Inside the trenches on the Ukrainian frontline

Watch ITV News correspondent Emma Murphy's report

They were places of hell in the last century and time has done nothing to ease the horrors of trench warfare.

Technology may have allowed us to see their reality better but it has not made this style of battle any less brutal.

They remain some of the worst places to live and die.

Now they tear into the Ukrainian countryside as they tore into other parts of Europe in wars of old. Mile after mile of muddy deep red in green fields beneath blue skies.

What is happening in them is now captured on helmet cameras and phones in a way we have never seen before.

The images they capture so bad the same footage in films would seem overly dramatised. But these images are not in films, this is real life.

Old ways for modern wars.

Senior Lieutenant Oleksandr Yabchanka, of the 1st Battalion Da Vinci Wolves. Credit: ITV News

When Senior Lieutenant Oleksandr Yabchanka, of the 1st Battalion Da Vinci Wolves, told me he fought in Dead Man’s Trench, I thought it was named because so many lives were lost there. It’s not.

The dreadful name is because when the Ukrainian's recaptured there were four dead Russian’s in it.

They weren’t able to move the bodies because the mud was so deep and the fighting was so fierce, so they left them where they fell and got on with their jobs.

In that trench they added their own bodies too.

Under sustained Russian assault the shells rained down, a 22 year old died under direct hit just seconds from the limited safety of the shelter, another died there too. So many more were dreadfully injured.

A Russian solider is seen throwing a grenade towards them. Credit: ITV News

The footage that captures the attack shows a sustained Russian assault, soldiers pouring towards the trench, grenades flying through the air, the rattle of rifle fire and wave after wave of Russian infantry push forward.

Mortars land second after second, the artillery barely ceases.

Somehow a trench full of soldiers, most who had barely seen battle, repelled them - but at great cost.

It is a very hard watch but it is the reality of this war. A dreadful war where no one talks of peace but everyone wants it over.

If we learn anything from this war it is how little we learn from history.

ITV News' Emma Murphy visited the trenches on the frontline in Ukraine

Senior Lieutenant Oleksandr Yabchanka, of the 1st Battalion Da Vinci Wolves, was a paediatrician before the war. A man who trained for years to save lives, he is now fighting to save his own and those of his fellow soldiers.

  • This is his description of one of battles for Bakhmut:

This is the road to Bakhmut. Our task was to hold the position so that the enemy did not cut this road.

The forest line, where all the events took place, was actually the line of our defense. The battle on the video was the hundredth, or two hundredth assault.

That is, every day they made five, sometimes eight or nine assaults. They were targeting this particular position.

Oleksandr Yabchanka and ITV News' Emma Murphy look through battle footage. Credit: ITV News

All the previous times we destroyed them with artillery on the approach. From the drone we would see they were 100 to 200 metres away, then fire at them.

That was our advantage, we could see the battlefield, and they just smashed into our defense like a head against a wall.

They lost about 500 fighters there. Our losses amounted to 21 soldiers. 

In this battle they managed to reach our bunker, close enough to throw a grenade, risking we lose the position and the men in it.

Previously the Wagner group acted against us, but in this battle it was paratrooper assault units. That is, special units trained to assault.

That was an unforgettable battle. We destroyed an elite paratrooper unit but we lost our own too. 

In the part of my life that is called "war", the bright part is made up of the people I serve with. And of course, when we lose them we romanticise these people.

We see these people as heroes because they are heroes. 

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