New photographs have revealed the hellish conditions and injuries faced by Ukrainian troops fighting Russian forces around the eastern city of Bakhmut.
The series of images shows soldiers setting out to battle - and wounded survivors afterwards.
The photographs include a glimpse of nervous members of the 10th Mountain Assault Brigade preparing to assault enemy positions under the cover of darkness.
Not all of those seen in the image will return from the so-called zero position, the furthest edge of the frontline, from which Moscow’s troops can be seen nearby.
Pictures taken after the assault show a smaller group of injured men returning from the fighting.
One Ukrainian soldier’s head is wrapped in a bloodied bandage. His left eye is swollen shut and his face is muddied, caked in dirt and blood. The soldier’s left hand is also heavily wrapped in gauze.
“Behind every defended landing, every defended dugout and every millimetre of ground is the blood of our people,” wrote photographer Kostya Liberov.
The photographed men were part of a storm group sent to try and dislodge entrenched Russians on the outskirts of Bakhmut, which Ukraine has been vying to recapture after it fell under Moscow’s control in May.
“Those who say they are not afraid are lying. Everyone is scared. Every time it is scary. But we are here,” the troops’ driver told the photographer.
Ukrainian soldiers described their experience as like being dropped off “in the middle of hell,” before coming within 300 metres of their enemy.
Forest ‘is taking our friends away’
The men are fighting from tree line to tree line as they attempt an ambitious double envelopment of Russian forces in the Donetsk region city.
The fighters saw their friends cut down by Russian machine gun fire while moving forward through an apocalyptic, shell-scarred landscape around the outskirts of Bakhmut.
“This forest is taking our friends away,” a Ukrainian codenamed Courier said.
“And when I think about how far we still need to move forward... most likely someday I will be the one to remain lying in the forest, and my friends will just go forward.”
The long stretches of dead forests that took months to battle through were largely ignored in the announcement of the liberation of Andriivka and Klishchiivka, two villages to the south of Bakhmut recently recaptured by Ukrainian forces.
The 3rd Assault Brigade, which is mainly composed of volunteers considered to be some of Ukraine’s most experienced fighters, has been battling in the area almost non-stop since January.
A recent video, shared by the brigade on the Telegram messaging app, showed its members huddled in a trench once occupied by Russian forces.
Artillery and mortar fire can be heard whooshing overhead as the soldiers resupply themselves from their enemy’s leftovers before the next push forward.
It took them three months to capture Andriivka. The village is now nothing more than a pile of bricks and scorched earth, according to those lucky enough to have survived the mission to retake it.
But Fedya, who carried the Ukrainian flag to hoist over the village, insisted the fight was worth it.
“Look at these fields, this forest. Everything grows again,” he said.