ERR in Donbas: Both sides probing for weak spots in the lines

Anton Aleksejev talking to Ukrainian soldiers in Donetsk Oblast (photo taken in May 2023.)
Anton Aleksejev talking to Ukrainian soldiers in Donetsk Oblast (photo taken in May 2023.) Source: ERR

The situation on the battle-front in southeastern Ukraine remains static, for now, with both sides probing for weak points in the opponent's lines. ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) visited the section of the Donbas front near to Horlivka, Donetsk Oblast.

ERR correspondent Anton Aleksejev and camera operator Kristjan Svirgsden deliver regular reportages from the ground in Ukraine.

A Ukrainian company commander, call sign "Volt", shows the pair around positions, near to New York,* and Horlivka, around 40km South of Bakhmut, one of the most hotly fought-over cities in the war so far.

While this section of the front is not as fraught as Bakhmut, still nightly artillery shelling is common, Volt, an artilleryman himself, tells ERR.

"A couple of days ago [shells] fell here. Sometimes we give hell to the orcs, sometimes they do so for us. So it's still raining down here," Volt said.

Orcs is a disparaging term used, also in the wider world, to refer to rank-and-file Russian soldiers.

Russian soldiers are close by, too – less than a kilometer away.

Anton Aleksejev with Ukrainian soldiers in Donetsk Oblast. Source: ERR

"A week ago there were battles here, an active exchange of fire. The artillery dueled with each other," Volt went on.

Thursday proved to be relatively calm during the day but, the Ukrainians say, this changes dramatically with nightfall.

"It gets calmer when the orcs head from here to fight in Bakhmut or Marjinka (the latter around 70km to the southwest-ed.). We're trying to keep them tied down here, but in the meantime, they're going on offensives there," Volt went on.

Bakhmut remains one of the hot zones in the current war.

"We arrived at this position two months ago; before that we were in Bakhmut. Our 24th Brigade is still there, and the boys are fighting. There are running battles going on in the urban area. There it is total hell, and by comparison, it is paradise here. A lot of my guys don't understand that yet because they haven't been through that kind of baptism of fire. But those who have fought there, understand it perfectly well," he went on.

Ukrainian forces are holding their positions in the area right now, but soon, they are likely to go on the offensive, as part of the long-awaited spring assault.

"We're not tired. We want to win and rest we can after the war," another soldier, an officer, call-sign MacKenna, says.

"However, as far as the counter-offensive is concerned, it is up to command to decide. We are ready for it. If command gives order, then we will start working, immediately," MacKenna goes on.

The original AK slot (in Estonian, Ukrainian and Russian) is here.

Another reportage from the front delivered earlier in the week by Aleksejev and Svirgsden is here.

One aspect which gives planners a headache in relation to a spring offensive relates to the forces of nature, more specifically the weather. While the ground in winter can be passable, particularly for heavy equipment, inasmuch as it is frozen solid, the spring thaw brings a huge amount of mud and boggy ground.

The mud even has a specific name in Russian, Rasputitsa (referring primarily to the season itself), and its effects were widely disseminated in the international media in the early phases of the war, last spring, with images of beleaguered Russian tanks being towed away by tractor, or even getting completely submerged, commonly appearing online.

While Rasputitsa played a major role in the disaster of Russia's initial offensives, it can work the other way, too, and may also be a factor in the need to wait for the right time to launch the counter-offensive.

*Also Niu-York, population around 9,700. The etymology of the place name and whether, not to mention why, it derives from the more well-known U.S. megalopolis, or from "old" York, in England, or possibly Jork, Germany, is a subject of debate, but it was with the largest of these cities in mind that the Ukrainian town was officially so-named, in 2021. one well-known Russian woman indoor propagandist has "threatened" to rename it to Novogorodskoye were it ever to be occupied.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera'

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