“That inexperienced hill over there’s Russia,” says commander Roman Gryshchenko.
In September, he helped push Moscow‘s forces again throughout the border close to Kharkiv.
The retreat marked one of many excessive factors of the Ukrainian counteroffensive within the northeast.
Now, Kyiv’s troops within the village of Starytsya stand so near Russia that some telephones mistakenly get texts to say they’ve arrived within the nation.
Gryshchenko insists the realm is now “completely safe” — however his troops are maintaining watch.
They nonetheless face drone assaults, occasional artillery strikes and the specter of raids from Russian commandos, he says.
The 5,000-strong 127th brigade he leads was fashioned from a volunteer drive, and its mission is to defend positions on this recaptured border zone.
The final official Ukrainian outpost is buried in a trench off a muddy highway main straight to Russia. Past it, particular forces troopers and border guards function unseen.
A lone sentry retains his finger on the set off, alert to suspicious noises within the forest.
Under floor, a sheltered room with web connection acts as a digital surveillance station.
Soldier Sheleh, 32, faucets a pc mouse, its pink gentle glowing within the dim room.
He inspects video footage of the realm — principally bushes and dust roads.
“Right here we monitor our aspect of the border and look ahead to doable crossings that may very well be used for infiltration,” he says.
They work day and night time, and thru bombardments, he provides.
That morning, a dozen Russian troopers moved inside Ukrainian territory earlier than a brigade drone dropped a grenade and compelled them to retreat, in response to a video the 127 brigade despatched to AFP.
This space was among the many first to be breached by columns of tanks despatched by means of Belgorod in February.
With Ukraine‘s troops now in management, Gryshchenko takes a tour by means of the recaptured territory, revisiting previous battle scenes.
A Russian camp deserted within the panic of the retreat, with items on a chess board nonetheless frozen mid-game.
A stretch of river utilized by the Ukrainian forces to shock Russian particular forces in Might.
And a charred tank, the primary Russian T-90 destroyed in Ukraine.
For the commander, it is a trophy. However he regrets that it was so badly broken his troops could not reuse it.
“If we might had the weapons we do now in March, I would already be on the Pink Sq.” in Moscow, he mentioned.