin was also wounded last week at the start of the counterattack, suffering shrapnel wounds to his head, stomach and hands.
The pair originally met while fighting alongside Kurdish fighters in Syria. They are currently recovering at a hospital in the city of Odessa on the Black Sea coast of southern Ukraine.
Zafer Ronin, a 34-year-old from Kansas, said morale in Ukrainian forces on the front lines remained “pretty high”, but opposing Russian forces looked “a bit unprofessional and disorganized”. .
The two arrived early in the war as volunteers and later enrolled as salaried soldiers in the Ukrainian Armed Forces on three-year contracts.
Ayers said he took part in the fight because he was “inspired” by the spirit of the Ukrainian people.
“It was (among) right and wrong,” Ayers said. “It was a one-sided attack on a sovereign state.” rice field.
Their main challenge on the battlefield is that they are inferior in firepower and numbers to their Russian counterparts. Frontline forces have abundant stockpiles of small arms and ammunition, but lack heavy weapons such as artillery and tanks, Ayers said. A limited number of US and NATO-provided weapons, such as HIMARS, howitzers, and Javelin anti-tank missile systems, have proven useful in this battle, but they are no match for enemy firepower.
“They are constantly attacking us with artillery, so the artillery and armor they have is better than ours,” said Ayers. But it’s more limited.”
The Institute for War Studies (ISW) reported on Saturday that Ukrainian officials said the attack was “not intended to immediately recapture vast territories, but to weaken Russian forces and logistics.” It was a deliberately methodical operation.”
“When I get home, I’m nothing.”
Ayers has a white beard and his fellow Ukrainians nickname him “Grandpa”. However, he has already won the trust of his juniors.
“As soon as they see you in battle and know that you’re here to stay and that you’re a capable soldier, you’ll quickly gain their respect.
Ayers spent his late teens in the Royal Green Jackets, an infantry regiment in the British Army, and now feels that the battle has given him a new purpose.
“When I get home, I’m nothing. I’m just a guy renting a room,” Ayers said. “By the way, as a soldier, I am doing something good and fighting.”
His son is proud of what he does, he added.
For both of these wounded foreign fighters, their next focus is not on returning home safely, but simply on returning to the front lines and returning to combat as soon as possible.
“Once everything has healed, I should be back soon, probably within three to four weeks,” Ronin said.
“Of course I’m going back,” Ayers added. “Because I am a soldier”