Small respite for Ukrainian artillery fighters near Bakhmut

Small respite for Ukrainian artillery fighters near Bakhmut


From the woods on the outskirts of Bakhmut, a besieged Ukrainian town in the Donbass, a soldier shouts, “Postril!”

The signal – means “Fire!” in Ukrainian – emits a huge orange fireball from a 130mm field gun, blowing away surrounding vegetation.

In highly choreographed moves, five soldiers quickly remove and replace the red-hot blank cartridge, allowing for another “Postril!”

These soldiers belong to the 93rd Brigade of the Ukrainian Army. Your targets are the Russian positions on the Bakhmut front.

For four months, fighting has raged around this eastern city, still held by Ukrainian troops but surrounded by Moscow’s forces.

“We cover our infantry and chase the enemy’s artillery units. Right now we’re working a lot more than usual,” said Artilleryman Dmytro, 25.

After the war began, his unit received Soviet M-46 field guns, also called the M1954 for the year they were unveiled during a parade in Moscow’s Red Square.

The massive weapon weighs about eight tons (16,000 pounds), has a barrel length of about eight meters (26 feet) and a range of 37 kilometers (22 miles).

– ‘Welcome to hell’ –

“We came here because that’s where the enemy is pushing hardest,” Dmytro said, sweat beading down his face. “It seems they’ve slowed down since we started filming.”

“There are times when we start firing at 5 a.m. and stay here all night… We have two artillery units and we swap out every day and a half,” he explained.

After three consecutive shots, the device pauses in the sun for a moment.

The mix of professionals and mobilized men drinks coffee and smokes cigarettes by the fire.

Some sports patches saying “Welcome to Hell” or “We are Ukraine” on their camouflage combat gear.

So close to the front line, the din of mortar and artillery shelling is almost constant, and there is little time for more than brief respites.

“Shooting continuously for half an hour is tiring,” said Dmytro.

“We will rest when the war is over.”

– ‘Adrenaline’ –

For Dmytro, the most difficult thing is unloading the shells from the trucks, “especially when we get 50-60 boxes.”

When shooting, “adrenaline makes everything easier,” the soldier said.

His unit is given new coordinates of a Russian position they must attack, so the sergeants jump up from their brief pause and run to their half-hidden field gun.

“Ready!” shouts Oleksandr, the observer of the unit.

They remove the stealth cover and reload the M-46.

A soldier gives the coordinates to the gunner, who triggers the control system.

The long tube rises, aims about twenty miles, and fires.

After the shot, the brigade does not have to leave, unlike units operating at shorter ranges closer to the front.

“We were never spotted by the Russians,” said Oleksandr, clearly satisfied.

Dmytro says he avoids thinking about being a target for enemy artillery.

“We just think about how best to achieve our goal and after that we just sit there and wait for the next goal,” he said.

As for fighting an old Soviet weapon, the brigade makes the most of it.

“Of course, usually everyone wants the most modern weapon,” said Oleksandr.

But another member of the unit, smiling as he looked at the M-46, said, “But this baby makes us happy!”

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