BAKHMUT, Ukraine, November 4 (Reuters) – Ukrainian forces using captured weapons fired on Russian targets near the key eastern town of Bakhmut on Friday as fighting dragged on in an area that Moscow tries to capture.
Russian forces have repeatedly launched attacks on nearby Bakhmut and Avdiivka in the Donetsk region, but are repelled with what Kyiv says are heavy casualties.
“Last week there was very intense fighting… there are a lot of them (Russians), both in men and in equipment,” said a soldier who only gave his name. as Moriak, the Ukrainian word for sailor.
Reuters reporters saw a captured Russian T-80 tank and a 2S23 Nona SVK self-propelled mortar, now controlled by Ukrainian crews, fire at targets outside Bakhmut.
The Ukrainian military says the two were seized in March and took months to refit. The eight-wheeled Nona – commanded by Moriak – has a 120mm mortar capable of firing a maximum of 10 rounds per minute.
“They left us this gift, and it has high, very high (accuracy), and it’s now working against them, it’s helping us push them back,” he said.
Bakhmut has been a major target for Russian armed forces in a slow advance through the Donetsk region since Russia captured the industrial towns of Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk in June and July.
The UK Ministry of Defense said the Wagner Group’s private military company “probably remains” heavily involved in the Bakhmut fighting. Wagner, made up of veterans of the Russian armed forces, was founded in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea and began providing support to pro-Russian separatists.
Reporting by Joseph Campbell in Bakhmut, Ukraine Editing by David Ljunggren and Matthew Lewis
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