ITV News Correspondent Emma Murphy joins soldiers close to the frontline as Ukraine stages a major counteroffensive to claw back territory
The soldiers of the 68th Brigade stood close to the tree line to take their battle commands. A shelter from the sun and hopefully from Russian surveillance and attack.
Men who didn’t used to be soldiers are soldiers now and fighting their hardest battles. It’s one thing to defend territory, it’s another to take it back.
They don’t look like a usual unit. They are of all ages, shapes and sizes. Men who a year ago had the soft hands of office work now calloused from the demands of soldiering. Only two of the 500-strong battalion were professional soldiers before the war.
Looking at them, as they prepared to go and liberate occupied villages, it was hard not to wonder if all would return from their battles.
From their faces it was clear they were wrestling with the same thoughts. What a dreadful prospect.
Leonid, a former engineer, described himself now as a “simple infantry man”. He said in 15 months he had learned not to react to the explosions.
To the newer recruits, who still startle, he must seem like a veteran. How they must hope that in 15 months time from now they are not still fighting this war.
Oleksandr, had been a soldier, became a lorry driver and is now a soldier once more. A junior sergeant, he must keep his men motivated.
He says they are the best, his laugh is loud. His eyes are dark. Tiredness is his main emotion, he says, along with a determination to get the job done.
He doesn’t talk of pride or honour, they are the words of fairytales to him. His rage and anger are contained but engulfing. He has seen the bodies of his comrades broken or dead, now he just wants revenge.
Loaded with the weapons that will save lives and take lives they left for the villages they seek to liberate. How much they must hope to return to the makeshift camp that is now home.
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