KRYMSKE, Ukraine (AP) — Few places along the front line in east Ukraine see regular fighting as bitter as the village of Krymske. Roads to the village have all but crumbled away under the weight of military trucks, tanks and armored personnel carriers.
For now, Krymske is in the hands of Ukrainian government forces and the volunteer battalions that fight alongside them. Somewhere in the distance is the enemy: Russian-backed separatists whose stated aim is to double the amount of territory under their control.
The whole front line is mined. Unseen tripwires litter the fields. Wandering unguardedly into the foliage risks attracting heavy machine-gun fire.
The sound of ammunition blasts is heard throughout the night. Everybody uses everything that they have: mortars, rocket launchers and heavy machine guns. These battles usually last no more than two hours, but usually less.
As the Ukrainian soldiers explain, the rebels are probing weak spots in their defensive lines.
Around an hour before light breaks, a new volley of rocket fire flies in from rebel positions. The artillery fire keeps going until 5 a.m., the shells sailing over Krymske and landing with a burst somewhere in the distance.
Ukrainians troops reply in kind, grumbling about the would-be peace agreement signed in February that bans the presence of heavy weapons from the front line.
Later in the day, we learn where the rebel shells have landed: on government checkpoint No. 29, and in the villages of Toshkivka and Novotovshkiske.
The following night, the routine repeats all over again.
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