Lyman Front, Ukraine, July 19: The towers of smoke rising over the verdant valley betray positions the Russians are pounding in their new thrust into eastern Ukraine.
It instils far less fear in soldier Admin than a similar push into the Ukrainian town of Lyman just over a year ago.
“The last month has been like one long day for us,” the 23-year-old said at a secret location near the site of Russia’s main advance of the past few weeks of war.
“In terms of morale, we are hanging tough. We just want victory to come as soon as possible.”
Ukraine’s ability to make an elusive breakthrough in its summer offensive partially rests on the spirits of soldiers such as Admin.
Russia assumed a new assault along a northeastern stretch of the crescent-shaped frontline a few weeks after Ukraine began its own attacks further south in early June.
Moscow claimed last week to have advanced 1.5 kilometres (0.9 miles) closer to Lyman — a rail hub Ukraine reclaimed in October.
The Russians seem intent to force the Ukrainians to abandon their advance on captured cities such as Bakhmut and redeploy troops to defend the Lyman front.
Soldier Admin — a call name befitting his pudgy frame and background as an IT consultant — feels momentum is still on Ukraine’s side.
“Any war ends in negotiations, but how can you negotiate with… I won’t use the name we use for them here,” he said.