The artillery slugging match for the south of Ukraine will be a slow and deadly grind

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The roads leading south are empty of cars. Fighting is intensifying here along this front as Ukraine tries to recapture the city of Kherson.

We travelled with a military escort through checkpoints, along desolate highways, to reach the slowly shifting frontlines.

The villages have all been heavily shelled – and it’s getting worse.

The roofs of homes have been pancaked by the impact of the explosions and the fences surrounding them peppered with shrapnel.

Nowhere is safe here.

But amazingly there are a few residents who’ve decided not to leave.

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Even after all the months of fighting, Ivan tells me he still shudders when the bombs start to drop.

“They are shelling, shelling on the sea. There are two fires, you can see. And a fire over there. They shell every day,” he says.

The attacks come at anytime but it’s worse at night and in the early morning.

Those who remain say they don’t have the resources to leave.

Others are too unwell to flee and have no choice but to stay in the line of fire.

Lubov
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Lubov descends through a trapdoor in her small house

Lubov shows me where she waits out the barrages of Russian artillery.

She descends through a trapdoor in her small house, which has been hit by shrapnel many times.

It’s a dark and lonely existence as the war roars above.

“Every night we come here till morning. During the day if it is a lot of shelling we also have to go down. We are afraid. We hide and are scared. We are waiting for it to end, maybe,” she says.

After six months of conflict, the junk of war along the southern front litters the countryside.

Burnt-out Russian armoured personnel carriers (APCs) tell the story of a massive Ukraine attack, on the ground the scorched uniforms of the soldiers who perished.

The Russian armour was destroyed at the beginning of the invasion and the frontlines haven’t moved significantly here for months.

Russian armour
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The junk of war along the southern front litters the countryside

Ukraine is hoping its forces will be able to roll back the Kremlin’s war machine from areas further south as it launches a counter offensive.

This is now a war that’s being fought across vast open areas and hiding in this landscape artillery teams wait for co-ordinates to strike new targets.

But the units stationed here say they need more supplies from the West to win this fight.

Along the line of contact, trenches stretch for miles.

Infantry units hold defensive positions but are waiting to move further forward.

There is a worry amongst the soldiers that western support may fade without steady progress.

Vasily and Sky's Alex Rossi
Image:
Vasily and Sky’s Alex Rossi

But Vasily, from the 59th Brigade, warns a defeat here will have consequences for democracies everywhere.

“A lot of civilians are dying. The Russians fight very dirty. They have no morals no war ethics. They just came in marauding, killing and raping.”

“If we will not stop them here in our land, if they God forbid they will take our land and destroy all our army, they will not stop here. It’s better to push them back here.”

The troops are 100% confident they can win but Ukraine says there are signs Moscow is becoming more desperate.

Attacks on civilian targets are increasing.

In Mykolaiv, residents live under the constant threat of bombing. At a bus stop on the outskirts, seven were killed recently by a Russian rocket.

The war here is entering a new phase but this conflict will not be over quickly.

The artillery slugging match for the south will be a slow and deadly grind.

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