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Chasiv Yar: how Ukrainian mortar men drive Russians from outskirts of city

Thursday, 4 July 2024, 05:30

The Ukrainian OSINT project DeepState painted the last part of the Skhidnyi (or Canal) district in Chasiv Yar, red on 3 July. It means that this part of the city is completely under Russian control now.

The Ukrainian military fighting on the Bakhmut front also confirmed this information to Ukrainska Pravda. The 24th Separate Mechanised Brigade, which had recently been redeployed to Chasiv Yar from the then-peaceful Toretsk front, had to withdraw from Skhidnyi.

The Skhidnyi neighbourhood is part of Chasiv Yar closest to occupied Bakhmut and has mostly high-rise buildings. In war, such a loss means not only the occupation of destroyed houses but also the loss of some fortifications, spacious basements, observation posts on the high floors of apartment buildings, and an increased presence of Russian FPVs. 


This also means that the line of contact is moving towards other populated areas and will now run along the Siversky Donets-Donbas canal. The Ukrainian defence forces control most of the town where more than 600 local residents remain.

A week and a half before the withdrawal from Skhidnyi, when it was still possible to enter the centre of Chasiv Yar at your own risk at daylight, Ukrainska Pravda journalists were able to see the settlement through the eyes of civilians. And they also saw everything through the eyes of the soldiers, the mortar crews of the 225th Separate Assault Battalion, while making their way to the military positions at twilight.

The 225th Separate Assault Battalion came to the defence of Chasiv Yar in April 2024 and saw the most intense Russian attacks when they were trying to enter the town from the direction of Skhidnyi. In conversations with Ukrainska Pravda, the guys recollected that back then, the Russians could afford to launch FPV drones at Ukrainian positions every two to three minutes. Some of those drones were carrying chloropicrin, which is a chemical weapon.

At the same time, as the soldiers admit, it was a time when they had enough ammunition to work with. A total of 50-70 mines a day is a real luxury in today's war. 

"Back then, there were tanks here, and there were powerful attacks, and it turned out that we lost part of the forest," the deputy commander of a mortar battery who goes by the alias Riley said.

"Now there are no such attacks and no such tension as there was a month and a half ago (in April-May). But the pressure is constant... breakthroughs, attacks. Novyi Chasik (as they call Skhidnyi – ed.) is a different story... The Russians are destroying it with everything – aerial bombs and Solntsepyok heavy flamethrower systems. This is their scorched earth tactic: first, destroy everything, and then you can go in," added his commander who goes by the alias Horynych.

Ukrainska Pravda journalists spent a day at the positions of the 225th Brigade's mortar men, who work with 120-mm Finnish-made and 80-mm Soviet-produced mortars. We filmed the guys running to the position (sometimes in shorts and slippers) a few minutes after receiving the order and opening fire on the Russian infantry. We asked them if they hoped to be demobilised. 

Moreover, we also filmed some nice mundane things, such as cooking pasta on the positions, talking to their children on the phone and rinsing the eyes of a few-day-old kitten with tea.

Life goes on even in places where the Russians are trying to take it away from everyone every second.

Бійці 225-го ОШБ просять допомоги з двома зборами:

1) на РЕБ для мінометної батареї, про яку, власне, журналісти УП знімали репортаж у Часовому Яру;

2) на дрони для роти ударних БПЛА 225-го батальйону: ПриватБанк, Монобанк.

Olha Kyrylenko, Alex Klymov, Ukrainska Pravda

Translation: Myroslava Zavadska

Editing: Ivan Zhezhera