Ukraine soldiers prepare to dig trench near Bakhmut

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Ukraine soldiers prepare to dig trench near Bakhmut

NEAR BAKHMUT: Shovels in hand and helmets on heads, Ukrainian soldiers jumped out of a military truck and prepare to dig a trench near Bakhmut in the conflict-hit east of the country.

The team leader gave instructions to the 30 or so diggers, saying: You have to dig from there to there, pointing to a few dozen metres of green grass damp from the night's rain.

The chosen spot is between a small road and some woods, about six kilometres from the Russian frontline.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year. This day, most of the fighting is in the East, for control of the industrial Donbass region, especially the city of Bakhmut, which has been almost completely destroyed.

The leader continues, half of you dig, half of you can smoke, and then you change over. You dig until 2.30 PM and then we get out of here, he said.

That's Bakhmut, that's the front, he adds, pointing to all sides.

On the first digging duty, a group of soldiers put their rifles in the grass and, with shovels in hand, lined up along the designated stretch of ground. The others stand slightly behind.

It's not even time for the trench-diggers to start before the shrill sound of a rocket ripped through the air, exploding less than 50 metres away.

Some soldiers dived to the ground and others ran to lay down at the edge of the adjacent wood.

There were 20 explosions in a row, close by or more distant.

The detonations were followed for about 20 seconds. A few soldiers were standing up, but quickly fall back when two more explosions sounded.