The lethal beauty of Ukraine’s eastern front

ITV News has travelled to the frontline of the Ukrainian counter-offensive. Emma Murphy, producer Lutfi Abu-Aun, and camera Mark Nelson have been with military units near the area of Bakhmut from where they sent this eyewitness report.

The old man in the forest had the look of a hunter.

Ruddy cheeks, big rough hands and a rifle resting across his arms.

In a way he is a hunter, but his prey are the drones which menace the frontline.

His job is to shoot them down. He won’t say how many he has hit but there is evident pride in his work. I suspect this is the last thing he thought he would be doing at his age.

But his role is crucial in a war and now a counter offensive, in which both sides observe the other from above.

"How important is this counter-offensive?" asks ITV News' Emma Murphy

The detail is astonishing and dangerous. The vast plains of Ukraine’s east are no longer farmland they are the frontline.

In the forest, hidden beneath the tree canopy, is an arsenal of weapons now in constant use.

Beneath cloudless blue skies the Russians seek every position trying to take out the artillery that will strike theirs.

This is a war where new technology and the war horse weaponry of the past are being used to wage the battles.

The Ukrainians try to use vehicles as little as possible at the front, every one is a target with the power to expose positions.

So they walk for miles, spread apart to reduce clusters which are easier to strike.

It could be a beautiful stroll through poppy fields which trill to birdsong.

In reality, the beauty is lost amid the knowledge that every step could be the last, being watched by an enemy with the power to strike without warning.

Only the birds seem unconcerned but even their song is lost to the continual whistle and thump of missiles.

For sure, the counter offensive is well underway.

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