It’s been over two years since Ukrainian troops retreated from the embattled city of Debaltseve after a month of fierce fighting against Russian-led forces back in February 2015.
After the battle for the pre-war transport hub some 700 kilometers southeast of Kyiv, the front line in the Donbas stabilized roughly in its present-day position, and a new stage in Russia’s war against Ukraine started – exhausting static warfare that has continued to this day, with no end in sight.
Ukraine’s forces continue to hold trench position near Debaltseve, which is still occupied by Russian’s proxy forces.
The soldiers of the 53rd Mechanized Brigade are positioned just a few kilometers northwest of Debaltseve, defending the towns and villages of the so-called Svitlodarsk Bulge just behind the front line. There, they beat back enemy attacks from behind heavily-fortified entrenchments, and shelter from enemy mortar and artillery shelling in dugouts.
The soldiers live and fight in these positions for many months without leave, setting up their everyday housekeeping and сconsolidating the defensive lines. The logic of this stalemate war dictates that they use each and every chance to build up their defenses – and the enemy is doing so also.
At an advanced observation point in the salient that stretches into the Russian-occupied zone, Ukrainians troops at night can see the lights of Debaltseve to the south – and dream of taking back the city, lost in a decisive battle of the war.