Dolyna, Ukraine — A soldier in a Ukrainian uniform morosely contemplates the ruins of an Orthodox monastery in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region.
“This is a result of Puttin’s war” he says, angrily, as he paces through the wreck. “As a Christian, this is very offensive to me.”
The soldier, whose name CNN agreed not to reveal to protect his identity, goes by the call-sign “Caesar.” He is one of hundreds, if not thousands, fighting to keep the town of Bakhmut, the current epicenter of the war, in Ukrainian hands.
But there’s one thing that sets him apart from most of those who share the same goal: he’s Russian.
“From the first day of the war, my heart, the heart of a real Russian man, a real Christian, told me that I had to be here to defend the people of Ukraine,” Caesar explains. “We are now fighting in the Bakhmut direction, this is the hottest part of the front.”
Few, if any, buildings of the eastern Ukrainian town have been spared by the unending artillery barrages fired from side to side. Many of the structures have been completely destroyed, others left uninhabitable with collapsed sections, in apocalyptic scenes reminiscent of the battered city of Mariupol, captured by Russia earlier in the war.
“After the (Russian) mobilization (in September), Putin threw all his forces (at Bakhmut) in order to achieve a breaking point in the war, but we are putting up a fierce defensive fight,” Caesar says.
Much of Ukraine’s resisting force have had to hunker down in muddy trenches, fighting tooth and nail to deny Russian forces a victory they desperately crave.
“The fighting is very brutal now,” Caesar explains.
( source: CNN)