A day in the life of a Ukrainian unit, ambushed under the dumps of Donbass

5 meters underground, in the middle of an old coal mine in the Donetsk region, a section of the Ukrainian army gets down to work. The workers left this old technical room with concrete walls a long time ago. Since the start of the Donbass war, opposing the kyiv army to Ukrainian separatists supported by Moscow, in 2014, the place has served as a shelter and command room for soldiers positioned opposite the borders of the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk.

In the command post of an assault regimental unit, Oleksandr and Maxym Azorskyi study footage of a Russian position filmed by a drone in the Donetsk region, Donbass (Ukraine), November 28, 2022.

Ruslan, a serious-looking young fighter, watches on a screen a Russian fortified position buried on top of a hill. Today’s mission is clear: destroy the target. The soldiers agree one last time on the maneuver to follow, with the map in hand. It’s time for them to climb the stairs to the heavy sky of Donbass.

While the small group climbs to the top of the slag heap, carrying with it two Kornet anti-tank missiles, underground, the other soldiers of this assault unit gather around the screen which broadcasts live images of the enemy positions. The target of the day appears thanks to the camera of a drone. Maksym, who refused to give his name, like all the others, is piloting the operation by keeping in touch with the men on the ground. He hopes that they will aim correctly. “The missile is launched”, lets out a voice on the radio. The seconds pass. Finally, a line of light crosses the screen before crashing into a cloud of smoke a few meters from the Russian shelter. ” Almost ! Almost ! It was beautiful. »

Soldiers from an assault regiment unit fire two Kornet anti-tank missiles at a fortified position in the Russian trenches facing them in the Donetsk region of Donbass, Ukraine, November 27, 2022.

The voice of the radio resumes: “One more, here we go. » The second missile flies across the screen before disappearing. Heavy sigh of disappointment. “The last time we shelled them, the shells were exploding to the right, to the left, we missed them, but they were just there, sitting in their trenches, Maksym tells the other soldiers. They didn’t even try to hide in their shelter. There are guys out there who feel like they’re immortal… unless they don’t understand what’s going on, or their shelter isn’t really protected. But I’d be surprised if they didn’t have armor, their position isn’t new. »

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The group eventually loses interest in the screen as small smoke mushrooms continue to erupt around the target. It is other soldiers of the Ukrainian army who are firing mortars. Maksym, the unit’s second in command, keeps giving instructions over the radio to adjust the shots.

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