‘My child has gone and I’m so sad… but he died a hero and I’m proud of him for that’

There’s a battle-hardened weariness in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine as the tempo of Russian attacks steps up ever more and appears to increase on a daily basis
They know here that they are in the crosshairs of Russian territorial ambitions with a renewed and determined savagery. And with that fresh Russian focus on this region, comes a volley of strikes, more deaths and more destruction.

The residents tell us the hits come every day and every night right now. As we head towards Bakhmut, in Donetsk, the soldiers at the checkpoints warn us to be careful. “Put on your flak jackets and helmets,” one tells us. “There’s been a lot more shelling again – just now.”
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It seems quiet to us but we do as we’re advised and we enter the town through a chicane of earth mounds with Ukrainian flags sporadically stuffed into the soil.

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Within minutes of our arrival, we’re being directed to the latest strike – on a heating factory which supplied warmth to the ten thousand residents in this district.

Escaped death again

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Image: Ukrainian soldiers pick their way through the ruins of the factory
There is a huddle of soldiers picking their way across a section of the factory which is now rubble. Teams of firefighters are carefully making their way inside and around the back of the factory, we can see the legs of a soldier. He’s been pulled to the side and his fellow fighters are standing over him, mourning him.
They tell us two soldiers have died in this attack. There’s a grim silence among the troops gathered. Few talk, not to each other, not to us. One, who appears to still be in shock walks up to us to play an audio note he was in the middle of sending to a friend. It’s interrupted by a loud explosion. “I was just two, three hundred metres away,” he says, still sighing in disbelief that he’s escaped death again.
Read more: Devastated headteacher ‘can’t talk without crying’ after nursery destroyed by Russian shelling

Image: A man looks on at the devastation caused by a missile strike in the town of Bakhmut in Eastern Ukraine. Two soldiers were killed in the hit.
A factory worker is standing by watching a digger shift the piles of rubble. He’s Anatoliy and he was born in this area.
“God save the Queen,” he says to us when he finds out we’ve got British passports.
“I was brought up the Soviet way, and we were taught that Britain and America were our enemies. We never expected Britain to help us like they have (with weapons). We’ve lost one brother but gained new brothers.” He’s referring to how they’re now fighting the Russians so many believed they were forever intrinsically linked to.
Now, the views of residents here are very different. “They can capture the territory but they can’t make us Ukrainians their slaves,” Anatoliy goes on. “We will never sing to the Russian tune…it’s impossible…just impossible.”
‘He died a hero’
Those being killed in this war they never started are increasing with a terrible predictability. Yuri joined the statistics of soldiers killed in battle.
His mother Alina and 13-year-old daughter, Daryna sobbed uncontrollably over his open coffin as they said goodbye in a roadside graveyard which appeared to have several freshly dug burial places.

Image: 13-year-old Alina mourns the death of her father Yuri
The small crowd of friends and relatives who turned out indicated Yuri was a much loved man – only 32 years old when his life was cut short fighting to defend Donbas from the Russians seizing control of Donetsk and Luhansk, the two areas which make up the Donbas region.
His mother hugs me when I approach her and clasps my hand, stroking it throughout our chat.
“Thank you,” Alina Tylenko says to us. She’s pleased we’re here and her son’s death is getting some recognition.
“Has your son’s sacrifice for his country been worth it?” I ask her. “No, no,” Alina says. “No, its not worth his death – because my child is gone.. just suddenly my child has gone and I’m so sad… but he died a hero and I’m proud of him for that.”

Image: Yuri is honoured by his comrades
Russia may have scaled down its military ambitions, the tactics and focus may have altered since the failure to take the capital Kyiv and being forced to retreat from Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv, but for those still being killed and terrorised, the trauma and turmoil doesn’t seem much different at all.
Alex Crawford reports from Donbas region with cameraman Jake Britton and producers Chris Cunningham, Artem Lysak and Nick Davenport

Source : Sky News