'Vuhledar is holding on' as Ukrainian army fights Russian advance
Iolo ap Dafydd in Vuhledar, Ukraine
The fighting in and around the small mining town of Vuhledar, in Ukraine, has been ferocious in the last few weeks – and further north, in the city of Bakhmut, the Ukrainian army is trying to stop a Russian advance.
CGTN Europe has been observing military movements in this area of eastern Ukraine, and the effects of the conflict on local communities.
A year ago 1,500 people lived and worked in Bohoyavlenka, a village in Donetsk Oblast. But most fled after airstrikes and artillery shelling started to hit the community, soon after the conflict started.
"We were first bombed by airplanes on the March 1, it's been a year since that bombing," local resident Natalya Vyunskovska tells CGTN. "Buildings here have been damaged, one woman died and people have left."
Among the ruins there doesn't seem to be much hope for those left behind, with few jobs available in the village due to the ongoing conflict.
Some aid, however, has been sent for the villagers and they also have a new resident – a Pentecostal Church missionary who arrived in the village driven by his faith to offer comfort to those in need.
"The Russian artillery, instead of just shooting at enemy tanks and personnel, they've actually been targeting Ukrainian artillery," says the missionary, Daniel Richard Martindale.
"That's something that is basically new. It may have happened rarely [to begin with] but now it's pretty consistent and so it's scarier to sit here seeing that going back and forth over your head."
Ukrainian armored vehicles are constantly on the move, repositioning themselves near different villages to avoid incoming fire as much as possible.
The majority of the heaviest equipment being used has been manufactured in the former USSR.
'Vuhledar is holding on'
CGTN Europe met the crew of a Soviet era T-64 tank as they rested, while mechanics repaired their vessel.
They have been battling near Vuhledar's coal mines for a couple of months.
"Vuhledar is holding on and by not losing Marinka, it won't be the same situation as in Bakhmut," explains the 22-year-old tank commander of Ukraine's 32 Brigade. "There, they are attacking from three sides, but they aren't breaking through.
"In Vuhledar, it's not as bad as it seems. The Russians want to take the town, but they can't, because we have lots of minefields, and we fight them with lots of tanks."
Outside the village, four old Soviet infantry vehicles are parked and are being re-armed.
These troop carriers will return to the frontline with the soldiers as soon as they have been serviced and repaired, and once the troops have been fed, rested and re-supplied with ammunition.
On the opposite side of the road, there is grief for another family, a reminder of how fighting inflicts casualties, as a damaged armored vehicle is loaded onto a transporter..
"They got carried away and drove over a landmine. Unfortunately, the driver didn't survive," says the driver of the Armored Personnel Carrier of the 72 brigade.
"But the crew has defended our country very well and the driver is a credit to our brigade. He has definitely distinguished himself."
In Ukraine, graves are being dug on a daily basis with soldiers continuing to give the ultimate sacrifice.