Ukrainian soldier’s heroic last stand against Russian troops who have killed everyone else in his trench is caught on video in bloody fight for Donbas
- The harrowing drone footage was taken earlier in the war in the skies over Novotoshkivske, in Luhansk region
- A lone Ukrainian defender took on a squad of pro-Russian separatists after they killed other soldiers in his unit
- He fought valiantly and gave his team more time to retreat, but was ultimately killed by several grenades
- His heroic but brutal end epitomises the bitter close-quarter combat now taking place in Severodonetsk
- Severodonetsk is the last city in Luhansk under Ukrainian control and is the epicentre of the fighting
- Russian troops have entered the city but fighting is progressing street by street amid artillery barrages
- Meanwhile the EU is meeting today to discuss yet more sanctions against Russia, including an oil embargo
The heroic final moments of a lone Ukrainian soldier who took on a squad of Russian troops in WWI style trench warfare have been captured in chilling drone footage.
The clip, filmed from the skies above Novotoshkivske in Luhansk earlier in the war, shows a group of pro-Russian separatists making their way through a trench which splits a barren field devastated by heavy artillery.
After the Russians shot dead one Ukrainian soldier and forced the rest to retreat, a single defender stays to confront the aggressors and a desperate close-quarter battle begins.
The defender rattles off a few rifle shots, forcing the separatists to retreat briefly, but their superior numbers and firepower force the lone Ukrainian into a small offshoot of the trench from which there is no escape.
He continues to fight a gallant last stand, firing his rifle from around the corner and forcing the pro-Russian troops to remain in cover further down the trench.
Unwilling to engage in a firefight, the separatists fall back and begin lobbing grenade after grenade down the trench, forcing the lone Ukrainian to scramble for cover, enduring consecutive concussive blasts and hails of shrapnel.
One Russian grenade falls directly into the offshoot, but the defender manages to lunge down and toss it back over the lip of the trench a split second before the blast.
Eventually though the onslaught takes its toll.
One grenade blast blows the defender to his back, seemingly wounding him and crippling his legs.
Despite his injuries, he manages to fight on, grabbing another grenade and hurling it back towards the Russians.
But yet another grenade lands right at his feet seconds later, and this time he is unable to escape the blast.
The explosion rocks the trench and throws up a cloud of thick black smoke, but when it clears, the valiant defender is seen lying motionless in the mud.
The harrowing clip epitomises the bitter, close-quarter warfare involved in the ongoing battle for the Donbas as Russian troops this morning managed to breach the city of Severodonetsk – the final city in the Luhansk region under the control of Ukrainian forces.
Pro-Russian separatists are seen bottom left retreating under the fire of a lone Ukrainian defender who is trapped in an offshoot of the trench but continues to fight off his aggressors
One of the separatists’ grenades falls directly into the offshoot, but the defender manages to grab it and hurl it over the lip of the trench a split second before the explosion pictured here. The soldier’s helmet can be seen poking above the trench mere feet from the blast
One grenade blast blows the defender to his back, seemingly wounding him and crippling his legs. Despite his injuries, he manages to fight on, but is caught in another explosion seconds later after which he is seen lying motionless. The defender is pictured sitting down, seemingly unable to move after being caught in one blast
Russian troops this morning managed to breach the city of Severodonetsk – the final city in the Luhansk region under the control of Ukrainian forces. This map depicts the latest developments in the battle for the Donbas
Russian and Ukrainian troops are now locked in intense fighting in Severodonetsk and its neighbouring town Lysychansk.
Moscow’s soldiers, supported in their advance to the city by heavy artillery, are now facing bitter street-by-street fighting, while Ukrainian regional officials reported the conflict has knocked out power and mobile phone services and terrorised civilians who have not fled.
Severodonetsk, a manufacturing hub, has emerged as an epicentre of Russia’s quest to conquer Ukraine’s industrial Donbas region along with nearby Lysychansk, where Ukrainian officials reported constant shelling over the weekend.
The two cities, with a combined pre-war population of around 200,000, are the last major areas under Ukrainian control in Luhansk province, which together with the Donetsk region constitutes the Donbas.
Putin’s troops are focused on capturing parts of both not already controlled by pro-Moscow separatists and have made painstakingly slow but steady advances in recent weeks as their heavy artillery eats away at Ukrainian positions, allowing infantry to slowly creep forward.
In last night’s video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said: ‘Some 90 per cent of buildings (in Severodonetsk) are damaged. More than two-thirds of the city’s housing stock has been completely destroyed. There is no telecommunication.
‘Capturing Severodonetsk is a fundamental task for the occupiers… We do all we can to hold this advance.’
Severodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Striuk said two residents were killed and five more injured in shelling, and reported there was fighting at the city’s central bus station on Saturday afternoon and Sunday, thwarting any evacuation attempts from the transport hub.
A humanitarian centre was unable to operate due to the danger, he said, and mobile phone services and electricity were knocked out. Residents also reportedly risked exposure to shelling to get water from a half-dozen wells.
Striuk went on to estimate at least 1,500 civilians in the city, which had a pre-war population of around 100,000, have died from the fighting as well as from a lack of medicine and diseases that could not be treated.
Smoke and dirt rise from the city of Severodonetsk, during shelling in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas
An injured woman lays on a wooden pallet inside the centre for distribution of humanitarian aid in Severodonetsk. Ukrainian regional officials reported that Russian forces were ‘storming’ the eastern city in the Luhansk region and terrorising civilians still living there
A man walks near the remains of a missile in the city of Lysychansk, in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas, on May 26, 2022
Residents of the city of Lysychansk cook food outside their houses, as the city is without electricity and water, in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas, on May 26, 2022
The State Emergency Service of Ukraine said on Sunday morning that Russian shelling had caused fires around Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city (devastation in Kharkiv pictured yesterday)
A local resident stands next the Kharkiv fire station, built in 1887, on May 26, 2022
A photograph shows a downed bridge which connects the city of Lysychansk with the city of Severodonetsk in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas
Regional governor Serhiy Haidai meanwhile claimed Severodonetsk’s critical infrastructure has been almost completely destroyed while up to 90 per cent of residential districts had been damaged.
He previously said the Russians had retreated ‘with losses’ around the village of Bobrove, around 12 miles (20km) south-east of Severodonetsk, but were carrying out air strikes on a nearby village on the strategic Siversky Donetsk river.
‘The situation in Lysychansk is severe due to constant shelling by the occupiers; there are fatalities and wounded people,’ he wrote on Telegram, but added this morning: ‘Lysychansk is under the control of Ukraine.’
On Saturday one civilian died and four were injured when a Russian shell hit a high-rise apartment building, according to Haidai. A local cinema and 22 other residential buildings were also damaged, he said, before adding that fighting is now advancing street-by-street in the city.
The governor said the sole road link to the outside world was expected to be the focus of continued Russian attacks.
‘This week will be very hard, as Russia puts all its resources into seizing Severodonetsk, or cutting off the (area) from communication with Ukraine,’ he announced.
The Ukrainian military said on Sunday morning that Russian forces were also trying to strengthen their positions around Lyman, a small city that serves as a key rail hub in the Donetsk region.
‘The enemy is reinforcing its units,’ the Ukrainian armed forces’ General Staff said in an operational update. ‘It is trying to gain a foothold in the area.’
Moscow claimed on Saturday to have taken Lyman, announcing the city had been ‘entirely liberated from Ukrainian nationalists’, but there was no acknowledgement of that from Kyiv authorities.
Ukrainian news outlets and Telegram channels continue to suggest the battle for the city was still underway.
Ukrainian presidential adviser and peace negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak repeated a call for U.S.-made long-range multiple-rocket launchers amid the bitter fighting.
‘It is hard to fight when you are attacked from 70km away and have nothing to fight back with… we need effective weapons,’ Podolyak posted on Twitter.
Zelensky voiced hopes in a late-night video address that Ukraine’s allies would provide needed weapons, adding that he expected ‘good news’ in the coming days.
Ukraine has started receiving Harpoon anti-ship missiles from Denmark and U.S. self-propelled howitzers, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Saturday evening.
European Union leaders will meet on Monday and Tuesday to discuss a new sanctions package against Russia including an oil embargo.
EU governments have been unable to agree on a sixth package of sanctions against Moscow because the proposed embargo on Russian oil is not acceptable to Hungary and a big problem for Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Ahead of the summit, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck expressed fears that EU unity was ‘starting to crumble’ and draft conclusions of the meeting, seen by Reuters, indicated there will be little in terms of new decisions.
But EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said ‘there will be an agreement in the end’, with a deal on the next sanctions package by Monday afternoon.
A view from damaged sites amid Russian attacks in Mariupol, Ukraine on May 27, 2022
An adviser to the mayor of the decimated port city Mariupol reported that one of the city’s largest supermarkets is being used as a mass morgue (general view of destruction in Mariupol pictured May 27)
This photograph taken on 27 May 2022, shows Russian military vehicles destroyed on a road near the village of Kutuzivka, Kharkiv region, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine
In this handout photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service released on Saturday, May 28, 2022, Russian soldiers control the situation sitting on a board of a Mi-8 helicopter of the Russian air force during a mission at an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)
The Ukrainian army said heavy fighting was continuing around Donetsk, the provincial capital.
It also said Russia had launched an offensive on Saturday night around the city of Bakhmut, in the neighbouring Luhansk region, but had been pushed back.
Haidai said the Lysychansk-Bakhmut highway – a key supply route – had suffered considerable shelling but was still under Ukrainian control.
The Land Forces of Ukraine hinted at high levels of casualties sustained by Moscow, claiming that civilians were no longer being admitted to hospitals in Russia-annexed Crimea as beds were needed by injured troops, and also said more than 30,000 Russian troops have now died in the conflict.
These claims have not yet been verified.
Meanwhile, adviser to the mayor of the decimated port city Mariupol reported that one of the city’s supermarkets close to the Azovstal steel plant is being used as a mass morgue because there are too many bodies to bury after three months of near constant bombardment.
Petr Andryushchenko yesterday Russian troops were dumping civilian bodies in the Shchirii Kum supermarket and leaving them to rot, and posted a harrowing picture of decomposing corpses lying in the aisle on his Telegram channel.
‘In the premises of the supermarket the Russians set up a morgue. Literally. The Russians are bringing the bodies of the dead here, which they washed away when they tried to restore the water supply.
‘They just dump them like garbage. There is a catastrophic shortage of people to bury and operate even makeshift mortuaries, to such an extent that a separate recruitment campaign of pathologists was launched in Moscow.’
He said the photo, which captured partially decomposed and rotting bodies piled up together and only partially wrapped in clothing, represented a ‘visual demonstration of inhumanity’.
A view of damaged territory of Azovstal plant is seen in Mariupol, Ukraine on May 27, 2022
Petr Andryushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said Russian troops were dumping civilian bodies in the Shchirii Kum supermarket and leaving them to rot because the losses are so high and there are not enough people to dig graves and operate mortuaries
The remains of civilians, covered by clothes and sheets, are seen in the Shchirii Kum supermarket in Mariupol
More widely, Russia launched renewed air strikes overnight on Ukraine’s northern Kharkiv and Sumy regions, Ukrainian state agencies said.
The State Emergency Service of Ukraine said on Sunday morning that Russian shelling had caused fires around Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city.
Russia has kept up a bombardment of Kharkiv, located in north-eastern Ukraine, after Ukrainian fighters pushed its forces back from positions near the city several weeks ago.
The Kharkiv regional prosecutor’s office said a Russian shell broke through the roof of a house in the town of Zolochiv, around 20 miles (40km) north-west of Kharkiv, early on Sunday, injuring a 50-year-old man and a 62-year-old woman.
The Ukrainian Border Guard Service said border areas in the Sumy region, east of Kharkiv, were hit with six unguided missiles. The agency did not mention reports of any casualties.
More than three months after Moscow invaded its pro-Western neighbour, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz yesterday called for ‘direct serious negotiations’ between Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.
The two European leaders also ‘insisted on an immediate ceasefire and a withdrawal of Russian troops’ in an 80-minute phone call with the Russian leader on Saturday, the German chancellor’s office said.
In return, the Kremlin said Putin would be ‘open’ to resuming talks with Kyiv, but did not mention any possibility of direct negotiations between the leaders of the warring nations.
Zelensky previously said he was not ‘eager’ for talks after weeks of having his repeated calls for negotiations aired, but recognised they would likely be necessary to end the conflict.
French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) implored Putin to consider peace talks with Zelensky
The Kremlin said Putin would be ‘open’ to resuming talks with Kyiv, but did not mention any possibility of direct negotiations between the presidents of the warring nations
In their call with Putin, Scholz and Macron also pointed to a looming global food security crisis.
In addition to capturing key ports such as Mariupol, Russia has used its warships to cut off other cities still in Ukrainian hands, blocking grain supplies from being transported out.
Russia and Ukraine supply about 30 percent of the wheat traded on global markets.
Russia has tightened its own exports and Ukraine has vast amounts stuck in storage, driving up prices and reducing availability across the globe.
Putin has repeatedly rejected any responsibility, instead blaming Western sanctions.
But on Saturday, he told Macron and Scholz that Russia was ‘ready’ to look for ways to allow more wheat onto the global market.
‘Russia is ready to help find options for the unhindered export of grain, including the export of Ukrainian grain from the Black Sea ports,’ the Kremlin quoted him as saying.
He also called for the lifting of sanctions to allow ‘an increase in the supply of Russian fertilisers and agricultural products’ to the global market.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence tweeted that Moscow’s attempts to barter for a reduction in the severity of sanctions was testament to their efficacy in crippling Russia’s economy.
‘Russia has demonstrated is it prepared to leverage global food security for its own political aim and then present itself as the reasonable actor and blame the West for any failure…
‘Russia’s attempt to achieve a reduction in the severity of international sanctions also highlights the stresses sanctions are placing on the regime,’ the tweets read.
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