ERR in Donbas: Ukrainian soldiers holding firm despite onslaught
Fierce battles are raging across the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, while despite Russian offensives coming in waves, Ukrainian soldiers are holding their positions in most locations, ERR correspondent Anton Aleksejev, on the ground in Ukraine, reports.
In order to communicate with Aleksejev and ERR cameraman Kristjan Svirgsden, Ukrainian fighters had to travel more than 10km (6 miles) from their positions, after obtaining the permission of their officers. Closer to front than that, the din of artillery duels would not have allowed for easily audible conversations.
"Unfortunately, they have a lot of artillery and manpower," one Ukrainian, Anton, told ERR.
"We are attempting to identify their locations so we can neutralize them. But you can feel the pressure of their offensives. There are just so many of them, and they have plenty of equipment," Anton added.
Another, Volodymyr, an officer, told ERR that: "The situation is very tense, at all times. There are no signs that the enemy's offensive will weaken or come to a halt.
While the West is not sending troops to Ukraine, those armaments which it has been sending and will continue to do so, are greatly valued and anticipated by the Ukrainian recipients.
"Western weaponry tends to be far more accurate and has a longer effective firing range," Marjan, another Ukrainian soldier, told ERR.
"During an artillery duel, the important thing is that the longer the range from which you can strike the enemy, the better defended you will be. Compared with the Soviet-era weaponry, the advantages of western equipment are accuracy and quality; it is simply better," he went on.
Aleksejev and Svirgsden went on to visit Netailove, a village a few kilometers to the northwest of Donetsk, and a location where they had last been a year ago, a few weeks before war broke out.
Sadly, the village was virtually unrecognizable, having been shelled to ruins and now being home to barely any inhabitants. An incoming strike meant having to take immediate shelter, and demonstrated there was no point lingering in the area longer.
Indeed, finding civilians in Donbas in general, in the frontline zone, is a major task in itself.
The original ERR report (in Estonian, Ukrainian and Russian) is here.
Fighting in the Donbas has remained intense through December and January despite it being winter.
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Editor: Barbaro Oja, Andrew Whyte