The city of Bakhmut is almost under siege.
As you approach, the rumble of artillery echoes around – the sound of an approaching storm.
The first thing that catches your eye is the smoke from the shelling in the center, billowing up against a jagged skyline.
RussiaThe advance of is blocking the way to this desperate place, which is the heart of this battle.
We traveled on one of the remaining roads.
It’s a sketchy, nervous ride along bumpy roads.
There is a line of fire everywhere.
We see destroyed shops, apartment blocks and even churches.
And the casualties on both sides have been staggering.
The Kremlin has outsourced the fight here to the Wagner paramilitary group – sending wave after wave of infantry to try and capture this booming industrial hub.
It is also becoming clear that the fierce fighting that started in August is turning into a civil war.
David and Goliath’s battle of wits
Inside the city, we saw Ukrainian forces setting up traps and bringing in reinforcements.
Lines of Soviet-era tanks and armored vehicles are hidden between the buildings.
Dmytro, a soldier in the Azov Brigade, tells me that the fight has become a David and Goliath battle of wits.
“We’re holding on for now. We’re standing with machine guns against tanks and we’ll see. As long as we have the will to fight, we’ll fight!” he says as the gunfire goes off.
The city has become a symbolic prize for Russia, though apparently of little strategic value.
There are still some people trying to save their belongings but most have left.
We see a group of men taking stock of microwaves and refrigerators from their shop.
Those who remain are scared and rely on aid handouts from volunteers.
Irina says she’s staying because she has nowhere else to go.
“People go to Dnipro and they also shelled Dnipro, people died there, they hid there and there was a strike and people died, where do we go? It could land anywhere. Ukraine“
‘We need weapons, not later’
A Russian attack could soon break the defenses here.
Ukrainian soldiers told us that Russian forces are now on the outskirts of the city.
Andrey, from the National Guard’s Rapid Reaction Brigade, says they desperately need more advanced weapons if they want to stop Vladimir Putin’s army in its tracks.
“We need weapons today because after tomorrow this city may already be destroyed and if we wait I may die but I want to live, and I want to support my country.
“If you wait, maybe the Russians will be in Poland tomorrow, we can wait a month, a year, I don’t know how long, but if we can’t stop Russia now, your army will stop Russia tomorrow. Will be.”
Bakhmut is preparing for another major Russian invasion.
The soldiers here hope they can resist but after the loss of the nearby town of Soledar, they expect another sustained and deadly battle.
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