Ukraine: In the battle for Bakhmut - the teams saving lives have never been busier

This video contains distressing images

ITV News correspondent John Ray joins Ukraine army medics as they battle to save the lives of soldiers fighting for Bakhmut

As we drive towards the sound of heavy gunfire, the first thing we are told by the army is that the location must remain secret.

In the battle for Bakhmut, even the field medical stations are a target.

This haven of fragile humanity amid the carnage of war is surrounded by bombed out buildings.

Russian shells land close-by while we film. Yet none of the doctors or nurses seems to notice.

The artillery fire, from both sides, lasts most of the day. Everyday.

They, meanwhile, are pre-occupied by the business of saving lives. And they have never busier.

ITV News' John Ray speaks to the chief medical officer, who goes by his call-sign, Kaplya

"It’s a really big battle and it’s very cruel," says the chief medical officer, who goes by his call-sign, Kaplya.

"Our soldiers are very brave. Every inch of this Russian advance costs a great deal of our blood."

The Fifth Assault Brigade is tasked with the defence of the city. It has been the longest and bloodiest battle of the war.

Half a dozen medics are working on a soldier whose face has been ripped open by shrapnel from a Russian shell.

"All you need to do is to breathe," Kaplya says to the injured man. "Stay calm. If you panic, you will be dead."

ITV News' John Ray reports from the field medical stations treating soldiers in eastern Ukraine. Credit: ITV News

They ensure the bleeding stops and that his breathing continues. It is a harrowing – and an impressive - sight.

Kaplya is satisfied. "He will live. I am happy," he tells me.

All afternoon we watch a steady flow of wounded soldiers – testament to the intensity of the fighting a few miles away.

The commander of one unit waits outside an operating room while the team get to work on one of his men.

"There is very heavy shelling," he says. "It went on for three hours."

At the weekend, Russia claimed control of the city. That’s disputed by Ukraine.

Undoubtedly true is that Ukraine has made advances to the north and south.

Neither side has revealed the numbers of dead and wounded. But some days, we are told, there are too many casualties to treat at the same time.

"I am a doctor, I am not God," says Kaplya. "It’s the hardest moral decision.

"But sometimes I have operated on a soldier who should really have no chance to live but somehow they survive. That inspires me."

The soldier with the face wound is bandaged up and dispatched to a hospital safe from the front line.

The battle for Bakhmut isn’t over. And he will bear the scars for ever.

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