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Inside Ukraine’s trenches: ‘It’s like the First World War – very compact, claustrophobic’ | World News




In the lowlands that separate Mykolaiv and Kherson regions, there are few things of great value to see.

Fields are flat and mostly featureless, and residents of local villages have evacuated their homes.

Yet this territory is of crucial importance, as it serves as the gateway to the city of Kherson.

A metropolitan center of some 300,000 inhabitants, it is the only regional capital that the Russians have managed to conquer, making it an invaluable military prize.

By capturing the city, the Ukrainians would effectively banish the enemy to the western side of the Dnipro River, reinforcing the momentum they have built up over the past few weeks.

Their forces are about 30 km from the outskirts of the city and we were taken into a series of narrow-walled trenches which form the Ukrainian side of the current front line.

A soldier called Oleksandr, who led us through a passage, then pointed to a hole that had been chiseled in the wall.

“Sleep,” he said, opening a small wooden door.

“This is where we go, sleep and take shelter.”

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Is Russia out of arms?

Coverage is something Oleksandr needs. This position is continuously struck by the Russians.

It’s very active, every day, tanks and mortars, small and large caliber, howitzers, cluster bombs, Grad missiles – whatever they have they use.

Nearby, we found soldiers Vadim and Anatoly watching the horizon from their lookout post.

It was cramped and claustrophobic, but they said the Ukrainians would soon take more ground.

“We won’t stay here long, just a few days,” Anatoly said.

“But winter is coming, won’t that make things more difficult?” I asked.

“We can take it, it will be fine.”

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There is a machine gun post protecting the Ukrainian positions in the area and the commander told us he was ready to take us if we were ready to run.

We sprinted through a section of open ground and found a pair of gunners at the end of a shallow trench.

They told us that this place was recently seized by the Russians.

“Browning pistol, Germany. I can show you,” said one, gripping the handles of his heavy machine gun.

“If you look ahead, 11 o’clock, there is a building there and our intelligence now says there are Chechens inside.”

Chechen fighters, under the leadership of Ramzan Kadyrov, a prominent Russian supporter of Vladimir Putin, are actively involved in this war, developing a fearsome reputation for brutality.

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Did you use (the gun) that I asked for?

“Yes, we used it and successfully too – it’s indefensible. I can only imagine how the enemy felt afterwards.”

The light was dimming and the commander told us we had to come back. He had good reason to ask us to leave – the field in front of us was littered with artillery fire as we walked out.

We knew the men in that dilapidated trench line would have a long and difficult night.