Paralyzed by war, Ukraine soldiers must raise money for surgery - WFXG FOX54 Augusta - Your News One Hour Earlier

Paralyzed by war, Ukraine soldiers must raise money for surgery

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Two paralyzed soldiers married their fiancees in the hospital to draw attention to their predicaments. Their weddings were broadcast nationally. (Source: CNN) Two paralyzed soldiers married their fiancees in the hospital to draw attention to their predicaments. Their weddings were broadcast nationally. (Source: CNN)

KIEV, Ukraine (CNN) - This is not the honeymoon these brides expected - exercising their grooms' legs, a touch neither man can feel.

“I got shot and I fell down,” said Olexander Ponomarev, a paratrooper in the Ukrainian army. 

He and his roommate in a dingy, unairconditioned hospital room are both paralyzed. Both were shot on the fields of eastern Ukraine earlier this month, fighting the pro-Russian separatists.

They join an estimated 1,300 wounded Ukrainian soldiers filling the military hospitals in a country that can't afford to care for them.

Ponomarev needs a surgery to walk again, but he can't get it here. “It's not sufficient to make serious surgery operation,” he said.

Both soldiers married their fiancees in the hospital to draw attention to their predicaments. Their weddings were broadcast nationally.

They need to raise an estimated $100,000 each to fly them out of Ukraine and get spinal surgeries. So far, they've raised $20,000.

Of course, they dreamed of something else, they say. But this is how it turned out.

It's tough, the wife says. On the battlefield, there's not enough water, food or weapons.

“There are more people who are injured, more serious than me,” Ponomarev said.

“I think the Ukrainian military is broke, and I think the Ukrainian military is broken,” retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Francona said.

That's no secret among military experts.

Flight 17's plane crash has only focused the world's attention to what's been a brutal conflict for months.

U.S. intelligence says the Ukrainian government is fighting rebels who are financed and backed by Russia, something Russia denies.

Ukrainian is financing the war nearly with empty government coffers, but it's not nearly enough.

Volunteers fill in the gaps, donating supplies and collecting cash.

“It is almost unbelievable that the people - the Ukrainian people - have to take money out of their own pockets, not taxes but donations to support their military,” Francona said.

While Ukraine has the upper hand, for now, against the rebels it's a slim advantage.

Without Western support, Ukraine will struggle to keep up with rebels backed by Russian money.

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