ERR correspondents join reconnaissance trek in Donbas

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Photo: ERR

Fierce fighting is raging everywhere in the Donbas. "Aktuaalne kaamera" correspondents Anton Aleksejev and Kristjan Svirgsden joined a Ukrainian air reconnaissance squad for a scouting trip on Sunday.

The Russian positions lie less than a kilometer away and it is possible to hear the Russians sporadically urging the Ukrainians to surrender.

"They got the idea a few days ago. I doubt this foolishness will last long. I believe no one will think of surrendering. I do not really understand the effort," Ukrainian soldier Stanislav said.

"Yesterday, they blasted the sound of tank tracks grinding from speakers. To make it sound like a major tank offensive was underway, while they attacked our positions with IFVs. It was difficult for our troops to determine what type of machinery they were up against," Roman described.

Roman's unit, part of the 95th Air Assault Brigade, is in charge of aerial reconnaissance and made up of experienced soldiers.

"I am used to it by now. I was stationed 100-200 meters from their positions before. I've seen it all," Mykola said.

"I was in the assault squad when we cleared the woods of them. We were defending listening points before I was made squad leader. When I was wounded for the second time, I was stationed here after I got out of hospital," Stanislav said.

Before the soldiers manage to get their drone in the air, there is already something buzzing above us.

Roman said it is difficult to tell whether flying objects belong to Russian or Ukrainian troops. "It is hard to tell because the enemy is very close here. The sky is full of drones. Reconnaissance and offensive drones are used, also for dropping mines and grenades on our positions," he said.

What do the Ukrainians think of their counterparts in Russian air reconnaissance?

"After Russia declared its mobilization, they also got voluntary helpers. I can see how they've set it up from their Telegram accounts. Turns out their level matches our own. We are watching them and they're watching us. Both sides have anti-drone devices that scramble signals. The same manufacturers' products are used. Everything is bought from China instead of being made locally," Stanislav said.

Aerial reconnaissance probably has the best overview of the situation in a given sector.

"The enemy is active. They use self-propelled howitzers, IFVs and armored transports, as well as planes and assault helicopters. The situation is very difficult, while our paratroopers are holding out," Roman said.

"We had the initiative in fall, while they are attacking now. Luckily, the boys are hanging in there. It is not easy. In fact, it's grueling," Mykola remarked.

"People are tired of sitting and guarding defensive positions. It is very difficult. It would be better for us if we could go on the offensive," Roman said.

However, an offensive is out of the question without heavy weapons. Everyone here is looking forward to Western aid.

The article was updated to add video with English subtitles.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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