New trenches, concrete blocks, sandbags and numerous checkpoints can be seen everywhere around Kharkiv, which has repulsed a Russian attack on a second Ukrainian city and is preparing to defend against another.
A pink stuffed toy marks the entrance to a newly dug trench in the regional capital.
The cut earth is still soft and black and the soldiers have soaked the sun in their vests.
Tensions have eased in this northeastern corner of Ukraine, but Kharkiv, just 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Russian border, is under constant threat and a second line of defense has been formed behind the first.
“There were no vacancies when we were here on February 24,” said Doctor, a doctor with the National Guard, referring to the day the Russians invaded.
“Our fighters were lying on the side of the road behind the hill and firing. We had contact with the fire,” he explained.
“But now that we have the trenches, we have well-protected areas, so for them, (this location) will be impossible to capture,” added the nurse who agreed to give a guided tour of only a few dozen meters of the site. , Which falls under the Military Privacy Rules.
There is a car parked nearby with the inscription “Killing skills”.
Directly before Kharkiv, a newly constructed moat runs from a house that was bombed and burned during the first Russian invasion.
The trench line moved south in a zigzag to limit the damage that could be caused by a shell.
The forts are twice as big as a maze, which the army refuses to allow journalists to see. Further down, the bunker locations are still visible, built on top of concrete blocks.
Wooden crates are lined up on the ground so that when it rains, people can walk around without drowning in the mud.
“Now our Ukrainian armed forces are counter-attacking, driving the enemy out of our territory,” the doctor said in English.
“Sometimes we can be under gunfire too, but we’re here and we don’t let anyone take over the city.”
‘We have a problem’
Kharkiv is within Russian territory and shells hit the city every night where the rest of the population has learned to live with artillery boasting on both sides.
A woman who has lived in the city’s metro since the war began says Ukraine is waiting for Western aid to arrive, and in particular “American weapons that will help us win the war.”
On the outskirts of the city – some of which have been closed – male and female civilians help soldiers fill sandbags for checkpoints.
“We have a problem, we’re at war,” he joked to a soldier as he checked a vehicle and returned it.
The “doctor”, who is a nurse, spoke confidently that the Russians would not be in the region any longer.
“They use drones to see our location,” he said.
“We know where they are, and our armed forces know where they are and soon, they will not be where they are now.”
And yet, he knows he has to fight a lot more.
They have held the position for about three months, he noted.
“Everyone is ready, we all have a fighting spirit,” he said, adding that he knows people talking to him every day.
“No one is going to run or retreat. We are the National Guard, and we are going to hold on to our place and our city in the end.”
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)