'It's the most difficult year of our lives': Longest battle of Ukraine war grinds on in Bakhmut

ITV News Correspondent Emma Murphy reports from the frontline in Bakhmut

Russia's war in Ukraine was expected to end in defeat within days - but a year on, Ukraine stands firm.

The longest battle in this year-long war is now being waged on the eastern front where Russian troops still control much of the Donbas region.

Outside Bakhmut, artillery teams are engaged in a daily battle with their Russian neighbours.

The shells they guide are from a Soviet Union self-propelled gun, seized from the Russians in a previous battle and now used against them.

Their fatigues are British - a sign of the Western support sustaining this war.

As targets are hit there is no hiding the hatred or sense of small victory.

Outside Bakhmut ITV News met with the artillery teams in daily battle with their Russian neighbours. Credit: ITV News

"It's the most difficult year of our lives. We left behind our homes, our kids and our elderly parents. We're constantly on the front line. It's physically difficult; emotionally it's even harder," one soldier told ITV News.

This battle is not just fought at a distance. There is daily close contact fighting to push the Russians - just a kilometre away - back even a few metres.

For these soldiers defending the front line from the Russian invaders, the prize is their land - the price is their lives.

They seek to repel the Russians in the months-long but so far futile campaign to capture the town with American mortars.

The close contact fighting along a front line that runs for miles comes at great cost, with no protection even for those ferrying the casualties.

This is not a battle just fought at distance. Credit: ITV News

Bakhmut had a prewar population of 80,000. A few thousand residents have refused or been unable to evacuate from the city, but most have fled.

Among those to leave Bakhmut was Alexander Kushlylenko, 83, who was evacuated when his wife got injured.

He is living in a shelter on the frontline but does not know where his wife is now.

According to the United Nations, 20,000 civilians have been killed so far and eight million refugees have fled Ukraine.

A further six million people remain internally displaced.

For now Bakhmut stands, a growing symbol of Ukrainian resistance as its defenders hold out against Russia's relentless shelling.

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