There is a strange foreboding in the villages, towns and cities of eastern Ukraine – especially those within range of Russian artillery and the fighting in the nearby town of Bakhmut.
At breakfast time we were startled by the sound of an explosion near where we are staying in Kramatorsk.
A residential area had been hit by a Russian missile, at least one person died.
Entire apartments had been destroyed and as emergency services began to rescue the injured, survivors searched the ruins for personal effects.
The contents of their house were strewn across the road, along with glass and debris from the explosion.
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The elderly and most vulnerable were slowly rescued from the battered buildings as medics moved in to dress their wounds and inspect the wounds.
We watched as a nurse bandaged the badly burned hands of an elderly resident.
Even as we were filming, the air raid sirens started up again.
Kramatorsk has been hit several times, but each time it comes as a shock to those who still live here.
“I was sitting on the couch at home talking to my daughter on the phone when suddenly dust and debris flew towards me. I didn’t hear anything else and I don’t want anything more hear. Fucking a**s!” a woman shouted at our camera.
About 12 km (7.5 miles) from the Bakhmut front line is Konstantinovka.
People still live here among the many ruined buildings, schools and government buildings, but there is no peace.
The Ukrainians resupply their troops from here.
The main road back to Bakhmut has been lost to the Russians, so huge tanks, trucks, armored personnel carriers and ambulances rumble through residential lanes to obscure the single-lane roads that allow them some safety on their way further east.
The boom of outgoing Ukrainian artillery is a constant, sometimes the equally distinctive sound of incoming shells makes visitors like me look up and readjust my body armor and helmet.
Groups of soldiers, some entering and some leaving Bakhmut, stop at a few gas stations that are still open to drink coffee and chat with comrades.
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A team of soldiers pull up to a run-down van and are greeted with hugs by a group of volunteer medics who have brought them supplies.
The soldiers have just left the fighting in Bakhmut and are busy transferring boxes of food and medicine to their vehicle.
I ask how it is inside, and the answer is simple: it’s hard and they need more of everything.
“It’s really tough, we need more of everything we can get, because it’s really tough now there, but we’re holding on,” a soldier named Ivan told me.
“That’s it, what more can I say?”
More of everything of course includes modern western weapons.
More are to come, but from what I’ve seen of the equipment on display a few miles from the front, I feel like it can’t come soon enough.
I asked another soldier, Oleksandre, whose battalion had just arrived from a distant part of the country, if he was sure of a victory.
His answer was revealingly honest. “I think it’s 30-70 in our favor that we’ll win this fight for Bakhmut.”
He confirmed that Russia also had many soldiers on the battlefield.
“Russia has a lot of soldiers there, but they suffer a lot more casualties than us, a lot more.”
President Zelensky said defending the east and relieving Bakhmut is a priority for Ukraine.
Some military analysts disagree, but he stated unequivocally that the fight for Ukraine will be won or lost in the East.
Rightly or wrongly, he says, this is one of the most important periods of the war so far.
Reporting by Stuart Ramsay from Eastern Ukraine with cameraman Toby Nash and producers Dominique Van Heerden, Artem Lysak and Nick Davenport.