Ukrainian band Antytila's collaboration with Ed Sheeran partly filmed on the frontline

The lead singer of Antytila spoke to ITV News Presenter Faye Barker about what it was like collaborating with Ed Sheeran in a time of war

Taras Topolia is a soldier serving with the army in Ukraine, but he is also a rock star.

His band Antytila would pack out stadiums before the war with Russia began, but they put all that aside to fight for, what Taras says, is something they must do. The band have a champion though - and a collaborator - in Ed Sheeran, and this week they have released a version of Sheeran's hit "2step", which features Antytila.

"I filmed my parts here in Kharkiv between battle positions of our battalion," Taros told me, speaking from a military vehicle on the move near the Ukrainian city.

"Our positions every time were under Russian fire but we stopped for 10, maybe 15 minutes, and captured the video." The video also shows the juxtaposition of life before and after the war, as a boy dances in the ruins of a theatre called the House of Culture in Irpin.

Some of the video was filmed in the ruins of the House of Culture in Irpin, near Kyiv. Credit: ITV News

They were scenes put together by creative contacts of the band in Kyiv who wanted to show hope through the destruction. "It's a creative house for kids, and Russia destroyed it, but Russia cannot destroy the soul of our nation and the creative power of our kids, " Taras says.

"So we decided to show it. How the war interrupted the peaceful life and how the war interrupted the dreams."

Unscripted- our arts and entertainment podcast

The collaboration with Ed Sheeran came about after Antytila reached out on TikTok to the pop star, to offer to perform via videolink during the fundraiser "Concert for Ukraine" in Birmingham in March.

It wasn't possible but a new plan was hatched with Sheeran contacting the Ukrainian band days later, suggesting they work on a new version of the hit "2step". Taras admits it's hard to have stopped performing but he is a trained paramedic and accepts those skills are needed now for his country.

However, it is also important to him to share the message of Ukraine's resilience through Antytila's music, where he can. "It's not easy but we adapted. We must live this terrible, horrible new life."

But with some optimism, Taras added: "War also gives times of humour, because without humour, you will not survive. But if you're smiling, it helps. It heals. It gives you light inside."