Kiev advances in the smoke of Bakhmut

Kiev advances in the smoke of Bakhmut

KOSTYANTYNIVKA – “It’s been like this since this morning, it’s hell.” Look at the sky, Mrs. Ludmilla. She is waiting for volunteers to help her collect her pension. “I wonder if I can make it this week.” However, the roar in the sky of Kostyantynivka does not rest. On the hill west of the city, towards Chasiv Yar, the rocket launchers are in position. Columns of vehicles and men move non-stop through the streets of what today looks like a vast open-air barracks.

A few kilometers away is Bachmut. A shot. “Those were graduates.” More hits. “Smerch.” The sirens don’t even sound anymore. Then another roar, even louder, and a column of black smoke behind us. The result is two dead, including a 15-year-old girl, ten injured including two teenagers, destroyed buildings, a gas station, a pharmacy and shops. “President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is visiting Italy, civilians continue to die here, it’s good that your country has decided which side it is on,” Ukrainian MP Maksym Buzhanskyi commented on the phone.

The news from the front is good for Kiev. And this is the third day in a row. A record for Donbass. “The Ukrainian army is advancing on Bakhmut in two directions and has already taken many prisoners,” said Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar. “The defensive operation in the direction of Bakhmut continues,” comments the commander of the eastern group of troops Oleksandr Syrskyj cautiously. Not bad for a “defensive counteroffensive,” as the Ukrainians are now jokingly calling it. But the images emerging from inside the city are unsettling to say the least. A wall of smoke over the rubble. “You might think it’s fog. But it is smoke from fire and smoke grenades that the enemy is desperately trying to break through our defenses with,” explains the commander of the 24th separate mechanized brigade.

In Kramatorsk the sky is a bit calmer, although two Smerchs bombed a hospital south of the city during the night. “The advance on Bakhmut? We’ll do it,” says a soldier. Codename Ascoli. “They call me that because I lived in Italy for many years,” he explains. It is part of the 3rd Separate Assault Infantry Brigade. “We are a volunteer corps, many of us are from the territorial defense formed in Kiev at the beginning of the war.” Among them are dozens of marginalized members of the Azov group who have returned from abroad like Ascoli. “At first we only had Kalashnikovs and Molotov cocktails,” the volunteer continues. Meanwhile, the Azov Territorial Defense Battalion has grown into an elite unit, armed with anti-tank missiles and mortars donated by European allies, but also M-113 tracked aircraft and the ubiquitous Humvee.

The nervousness of the Russians is palpable. Yesterday, Evgeny Prighozinnon missed his daily appointment with insults to Russian Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov, who called him “military commando shit.” Most importantly, Moscow accuses Kiev of using UK-supplied long-range Stormshadow missiles in the Lugansk attack, which Russian defense officials say were used against civilians, including children, despite promises from the British. A clear sign of fear, showing how the Storm Shadows could become the new weapon of choice after the Himars.

And not only. Two Mi-8 helicopters and two Su-34 and Su-35 fighter jets have crashed in Russia’s Bryansk region near the border with Ukraine. According to Russian media Kommersant, they were facing an attack on the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv near the border and were reportedly shot down by enemy planes or helicopters. But for the Ukrainians it would be friendly fire, sparked by nervousness. “The local air defense system mistook the Russian plane for an enemy target,” explains the UNIAN agency.

Various versions and information have yet to be verified, as always happens in war. It is certain that Mrs. Ludmilla did not deduct her pension again yesterday in Kostyantynivka and nobody paid attention to the Eurovision Song Contest.