Daviti Suleimanishvili was in the front line of fighting in Mariupol when a tank fired. He was injured and his leg was amputated by emergency surgery. Now he gets a prosthesis and wants to go back into the fight with it. He knows “a lot of guys who are at the front with something like that,” he says.

Daviti sits on a bed in a small orthopedic clinic in Kyiv. He listens attentively to the doctors who explain the various prostheses that could replace his left leg. It was demolished to the Ukrainian soldier during the battles for the port city of Mariupol. Dawiti, whose battle name is “Scorpion”, can’t wait to get his new leg – because he wants to go back to the front.

Like Daviti, countless Ukrainian soldiers have been maimed since the Russian war of aggression began and are now impatient for an artificial foot or arm. Exact figures are not available, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj spoke of 10,000 wounded soldiers in mid-April. The United Nations also counted more than 4,600 injured civilians.

Born in Georgia, Daviti Suleimanishvili belongs to the Azov regiment and was stationed in Mariupul in southern Ukraine. Russian troops bombed the city almost daily for three months before finally taking it completely last week. The 43-year-old non-commissioned officer was at the forefront of the fighting and was seriously wounded on March 20 when a Russian tank fired in his direction from about 900 meters away.

He was “thrown four meters through the air” and a wall fell down on him, Dawiti recalls. “When I wanted to get up, I could no longer feel my leg, my hand was battered and I was missing a finger.” His comrades carried “Skorpion” inside the Azovsteel steelworks. There his leg was amputated below the knee in an emergency operation. A helicopter later flew him to a hospital in central Ukraine’s Dnipro.

Two months later, Dawiti can stand upright again, albeit only on crutches. He wants to get rid of them quickly with the help of a prosthesis financed by the Ukrainian government. “The sooner the better because I want to get back in the fight,” he says.

He is “much sadder” for his fallen comrades than for his lost body part, he assures. “A leg is nothing: we are in the 21st century and there are very good prostheses,” he adds. “I know a lot of guys who are on the frontlines with something like that.”

The Kiev clinic is expecting more and more injured soldiers in the future, not to mention civilians. In order to be able to treat amputees, facilities are required that are equipped with plaster, thermoplastic, ovens and grinding machines, among other things. The number of such clinics in Ukraine is limited, the supply chains are not reliable.

According to chief physician Oleksander Stesenko, his Kiev clinic produces about 300 prostheses a year. A higher number is difficult to achieve because each prosthesis has to be individually tailored to the needs of the patient.

Dawiti is an artilleryman. His prosthesis will weigh 15 kilograms to allow his leg to withstand the strain. “I need a prosthesis that allows me to do all the maneuvers,” he insists.

In a week, the 43-year-old will get a temporary prosthesis with which he can train to walk. No one can say when his final prosthesis will be ready. The doctor Valeri Nebesny assures: “Two or three weeks later he can run.” According to his estimates, 90 percent of the amputee soldiers as well as the sergeant Skorpion want to fight again as soon as possible.

by Charlotte Plantive, AFP

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