We were waiting for the southern counteroffensive at the checkpoint near the Ukrainian defense line.

We had permission to be, but the soldiers were not happy, and all these permissions had to be rechecked.

The Ukrainian government and military imposed an almost complete blackout of information about the southern counterattack, the target of which is the Russian-controlled city of Kherson.

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We watched as dozens of trucks, vans, tanks and general machinery drove by.

We couldn’t film, it’s still not allowed at checkpoints – that’s the rule. To the left of the intersection, I could see dust rising over the wheat fields, indicating a large column.

A series of huge trucks roared down the road, each carrying a payload of Western-supplied weapons systems.

Their cargo is the reason for Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the north and south. We couldn’t film, but we watched them go by. The systems are active here.

An offensive in the south proves to be more difficult than a blitzkrieg in the north, and there are several reasons for this, and they are quite simple.

Major Siarhei Tsekhotsky checks Lyuba and her husband Leonil

First, the Russians knew it was coming, and as a result were prepared and strengthened their positions.

Second, Kherson, the only city they took, is in many ways the gateway to Crimea and a land bridge to Russia. Russia cannot afford to lose it, so it is fighting hard to defend its lines.

And thirdly, and this is a Ukrainian problem, the ground is flat and infantry movement is potentially lethal because there is nowhere to find cover, so artillery and rockets dominate the battlefield.

The sound of explosions is constant.

Driving on these plains is horrible and frankly scary. The road to the front is a supply line. They are a constant target, both sides usually attack supply lines.

A shell
Ismalikhov said
Ismalikhov said

Tank battalions maneuver to the front line to support the infantry. Behind them, the main line of defense is occupied by kilometers of dug-in and camouflaged tank and artillery positions.

Their task is to deal with any sudden Russian pushback. We watch as they load their tanks with personalized shells.

From “Mykola to Moscow” it is written – a gift of Ukrainians to Russians. This offensive costs lives lost.

Two medics who were preparing for a shift rescuing the wounded at the front told us that the losses can sometimes be very high. The reason is simple, they say, the Russians knew they were coming.

“We know for sure that after the successful counteroffensive in the direction of Kharkiv, the Russians are trying to reduce all options for advancing towards Crimea,” Said Ismalikhov told me before rushing to the front.

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Major Siarhei Tsekhotsky is the district commander on these battle lines, originally from Crimea. He is a businessman by profession, but returned to the army after the Russian invasion began in February.

The family of the 55-year-old man is now in Britain. His wife, daughter and grandson live in London after being evacuated at the start of the war. His brother and son are fighting here with him.

The major likes to keep an eye on the civilians left behind during the fighting.

Sixty-year-old Luba comes forward. They hug each other tightly and she calls her husband Leonil to say hello. Luba is in a very high mood, she says that they were able to get out of their basement in the last few days.

She sniffs the air. “What does it smell like? Try it. What? Just tell me what it smells like?” – she asks. – How freedom! she shouts.

“And you want me to leave. Why? Why should I? No, no. It won’t work like that. I’ll wait here,” she says defiantly. “At any rate, they will be defeated soon, soon.”

Lyuba, like all Ukrainians, is optimistic, but the noise from the Kremlin is ominous.

This conflict can so easily escalate. And this means that no one is safe here.


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