Donbass: Along the Lyman Frontline

The road along the front line, near Lyman.

© RFI/Anissa El Jabri

Text by: Anissa El Jabri Follow

3 mins

Last Monday, one of the main leaders of the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Denis Pushilin, acknowledged a "difficult" situation on the front line in the face of the Ukrainian counter-offensive, while assuring that the forces Russians "hold on".

In the Donetsk region, Ukrainian military pressure is particularly strong on the eastern town of Lyman.

From this precious railway junction also starts the Oskil River, which the Ukrainian forces managed to cross in several places.

RFI went with the pro-Russian forces on the road parallel to the front line, 5 kilometers to the south.


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From our special correspondent in Lyman


It was a country road like so many in the south of Ukraine, buses drove along it to connect the villages of farmers between them set between green fields in summer, covered with snow by -25°C in winter.

In the back, sandy pine forests and oaks.

This year, no locals will venture to look for mushrooms on the outskirts of Lyman: behind every tree trunk there may be a soldier hiding.

A battle is fought under cover made up of offensive and counter-offensive, infiltrations.

On this road which is under the control of Russian and pro-Russian forces, in almost every village, soldiers.

They patrol together, sometimes you can see their uniforms drying in the wind.

No more buses pass on this muddy road because of the autumn rains, barely a vehicle and still at full speed.

The road, exposed, is the regular scene of violent exchanges of bombardments.

In the fields, artillery, in the villages, often blown roofs of houses and, often, metal gates riddled with gunfire.

To stop briefly along the road is to see a resident run out and ask: where is the front line today.

This Sunday, it was set just 5 kilometers from the road. 

A frontline that follows the course of the river and makes it difficult

The wooded area all around complicates our task, as it makes it difficult to grasp enemy movements,

" said a pro-Russian officer


The Ukrainian soldiers get as close to the city as possible, inflict damage by shooting, and withdraw into the forest.

They've been doing this especially since the escalation in early September, but they had started earlier with the infiltration of groups of saboteurs into the forests, which already made it difficult to arrest them.

The fact is that everywhere, from Red Lyman to Kupyansk, his troops manage to contain the enemy, but in certain directions they also manage to launch counter-offensives.


The whole front line follows the course of the river and this also makes operations difficult, specifies this pro-Russian officer: “

We catch up with the enemy, we manage to put them under fire with their backs to the river.

But on another crossing point, the enemy is regrouping its forces.

This does not mean that we constantly back down.

This means that the defense of this city is on its outskirts and that we prevent the Ukrainians from advancing as they would like.

In fact, the enemy approaches, receives a strong rebuff and retreats.


Also to listen: On the ground, the Russian forces show the muscles in the face of Ukrainian pressure


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