Sat in a makeshift shelter on the outskirts of a frontline town in eastern Ukraine, the soldier – callsign “Zaur” – shared some rare, good news: new ammunition appeared to be arriving.

He did not know the precise details but said fresh supplies started to be delivered about a week or two earlier.

This was making a difference for his artillery team as they fought to defend Chasiv Yar from advancing Russian forces.

Follow latest: Missiles launched at Crimea

“It allows us to do our job, to hold off Russian soldiers, to restrain them, and also to destroy them when they attempt counterattacks,” Zaur said.

Ukrainian troops have been losing ground in the Donbas and now face a reopened front in the northeastern region of Kharkiv as they run short of ammunition and weapons following delays in the delivery of munitions from their allies, in particular the United States.

Even though American weapons are finally arriving to the frontline, the wait has been costly.

Zaur described the fight for Chasiv Yar, which has long been a Russian target. “It’s pretty intense. There are battles every day,” he said.

Should the hilltop town fall, it would give the invaders access to higher ground, enabling them to target artillery fire onto a wider area and putting cities in the remaining parts of the Donbas that are still under Ukrainian control at greater risk.

Asked whether Ukraine would manage to fend off the Chasiv Yar attack, the soldier, who commands the artillery unit, said: “We’ll try to hold on as much as possible, and time will tell…

“We’ll try our best… to do what’s necessary to survive.”

A Ukrainian soldier with the callsign 'Zaur' speaks to Deborah Haynes in Chasiv Yar
A Ukrainian soldier with the callsign 'Zaur' speaks to Deborah Haynes in Chasiv Yar

A Sky News team was shown around the artillery position under the cover of patchy woodland, next to some grassy mounds. Booms could be heard from distant fighting.

In a sign of the battle moving closer, soldiers had just finished digging a deep, narrow trench, which ran from the already-sheltered location of their self-propelled artillery gun – a 2S1 Gvozdika that fires 122mm rounds.

The trench had taken three days to dig. It had only been finished on the day we visited the area last week and – the soldiers said – had already been used to shelter from incoming rounds.

Chasiv Yar

Russian troops have been trying to push into Chasiv Yar for the past year after seizing the nearby city of Bakhmut.

In recent weeks, though, they appear to have been edging closer – with a Ukrainian military medical stabilisation point forced to pull back to a city called Kostiantynivka.

Read more:
‘This is just the first wave’: Drones reveal new attack
Putin seizes chance as Ukraine waits for weapons

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Russian soldiers advance in Ukrainian drone footage

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As we looked at the artillery site, there was suddenly an ominous sound.

A powerful rocket – I was not able to see it – was flying overhead.

Over a radio held by a soldier, a voice could be heard saying: “It was coming straight at us, then veered towards a five-storey building. It flew low, damn it.”

Within minutes, we became aware of another danger – a drone.

A Russian drone is seen hovering above a Ukrainian artillery post in Chasiv Yar

One of the troops said he thought it was a Ukrainian drone but from our position, it seemed impossible to be sure.

We were told that the commander thought it best for us to leave.

As we walked – quickly – across some open ground between two patches of tree cover, one of the Sky News team thought they could hear a self-exploding attack drone in flight.

Deborah Haynes and Sky News leave the Ukranian post in Chasiv Yar
A Ukrainian soldier holding a rifle in Chasiv Yar

Again, it was not possible to know for sure what was making the noise, but then came the sound of an explosion, though the impact site was not in the immediate vicinity.

In a final reminder of the battle, as we headed towards our vehicle, it was possible to see a black dot hovering above the trees – yet another drone.