Ukrainian amputee soldiers get replacement limbs but must rebuild lives

By Kevin Fogarty and Temis Tormo

SILVER SPRING, Md. (Reuters) - Around a dozen Ukrainian soldiers who have lost limbs fighting Russian invaders have been given hi-tech prosthetics at a clinic in Silver Spring, on the outskirts of Washington D.C.

While some say they are determined to return to the front to defend their homeland despite their injuries, others struggle to imagine a future for themselves, let alone return to battle.

Oleksii Moroz, 29, lost an arm last autumn fighting with a brigade that two weeks later pushed Russia's army out of part of Ukraine's Kherson region.

He practises using his prosthetic to grasp a plastic cup gently without crushing it - a skill he will certainly need, as his physiotherapist says, if he wants to hold his 6-year-old son.

"My hand is fine, I’m making better progress than my comrades," he said.

He expects to go home in a week, but he doesn't want, or expect, to fight again.

"Killing others isn't a good thing. It's not easy as it might seem to you," he said. "There's hardly any good done. But if I have to (fight again) ... of course. If there’s an emergency, I'll go back."

As he considers Friday's first anniversary of the invasion, there is a measure of despair.

"How am I supposed to feel about it? I did everything in my power to make it all stop faster. I don’t know what to say. I fought when I had both hands, when everything was fine. I don’t know what else I can do now, what else depends on me."

Oleksandr Fedun - "Sasha" to his friends - lost both legs last May when his truck, at the head of a convoy in his home region of Zaporizhzhia, set off a landmine.

With two charity-funded full-leg prostheses from the MCOP Medical Center in Silver Spring, the 24-year-old has somehow found reserves of resilience.

"Despite the injury, despite everything I have to endure, I'm coming back to the army ... I'll fight side-to-side with my comrades," he said.

After several months learning how to fit and use his new computer-controlled knees, Fedun is now stable enough to go home, at least.

"Injury is not going to stop me," he said. "It may slow me down but it’s not going to stop me."

Roman Rodionov, 40, lost an arm last October when a projectile fell on the trench he was in - and knows it could have been worse:

"Two of my fellow soldiers died, another one was severely injured, and me and another one lost arms."

He and Moroz fold towels to practise using their new arms, and perhaps recover a sense of normality. Moroz raises a laugh with a wry comment.

"He says he doesn't want to do laundry," the translator explains, "but he'll set the table when they have guests."

(Editing by Kevin Liffey)