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Ukrainian soldiers hold positions in Luhansk Oblast’s Stanytsia Luhanska

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A Ukrainian soldier stands in the trenches near his dugout in a military redoubt near Stanytsia Luhanska in Luhansk Oblast on Dec. 6.

In this far outpost in Luhansk Oblast, Ukrainian soldiers see the enemy from three sides.

The Russian territory is across the woods from them and the Russian-backed rebels are on the other side of the river.

“Today at 5 a.m. their reconnaissance group placed some sensors not far from us,” said the commander of the Ukrainian positions here with nom-de-guerre Proton. He doesn’t give his real name for security reasons.

“But we don’t have the night vision devices to see where exactly they go. And we can’t shoot them from artillery weapons as it would be a breach of a ceasefire,” he added.

There are mines all over the territory, the deadly trap for the forest animals and pets. The soldiers had to tie their watchdog to save its life from the landmines.Bracing for winter, the soldiers are digging the deep trenches, constructing the dugouts and fixing their heaters. There are just a few mostly elderly people living in a village nearby.

The relations with the locals are tense. Sometimes they bring to the soldiers jam from the pine cones, sometimes — call them the invaders.

“Once they started shouting at us — why did you come to our land?” Proton said. “I replied them: this is our land, Ukraine, and always was.”

Text by Oksana Grytsenko

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