Bakhmut, Ukraine — Once home to 70,000 people, nearly a year of war has left Bakhmut a hollowed out shell. The sound of artillery is constant, and the Ukrainian city has been decimated and deserted, barring a few people trying to eke out some kind of living.
Khartia battalion commander Seva Kozhemyako is among Ukraine’s forces trying to prevent Russia from seizing Bakhmut. In underground hi-tech command centers, his soldiers — some of whom are former gamers and IT workers — use inexpensive drones to stream live video from the frontline, revealing it in astounding detail.
The drones show dead Russian soldiers and shattered backyards, where Russian troops have been seen crawling for cover.
Artillery units also monitor the battlefield in real time and are guided by information collected from the drones.
“As soon as they see the enemy there or the tanks, they just start to shoot,” said Kozhemyako of the artillery units. “We call them and say, ‘Please, correct your fire.'”
In the eastern part of the city, Russians throw wave after wave of troops into the fight.
“They keep on advancing over their fallen soldiers,” said third operative battalion commander Anton Zadorozhny.
When one group is destroyed, another comes. Then at night, they collect the bodies.
The men behind the drones work, sleep and eat in the underground command center in shifts, making sure that on the blood-soaked battlefields just a few blocks away, Bakhmut still holds.
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