‘Everything is bombed here’: Inside the town of Vuhledar on Ukraine’s frontline


The scarred and battered mining town of Vuhledar sits perched on a hill in the Donetsk region.

It comes into view as we make our way along boggy farm tracks.

It’s a desolate place of burned out buildings, another casualty of this gruesome war.

It’s held by Ukraine but is being attacked continuously by Russian forces.

‘Unexplained’ explosions in Russian-occupied city – Ukraine war latest updates

We entered with a military escort as it came under fire again.

The soldiers taking us forward towards frontline positions warn us to space out and not hang around.

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There’s the constant threat of an artillery strike.

We have to move fast over open ground and it’s a gut-churning zig-zag through the broken landscape.

The sound of a shell whining overhead sees us running for cover, which we find by the side of an apartment block.

The sound of the impact is deafening.

While there, there are moments of quiet before another shell tears through the sky.

The town in the Donetsk region in the fiercely-contested east of Ukraine has been absolutely devastated by the fighting.

Every apartment building has had its windows blown out and the sides of many of them have just been ripped apart.

There are shell craters all around us and unexploded rockets stick in the ground.

About 15,000 people lived here until it was smashed by war. Only a handful remain.

There are no services and the civilians still here collect rainwater from drainpipes to survive, always staying close to cover.

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Yemilia, 67-year-old resident of Vuhledar, venturing out for water
Yemilia, 67-year-old resident of Vuhledar, venturing out for water

Yemilia, one of the residents, tells me she’s terrified all the time but has nowhere else to go.

“It’s really scary. We just go out (to get water) but mostly, we’re sitting in the basement all the time – because if you wait outside, everything is bombed here. It’s difficult, very difficult.”

Perhaps nothing sums up the insanity of this war more than what’s happening here – the wholesale destruction of people’s lives and possessions.

Ukrainian fighter 'Sailor' points out Russian positions near Vuhledar
Ukrainian fighter ‘Sailor’ points out Russian positions near Vuhledar

Vuhledar, we’re told by the troops defending it, is strategically important as Ukrainian forces can target Russian supply lines from these positions.

The fighting over the last few weeks has been ferocious with Russia attacking at a frenetic pace.

“Sailor”, one of the soldiers, says it doesn’t matter how many men are killed, more keep coming.

“They go and go. They are not stopping. They are just advancing over their own dead bodies, their dead brothers, and more are just dying and dying. They’re not stopping.”

Sky's Alex Rossi reporting from Vuhledar
Sky News’ Alex Rossi reporting from Vuhledar
Ukrainian troops in the frontline town of Vuhledar
Ukrainian soldiers say they can defend their positions in the town

Inside a bunker hidden in the bowels of the town, one of the commanders, known as “Raven”, has just coordinated a counter attack.

He shows us a panorama of the town and the body of a dead Russian commando on a livestream beamed from a drone.

“As I understood from intercepting Russian radio, it was their commander. There are a lot of them storming us. But we are coping for now. Unfortunately, they have a lot of long-range mortars, artillery and tanks which we can’t see.”

We were taken to another position near the town, this time with a different brigade.

As we drive, a message comes over the radio that Russian troops are on the move.

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From 26 February: Russian forces hit by Ukrainian artillery near Vuhledar in Donetsk

Since the start of the Kremlin’s new offensive they’ve been very active along the line of contact.

The soldiers in the trenches respond by laying down an arc of fire.

The razor wire in front of them is a last defence against Russia’s human wave assaults.

The soldiers here say they can defend their positions. They’re inured to the hell of this war.

But Russia is a powerful enemy and doesn’t seem to care how many men it pushes forwards until it get what it wants.

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