“I can operate the drone, but my son does it much better. We immediately decided he would do it,” Stanislav Pokrasa, 41, said.
They aren’t sure how many Russian targets were destroyed using information they provided. But they saw the devastation wrought on the Russian convoy when they later flew the drone back over the charred hulks of trucks and tanks near a town west of Kyiv and off a strategically important highway that leads to the capital.
“There were more than 20 Russian military vehicles destroyed, among them fuel trucks and tanks,” the father said.
As Russian and Ukrainian forces battled furiously for control of Kyiv’s outskirts, Ukrainian soldiers finally urged the Pokrasa family to leave their village, which Russian troops subsequently occupied.
With all adult men up to age 60 under government orders to stay in the country, the elder Pokrasa couldn’t join his wife and son when they fled to neighbouring Poland.
They came back a few weeks ago, when Andriy had finished his school year.
“I was happy that we destroyed someone,” he said. “I was happy that I contributed, that I was able to do something. Not just sitting and waiting.”
Ukrainian forces have proven more resilient than expected, but, in a report on Friday, the US-based Institute for the Study of War said that as they use the last of their stocks of Soviet-era weapons and munitions, they will require consistent Western support to transition to new Western supplies and systems.
The institute said effective artillery would “be increasingly decisive in the largely static fighting in eastern Ukraine”.
Weeks of fighting for Sievierodonetsk, a small city in Luhansk province that has become the focus of Russia’s advance in eastern Ukraine, has pulverised sections of the town and has been some of the bloodiest since Moscow’s February 24 invasion.
Russian shelling of the Azot chemical plant in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk ignited a big fire on Saturday after a leak of tonnes of oil, the regional governor said, as the battle for the city raged on.
In neighbouring Donetsk province, Russian media reported that a huge cloud of smoke could be seen rising into the air after an explosion in the city of Avdiivka, which houses another chemical plant.
The governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Gaidai, did not say whether the fire at the plant, where hundreds of civilians were sheltering, had been extinguished. Reuters could not independently verify the report.
Speaking on national television, Gaidai said non-stop fighting was raging in Sievierodonetsk. He said earlier that Russian forces controlled most of the city but Ukraine controlled the Azot chemical plant.
The Ukrainian armed forces’ general staff said Ukrainian defenders repelled a Russian attack in one part of Sievierodonetsk on Saturday while fighting continues in another.
Ukrainian forces also pushed back a Russian attack on three small towns to the northwest of Sloviansk in Donetsk province, while fighting is continuing in a fourth settlement in the area, as well as to the east of the city, the staff said in a Facebook post.
Russia’s RIA news agency posted video it said had been taken from Donetsk which showed a large smoke cloud rising from Avdiivka, which is currently held by Ukrainian forces and is just north of the city of Donetsk, which is controlled by Russian-speaking separatists.
Reuters was unable to immediately to confirm the RIA report or the authenticity of the video.
Ukraine has appealed for swifter deliveries of heavy weapons from the West to turn the tide of the war, saying Russian forces have at least 10 times more artillery pieces.
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