Ukrainian Military Unveils Unique Battlefield Request: Saunas

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Across the battle-scarred lines in conflict-stricken Ukraine, the ubiquitous call for defensive equipment and weaponry took an unexpected turn, when the Ukrainian military unleashed a unique request – saunas. Yes, you read right, saunas – not your typical battlefield necessity.

This peculiar request was actioned by Ilmar Raag, an Estonian humanitarian worker, and filmmaker. Raag knows the value of saunas and, more critically, their cultural significance in his native Estonia. Estonia, known for its rich sauna culture, has seeped this tradition in to its military regimen for nearly a century, stemming from the age of the Bolsheviks. Saunas were then used to refresh troops spending weeks in the trenches, a tradition that followed Estonian soldiers all the way to recent missions in Afghanistan and Lebanon.

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Raag now successfully funds and manufactures special mobile sauna units, also housing washing machines and showers, serving hundreds of hardworking Ukrainian soldiers on the frontline. These units, strategically camouflaged for protection from Russian fire, offer the soldiers much-needed hygiene and an immeasurable morale boost. Hearing tales of soldiers going weeks without a wash or change of footwear, Raag knew that sauna units were an unexpected yet essential requirement in war-ravaged Ukraine.

Indeed, many of the European Union and NATO countries, particularly those on Russia’s borders, are putting forth significant efforts to support Ukraine during the invasion. Especially resonant are the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – all which suffered Soviet occupation post World War Two.

They have shown immense solidarity with Ukraine, offering significant aid in relation to the size of their economies, surpassing all nations except Norway when considering long-term pledges. This assistance has taken various forms, with crowd-funded vehicles armored for transport or medical purposes, and even direct military assistance from volunteers who view the fight against Moscow in Ukraine as a defense for their nations.

There’s been a shift in sentiments towards Vladimir Putin and Russia. Lithuania, along with other NATO nations, has long warned about Putin’s expansionist ideology and efforts to destabilize the West, once laughed off as paranoia, no longer.

The war has drilled a new purpose into NATO, with an increased presence in allied nations closet to Russia, and eager applicants like Finland and Sweden that hurriedly applied to join the alliance after the war’s inception.

It has awakened latent fears in Finnish citizens, propelling them towards weapons training and even affecting businesses that relied on Russian tourism. The fear and resentment towards Russia has even affected neighboring nations that have significant ethnic Russian populations, like Latvia.

Latvia now has a heightened fear of becoming the target of a cat’s paw move to “rescue” ethnic Russians, similar to what occurred in Ukraine’s Donbas region in 2014.

As the war drags on, deep-seated complexities continue to emerge due to the significant amount of history shared between Russia and its neighbors. The question remains, what sort of relationship should these nations aim to have with Russia? This war does not just impact nations with shared borders, but all of Europe and Ukraine’s allies. Therefore, the approach to Russia as a country, after the conflict, deserves careful thought and consideration.