Their route to the tree line, which runs along an open field, is littered with shell casings and unexploded rockets.

There are massive craters everywhere.

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And there is an urgency to the way they work.

They are only a few miles from enemy lines and their position is exposed and in the line of fire.

Quickly and with precise sharpness, the arms of the drone are deployed.

As they hide in a trench dug in the undergrowth, the propellers kick in and he buzzes like a giant insect through the steel-gray sky.

The drone pilot, known by his Playboy call sign, searches for the best place to attack the Russian army.

Image:
Ukrainian drone pilot launches his equipment

His partner, known as Badger, helps watch for any signs of movement on the horizon.

On the screen of his Playboy controller can see block images of Russian soldiers.

He marks the coordinates, the position he visualizes in real time is now a target.

“First of all, we work with the artillery,” he says.

“We will find the targets, find the enemies with the drones, with the different drones and pass the information to the artillery and they will work it.”

drone pilot

Without these troops, Ukraine would be shooting blind

But these Ukrainian soldiers are taking huge risks.

While they can see the enemy, the Russians also have drones and they can be spotted easily.

As they worked, the sound of incoming arcs of fire cut the air above their heads with a deadly groan and they took cover.

It’s a miss but it highlights the threat they face on a daily basis.

It’s dangerous work, but without that eye in the sky, Ukrainian artillery crews would be firing blind.

Further back from the front line, troops from a volunteer platoon called Karlson, which relies on donations, load a graded rocket system with ammunition.

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Among them are foreign recruits.

Shannon, who is a former New Zealand Army soldier, says he joined because he doesn’t like “bullies”.

He says the unit is successful but the cost to Ukraine is high.

“It’s going well,” he said.

“We are pushing them back and they have moved back and unfortunately they are destroying everything as they go.

“They are targeting a lot of schools and buildings that have no military value other than disrupting the way of life. It’s quite sad.”

Ukrainian fighters exposed to Russian artillery fire
Image:
Ukrainian fighters exposed to Russian artillery fire

No time to hang around as winter sets in

With the onset of winter, the struggle for Kherson has become more desperate in recent weeks.

Ukraine is eager to build on its momentum and Russia newly announced retirement.

The artillery team soon receives coordinates from the drone reconnaissance unit and they are on their way to the launch site.

The firing position has been primed and it doesn’t take long to line up the target.

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There is no time to dawdle. Everything must be done quickly.

As they fire, cries of “Glory to Ukraine” fill the air and several grad rockets soon burn through the sky en route to the target.

Footage captured by the drone team shows the impact – explosions send shock waves through the Russian trenches they spotted earlier.

It is these kinds of artillery barrages that force the Russians to withdraw.

An open battlefield littered with shell casings
Image:
An open battlefield littered with shell casings

Playboy says that in this area, Ukraine now has the advantage.

“It is above all the war between the artillery – who has the best? That one has the advantage on the battlefield.

“We are moving forward and even where we have less power on the battlefield, we are trying to get results.”

But even before the smoke clears from the rocket launch, the Ukrainian artillery team escapes.

They are now vulnerable to a quick counterattack.

This fight here is a clash of nerves and firepower and right now on this perilous frontier Ukraine is winning.

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