‘It’s a kind of hell’: The bitterly contested mining town where Putin hopes to secure his first victory in months | World News

Temperatures are well below freezing and icy winds are slicing across the landscape like a million knives, drifting snowdrifts across the roads.

But the fighting doesn’t let up even in the depths of winter, and it’s especially fierce in and around the salt-mining town of Soledar.

Armored vehicles advance backwards and forwards to the city gates where they fire heavy machine guns at the advancing enemy.

Wagner, the leader of a group of Russian mercenaries, claims to have captured the town, but Ukrainian soldiers we spoke to say it is still being fiercely contested.

The sky over Soledar is covered with smoke and the ground shakes with the constant sound of cannons.

In hidden positions in the suburbs, Ukrainian drone operators gather intelligence as shells whistle overhead.

Ukrainian soldier defending Soledar
Bohdan, a Ukrainian soldier defending Soledar
Mykola, an elderly resident left in Soledar.
Mykola, an elderly resident left in Soledar.

Bohdan, one of the drone team, denies that Russia has captured the town.

“The guys are holding their positions in Soledar, the Russians want to surround it but the guys defend, nobody is retreating because it’s our land,” he said.

On his phone he shows us new footage taken by Russian soldiers. The picture is grainy but you can make out a soldier dragging a wounded comrade.

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But nowhere is safe here, with heavy casualties on both sides. This war is very serious. Caught in the middle, shell-shocked citizens are in constant danger. And there’s not much hope when approaching the front line.

“How can I say anything is okay? You can see for yourself. The house is destroyed, everything is destroyed, there is no gas, no water, no electricity.”

Ukrainian soldier defending Soledar
Military orthopedic surgeon, Andriy Zhulub, treats wounded Ukrainians

Some wounded from the front arrive for emergency treatment at the hospital in Kramatorsk. Many have serious injuries. They often engage their enemy at a distance of only 30 meters.

Military orthopedic surgeon Andrey Zhulub says this is proof of how fierce the battle for the town has become.

“It’s a close fight, we’ve got a shot. [wounds]We have injuries from grenade shrapnel and so on, so those types of injuries increased.”

“It’s a Kind of Hell”

However, Russian forces have taken most of the city – and if they take it, it will be the first victory for Vladimir Putin’s forces in months after several military setbacks.

But it may have come at a great cost in life.

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