Ukrainian soldiers fired an American shot from a French mortar in the direction of the common enemy.
They said the target was a Russian ammunition depot near the eastern city of Bakhmut Ukrainewhere one of the hottest battles of the war escalates.
– Fire. shouted one of the troops.
Putin says that the West has “released the genie from the bottle”.
A soldier, kneeling, pulled a wire cord that launched the MO-120 rifle-towed mortar, a Cold War-era weapon with a new purpose.
It exploded over cloudy skies and snow-covered fields.
A third soldier stepped forward, holding a second M1101 mortar that looked like a mini green rocket.
He dropped it down the barrel to fire the weapon again.
They fired a total of three rounds before quickly moving to a more protected position, keenly aware of the risk of return fire from Russian forces.
An officer with the 3rd Brigade’s 2nd Battalion said his troops would win despite having to fight larger numbers of mercenaries as well as Russian soldiers along this front.
The situation seems like the first or second world war.
Senior Lieutenant Yaroslav described how waves of Wagner mercenaries were ordered to advance despite direct Ukrainian fire.
“When our fighters saw this, they were extremely surprised,” he said. “What is happening near Bakhmut is like World War I or World War II, with people [mercenaries] running forward, straight ahead [rather than ducking low]… They have nothing to lose.”
At an artillery position, a 15-minute drive from the mortar emplacement, Sky News met troops warming themselves from freezing temperatures in a makeshift bunker accessed by a short trench.
The men, seated on wooden planks that framed the narrow, underground chamber, wore white waterproof shirts and trousers over their combat uniforms to make it harder for the Russians to spot them when they were outside in the snow.
“I feel the rage and I want to win this war”
Two of them told how they only joined the army after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion almost exactly a year ago.
“I feel rage and I want to win this war,” said one soldier named Bohdan, who spoke in broken English.
When asked if he feels fear, he answered: “No, I’m in my country, I’m saving my country.”
The second soldier, Artem, said: “I joined this war in March, then I had energy and motivation, the same now, nothing has changed.”
And what was the most difficult part of living in the trenches, he joked. “Digging is the most difficult thing. You have to constantly dig, dig and dig.”
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Russian forces are advancing slowly
Although Ukraine is focusing significant firepower on preventing attempts to seize Bakhmut, Russian forces appear to be slowly advancing after months of bloody clashes.
A sign of this advance can be felt in the nearby town of Chasiv Yar, which will be next on the way to Moscow if Bakhmut falls.
It began to come under Russian shelling, due to which many residents fled.
More than 10 people were killed, according to local mayor Sergi Chaus, who described the situation as “serious but stable”.
When asked if he was worried that the Russians could occupy the city, he answered: “Who is not worried? Of course, we are worried, but as they say: ‘We believe in the armed forces of Ukraine.’
Teams working to evacuate civilians from risk areas
The increased risk means evacuation teams are driving in and out every day to rescue those who cannot leave on their own due to age, ill health or lack of transport.
We met a group of civilian volunteers, four young men who said they wanted to be useful despite the danger, about 10 miles away in the town of Konstantinivka, which has become a staging point for those seeking to push forward.
Clad in bulletproof vests, helmets and tourniquets, they climbed into two minibuses, one purple, the other yellow, and set off with aid packages and the names of future evacuees.
“I’m trying to be brave”
One of the men, 31-year-old Oleksii Zabrodin, who ran a small business selling briquettes before the war, said he felt a little scared, “but I’m trying to be brave.”
Speaking in English, he added: “I understand that it is important for our people. It is our country.”
Volunteers left the Chasiv Yar cultural center, which had been turned into an aid distribution point.
A small line of residents stood outside the front door, waiting to pick up basic items like pasta and bags of oats.
The team unloaded cardboard boxes of food and medicine before leaving for the first evacuation location, boarding only one of the minibuses.
“We left everything”
Wrapped in a bright red coat and orange headscarf, Nina, 73, waited in her bungalow on a snow-covered narrow residential lane.
He said his house had been shelled four times and he feared for his life.
One of the volunteers took her by the hand and gently guided her to the car, while the others gathered the few things she wanted to bring into several bags.
Her daughter Svitlana sat with her mother for support as the minibus moved.
Both women were crying.
“Don’t you know how people feel when they give up what they have worked for for years? the daughter sobbed.
Nina said: “We left everything behind… The house was smashed.”
The volunteers worked as fast as possible due to the risk of more shells landing.
A simple act of love
They stopped at the second, small, one-story house where 83-year-old Maria and her husband lived.
He could not walk and seemed very confused.
Volunteers carefully carry her on a stretcher, while her husband followed on foot. some of their belongings were also packed in bags.
Once in a shuttle taxi, an elderly man offered to shake his wife’s hand while she was lying on the back seat.
Forced to leave
The final stop before heading out of Chasiv Yar to relative safety was back at the cultural center to pick up a few more residents who wanted to escape.
Another woman named Svitlana, with her seven-year-old daughter Maria, was among those boarding the minibus, wearing a large, silver jacket to ward off the cold.
“Life and the situation forced us to leave,” said the mother.
When asked how she feels, the young girl said: “Bad.”
And what he wants, he simply said. “Peace”: