Near Bakhmut, commandos to counter Russian attacks

Sitting in a small forest, the head of a Ukrainian special forces commando tells his men standing around him to counter a Russian offensive north of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.

The objective is to defend the village of Grigorivka, targeted by Russian artillery on Tuesday.

The capture of the area by Russian troops and the paramilitary group Wagner would close slightly further north, with the latter trying to contain Bakhmut about ten kilometers away, where the longest and most intense fighting was taking place. Bloody since the beginning of the Russian invasion.

“Our mission is to stop the enemy attack and support our infantry with artillery,” the commando chief told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Hooded and helmeted, wearing small camouflage backpacks, the group’s elite soldiers are armed with TAR-21 assault rifles – an Israeli weapon manufactured under Ukrainian license – with sights and silencers, rifled machine gunners and anti-tank rocket launchers with.

Ukraine: Russia’s grip on Bakhmat is getting tighter.

Around Bakhmut, the rumble of Ukrainian artillery fire and the deafening and powerful sound of nearby Russian attacks, or more distant Ukrainian attacks, are constant. Silence rarely lasts more than 10 seconds.

The General Staff in Kiev said in its daily report on Thursday morning that Grigorievka lay a few kilometers west of the villages of Orichovo-Vasilyvka and Bogdanivka, where Ukrainian forces “repelled several attacks” from the Russians.

– “Tough Situation” –

“The situation is difficult, but we have it under control,” assures the 45-year-old commando major, between two whistles of shells a few hundred meters away.

“We are capable of fighting, that’s for sure, but the enemy always has the advantage of artillery (…) We are at a disadvantage because of the enormous amount of artillery they have. C so we have to go back, but Sometimes we go ahead”, continues the soldier.

“They are trying to take Bogdanivka, then Chasiv Iyer, to close the pocket around Bakhmut,” he said.

A Ukrainian military vehicle walks past a fire caused by a white phosphorus bomb in the village of Chasiv Iyr, near Bakhmut in Ukraine, March 14, 2023 (AFP - Aris Messinis)
A Ukrainian military vehicle walks past a fire caused by a white phosphorus bomb in the village of Chasiv Iyr, near Bakhmut in Ukraine, March 14, 2023 (AFP – Aris Messinis)

Chasiv Iyer, the first town west of Bakhmaut, was the target of bombings on Tuesday, which targeted uninhabited homes and set them on fire. The day before, the firing of white phosphorus incendiary ammunition had started a fire in an uninhabited area.

Behind Russian pincers since the beginning of January, the M03 road that links Bakhmut to Slavyansk – a large city in the region with its neighbor Kramatorsk – has been cut by troops from Moscow and the front there is now has stabilized.

“Here in Privilya we are very close to the front line, about 1.5-2 km away. We are holding this position. (Russians) were pushing about a week ago, now they are pushing towards Bakhmat, that’s their priority. Hai”, summarizes “Romeo”, his eponymous de guerre, who commands a Ukrainian post on this road.

– Attack Drone –

Artillery is more discreet there and drones are the most active.

Standing by the side of the road, Max, 40, a drone operator nicknamed “Bomber,” has just launched a small device under which he strapped a hand grenade. The plane flies over a forest about six kilometers away, where Russian soldiers are stationed.

Landscape scrolls slowly on the screen, the image is sharp. The drone comes over the jungle and goes up to a height of about 20 meters.

But near the objective, Max loses control, the grenade is dropped and misses its target.

The Russians “jammed the drone, cut off the signal between the drone and the remote control. When the drone is out of control, it starts to descend and they shoot at it”, after fixing the quadcopter The operator points out, traces of bullet scratches.

    (AFP-Eris Messinis)
(AFP-Eris Messinis)

The man says he lost three drones the day before, for a total of 62 since the invasion began.

“Russia has invested in its electronic warfare means for years, they are very effective,” notes “Zyma”, the head of a detachment of Ukrainian drone operators operating in the south.

According to him, the Russians use a whole range of devices to “stun” or even “fake” the signals of the Ukrainian planes and shoot them down.

“Everyone does what they can, where they can,” says “Bomber” Max. “These technologies allow us to set targets of ten + orcs + (kill) per day,” he says, using a derogatory nickname for Russian enemies.

“I feel good because I see the results of my work. I can use my time and my ammunition very efficiently. It makes me happy,” says the soldier.

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