The Smerch rocket didn’t explode and got stuck in the mud. Now it is a part of the particular landscape that surrounds the places of Ukraine. As you have here, to drive at high speed, you are proud of the turtle. Then you have to walk through mud, swamps and trees. In order to prevent the Russians from doing so, they laid military traps in the place of the spoils. Explosives hidden among the branches connected by ropes, which are hidden under the mud.
Hanging from one of the trees is a huge plastic bag that collects waste. Not an aesthetic issue.
“It’s the main principle of camouflage. Military drone sites rely on trash around them,” explains Sasha, aka “one funny thing.”
He leads a corporal group through the hills for 30 years. As he approaches another bumpy road, a man with a limp stops and says, “Run now.” This space between the two ramparts was struck by a Russian tank. the ground with blackening or fissile branches. It was the result of a missile that was launched from armored vehicles of the Moscow army.
The rush lasts only a short time. Approaching the roof where Sasha’s henchmen are hiding, he suddenly appears. it was excavated on another mountain elevation. When the visitor fixes his eyes, he sees innumerable stoves hidden among the ground and bushes. They are the only defensive lines that extend underground.
Valentin and Rustlav – they don’t want to give their last names – spent 10 days digging brooms in the mountain until they built their fortification. A small cabin built of wood, thick logs, and sandbags.
Using saws and axes, the soldiers made a bed of refuge and a single bed where they could rest when they could. Here you have pressure and comfort in every space. I stuck twelve nails into the walls as “stakes”. One machine gun is based on two sharp.
The fireplace is placed in the corner and on it is a shelf with different kitchen utensils: a plate, a stove and kettles for boiling water.
Despite the rudimentary nature of the organization, a large part of this underground was controlled by Russian soldiers in the vicinity of Bakhmut. Rustlav points to a small computer, connected to a camera they’ve set up on top of the promontory and a StarLink satellite that connects to the command behind them. The next contraption consists of a stopwatch.
“We have night vision. That’s why we tend to work better at night. We see the fiery flashes of the cannons and count the seconds it reaches until the end. Then we apply a series of mathematical formulas and we can guess the location of the cannon,” he explains.
You have to reach the top of the hill almost to the rest. “The Ruthenians are kilometers away. The area is full of these positions. Infantry trenches, columns of anti-tank units, etc.”, said Sasha, crouching on the top of the hill and pointing towards the horizon.
Hundreds if not thousands of soldiers like Sasha and his unit, part of the 24th Brigade, lived for months in sunken ditches and mud forts like those found near Bakhmut trying to stop the advance of Russian troops.
Although the Wagner paramilitaries announced last Thursday that another village had been captured to the north of Bakhmut, the attempt to surround the entire city continues to be incomplete, which is met with the resistance of the Numantine team that adheres to this network of galleries and trenches. .
Kyiv was reported to have repaired one of the gates to Bakhmut on the same day, which has been confirmed by several videos that have leaked on the internet. The footage allows us to see a fragile walkway designed from the remains of destroyed Russian artillery vehicles or an immobile limo.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) believes that Wagner stopped the paramilitary attack in the center of the city and was unable to overcome the river that divides the town in two.
For several days, the head of this group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, once again spread through social networks his marked differences with the high command of the regular Russian army. Last Thursday, he said that the special phone lines he was contacting were disconnected and access to the logistics department was blocked. A few days earlier, Wagner had reported a hypothetical withdrawal from Bakhmut, warning that such a decision would “collapse the whole front”.
ISW also believes that even if Russia eventually takes control of Bakhmut, its army is so exhausted that it “can’t do the deed”. A senior Western military commander told selected journalists on the 7th that he estimated Wagner’s soldiers had lost between 20,000 and 30,000 men in this battle, counting the dead and wounded.
The little progress in Bakhmut is only a reflection of the heresy in Russia facing the dreaded winter, which began in early February. The Minister of Defense of Ukraine, Oleksiy Reznikov, warned at the time that Moscow was preparing for an attack of half a thousand troops, which did not have a special impact beyond the Donbas and around the northern city of Kupyansk.
“No one finds out that the Russians took it seriously,” Ukrainian intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov said with some sarcasm in a recent interview with Forbes.
On the 3rd, Kyiv gave an order to evacuate the entire “vulnerable” population of Kupyansk and the surrounding towns, given an increase in Russian artillery weapons in the area. Huge craters left by S-300 rockets in the stadium of the city center and the S-CCC market added to the general devastation that already hit the town after the heavy fighting that took place inside when it was liberated by the Ukrainian army last September.
“We were calm until December, but since the beginning of the year the bombardments have been repeated. They managed to advance a few meters to the north near Dvorichna, but they never recaptured Kupyansk”, says the commander Yury “Achilles”, a 31-year-old officer who was an unpleasant participant in the autumn and is still in this The troubled metropolis was installed.
Kupyansk was occupied by Ruthenians on the 27th of February of last year, after seven months it was liberated, and now it is again the target of a nuclear attack with forces from the enemy’s region, which are 13 kilometers from the urban core.
At night the guests hear the frequent noise of several projectiles which sporadically attack the houses of the people, which once had 30,000 inhabitants and today are almost deserted.
In the 5th they reached the train station, which was consumed by flames. There is a granary that has been burning for weeks.
“Here you go to bed with shells and get up with shells,” Cyril Androchuk, a soldier from the 92nd Brigade, who is fighting in this region.
“I have my obstacles ready. This is not life,” says Valentina, an employee of one of the few businesses still open in the city.
The Russian armed forces also suffered a heavy blow in this attack, especially when they tried to capture the town of Vulhedar, located south of Bakhmut, in February. There they lost about 130 tanks and armored vehicles according to the estimate of the Ukrainian army.
The acolytes of Moscow did not give a version of what happened in that battle, but the telegraph channels linked to Wagner tacitly admitted the disgrace, when they stated that “the relatives of the dead want to kill the (Russian) leaders and demand blood revenge.”.
The former ISW believes that Russia has lost such a number of armored vehicles that “it is likely to “lack” the necessary forces to advance beyond Bakhmut. Now the tanks are used for “fire support” but not lead offensives.
Rustlav and Valentin also report continued Russian attacks in the Chasiv Yar area. On the last day, they say, he had a pace of only 200 meters forward and backward. Who is that?
“Sixty twelve come. Everyone dies and the next unit arrives who walks on the corpses of their comrades,” said Valentin, 49, who also fought at the beginning of the war, in 2015 and 2016.
The conversation is interrupted by the movement of several armed bars and the intensity of the bombardment.
A group of civilians retreats from the area and on the way back another trio of soldiers prepares to fire a ball at the Russians. One of them grabs a shell on which someone has written: “Happy birthday Annya.” The next epigraph attracted the heart.