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Ukraine faces the battle of Chassiv Yar, a “gate” to conquer Donbass

Sitting amidst the cooking fumes, Ukrainian soldier Anton stands ready to attack. participate à a new operation to defend Tchassiv Iar, a locality strategic strategy for the control of the eastern region of Donbass.

After a year of relative stability of the front line, Russian forces are making progress against the Ukrainian army, which is struggling to renew its troops and is accusing a lack of ammunition linked to delays in Western aid .

They now aim to conquer Tchassiv Iar, perched on a height, located 20 km west of Bakhmut, a town which Russia seized in May 2023 after months of violent battles.

“If the Russians take Chassiv Iar, the door will be open for other cities… so it is important to stop them there”, explains the soldier Anton, 40 years old.

Ukraine faces the battle of Chassiv Yar, a “gate” to conquer Donbass

A British FV103 Spartan armored vehicle driven by a Ukrainian soldier on the road to Chasiv Yar, Donetsk region, Ukraine, March 30, 2024 © AFP – Roman PILIPEY

From the dominant position around Chassiv Iar, the Russians would have an important base and would be able to target the towns below: firstly Kramatorsk, the main city in the Ukrainian-controlled region and an important logistical node for the Ukrainian army, then, potentially, Sloviansk.

These two cities have a symbolic value for Moscow: a decade ago, pro-Russian separatists fled there briefly seized during the first clashes with Kiev.

Now on the front line, Tchassiv Iar is on the Bakhmut road. In this direction, Anton specifies that Russia “uses a lot of men, a lot of ammunition, aviation and artillery operate there constantly.” For the moment, the soldier of the 5th Assault Brigade emphasizes that his unit “manages to hold on.”

– Fierce fighting –

Ukrainian and Russian military bloggers wrote on Friday that Russian troops had reached the outskirts of the city.

But Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrsky maintained on Saturday that “Chasiv Yar remains under control, all enemy attempts to break through this front have failed”, even if the city is the scene of violent clashes.

The head of the military administration of Chassiv Yar, Serguiï Tchaous, told AFP that the situation there had become more dangerous recently.

“If before there were times when there was silence in the city, now there is no more (…), the whole city is burning,” he said on Friday. 'AFP.

Wounded soldiers in Chassiv Yar may now have difficulty obtaining emergency first aid before evacuation.

Ukraine faces the battle of Chassiv Yar, a “gate” to conquer Donbass

Wounded Ukrainian soldiers are treated at an emergency health clinic near the town of Chasiv Yar, Donetsk region, Ukraine, April 3, 2024 © AFP – Roman PILIPEY

The last known urgent care clinic was moved out of town for security reasons. One of his doctors told AFP that the evacuation teams were no longer going to Chassiv Iar, which had become too dangerous.

“If the injured soldiers are evacuated, it's by car”, specifies Nadia, a 24-year-old doctor. She saw soldiers forced to walk for hours “because there is no other option to get out of these positions.”

– “They destroy everything” –

Ukraine faces the battle of Chassiv Yar, a “gate” to conquer Donbass

Egor, returning from his four days at the front where Ukrainian soldiers took turns facing the Russian assault, near Chassiv Iar, March 28, 2024 © AFP – Roman PILIPEY

Returning from an operation on the outskirts of the city, Serguiï, 25, judges that the situation is “much harder now”. The soldier from the Fifth Assault Brigade, nicknamed “Moped”, keeps rubbing his heavily darkened eyes. “Many drones are now in action,” day and night, he confides.

His comrade Egor believes that drones have become more precise, which makes them makes it more frightening than artillery. “The drone keeps flying until it kills you or it falls next to you to hurt you until another one comes,” describes the 27-year-old soldier.

“The first paralyzes you, the second falls on you and finishes you off,” adds Egor, who points out that Russian troops are using their resources more rationally compared to the start of the invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Bogdan, a 21-year-old soldier, approves. “They learn, they learn, they are not stupid… it is not the same army as in 2022”.

But certain strategies are immutable, said the soldiers, the destruction of Chassiv Yar reminiscent of previous battles waged by the Russians which completely flattened towns.

“They destroy everything then sit alone at the in the middle of the ruins,” said Sergiï. According to him, the capture of Chassiv Iar would mean increased bombing of the population who continue to live there.

Approximately 770 people are still in the town, compared to some 13,000 before war, head of the military administration Serguiï Tchaous told AFP.

A dozen kilometers from the city, in Kostiantynivka, a resident told AFP that he was afraid of the advance of the Russians.

Sitting on a bench in front of his house, Andriï Komarystov said that he had no place where go and he had to take care of his mother and elderly neighbors.

“Whatever happens, they will plant potatoes and remove the bad ones herbs from their gardens. And they won't go anywhere,” he comments while stroking a dog. “We'll sit here until the end. And if we get hit, we get hit, that's all.”

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116