Drone footage shows Russian attack on Ukraine border town

World

Watching a live drone feed, it was possible to make out three people running down a street in a frontline town in northeastern Ukraine.

“Are they Russians?” I asked a Ukrainian soldier, who was also on the ground in Vovchansk and was showing us the footage from a secret location as we spoke to him via video link from outside the town.

“Yes, yes,” said Denys, 42, the commander of a reconnaissance unit.

“They come in groups like this of three to five soldiers.”

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Other footage from Monday shared with Sky News appeared to be of more Russian troops inside the town – just three days after Russia launched a surprise assault across its border into Ukraine’s Kharkiv region.

Sky News has verified the location of the images.

“They are advancing in a residential area of Vovchansk and moving into people’s houses,” Denys said.

“This is just the first wave… They’re testing our defences, they’re preparing their artillery. When they completely enter the town, they’ll bring in their reserves.”

Image:
Sky News has verified the location of the images

Denys was speaking from a position where he and his team were operating their drone, hunting for Russian targets for Ukrainian forces to strike.

Asked what their main task was, he spun the camera he was speaking to us on around to let one of his soldiers – he described them as his “fellow hero brothers” – answer.

“We will fight under these difficult conditions by whatever means,” said the serviceman, called Andrii.

“We simply have no other choice because behind us are our homes, our families, our children.”

Russian forces have unleashed a ferocious barrage of fire against the town, using a combination of airstrikes, gliding bombs, armed drones and heavy artillery.

Another feed, shared by Denys, captured apocalyptic scenes of smoke spiralling into the air from multiple impact sites across Vovchansk.

“The town was not prepared for this bombardment,” he said.

Image:
Drone footage shows the Russian assault on Vovchansk

Asked how dangerous it was for him and his team, Denys panned around his makeshift base.

“If they target us with a guided bomb… it’ll be a mass grave,” he said, smiling.

Denys had been a senior police officer and then a lawyer before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Then, like many civilians, he volunteered to serve to defend his country and has been fighting ever since.

But, in an unusual move for a member of the military, Denys has publicly expressed frustration at what he believes was a failure by his own side to ensure Ukraine’s northeastern border with Russia was better defended by landmines and fortifications.

This was despite the Ukrainian military repelling an initial assault by Russia against the Kharkiv region in the first months of the war.

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On Friday “we saw the first breaches of the state border line by enemy armoured vehicles – the initial rush,” he said. “They passed without encountering any mined positions.”

Explaining why he had chosen to speak out about his concerns, he said: “We’re fighting for freedom and truth. We defend our interests, the interests of our state, voluntarily. And we believe that this truth needs to be spoken.”

Having fought to defend Kharkiv once already, Denys said he and his team now “feel some deja vu”.

He added: “It’s shocking. We’re having to defend ourselves again – losing territory and the lives of soldiers.”

He also said, this time around, the Russians were more prepared.

“The enemy prepared their FPV [attack drone] forces,” he said. “They loaded up with an incredible amount of MLRS [multiple launch rocket systems] and artillery.”

As well as capturing images of Russian troops on the ground, the drone footage also showed Ukraine fighting back.

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2:17

Russian forces bear down on Vovchansk

One clip was of what Denys said was a group of Russian troops on the edge of Vovchansk, carrying a wounded soldier on a stretcher.

His team relayed the coordinates of the location to another unit. Moments later, what looks to be a Ukrainian strike chugs up smoke in the area of the Russian position.

Read more:
Russia ‘advancing from multiple positions’
Putin seizes chance to hit Kharkiv

As he prepared to fight into the night, Denys had a message for Ukraine’s top commanders.

“Trust your soldiers, your officers. Trust those on the ground. Give them the opportunity, give them help, give them the chance to defend this land,” he said.

“There are many people here who voluntarily came to give their lives for this country. The command should respect them, trust them, and allow them to do their job.”

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