When Georgii’s phone rang around 5 a.m. on the morning of February 24, he was still unaware of the Russian invasion that had been rolling over Ukraine for a few hours. On the other end of the line was his colleague Mira, who excitedly asked if she should even come to work today. Georgii, who has owned a restaurant since 2018, did not really understand his nervous-sounding employee and reassured her that everyone would work as usual today.

After the conversation, the native of Cherson checked the news on his cell phone and saw that Russia had launched an attack on Ukraine in the early hours of the morning. A little later he called all his colleagues and transferred their salary to them. To this day, he has never opened his restaurant again.

On the same day, Georgii decided to go to the military’s registration and enlistment office, as he reports to the site “censor.net”. A day later, the officer, who had already been stationed in Mykolaiv from 2011 to 2018, went to the Chernihiv region in northern Ukraine. Since then, Georgii and his 58th Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade have fought on many fronts in Ukraine and witnessed bitter fighting.

The most impressive and worst, however, are the experiences in Bachmut, which is still hard-fought – where the officer is currently on duty. As the Ukrainian reports, the city resembles an “apocalypse”. It was completely destroyed and empty, almost all houses had been bombed out. “Sometimes you’re driving down a broken road and you see lonely people walking around looking for food or shelter. That hits you hard,” says the restaurant owner. “At night we saw children warming themselves at fireplaces and cooking there with their parents. It really looks like something out of a horror movie,” says Georgii.

Bachmut is a real war hotspot because of its strategic importance. Finally, the Ukrainian-controlled city is a convenient transport hub: from here, roads lead to the major cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk. “If the ‘Orcs’”, as the Ukrainian calls the Russian opponents, “can set up a position here, it will be easier for them to plan an offensive on Kramatorsk and Sloviansk. But we won’t let that happen,” Georgii says confidently.

He firmly believes that Ukraine will withstand Russian attacks – not only in Bakhmut, but also across the country. He is looking forward to the upcoming major offensive, which the head of the Ukrainian Defense Intelligence Service, Oleksiy Reznikov, had also announced with great hope. It is to take place in the spring and, according to Reznikov, will bring about the most difficult battles of the entire war. But as Georgii predicts, the next major offensive will also mark a “tipping point.” “I believe that these events will bring a strategic victory to Ukraine,” he says.

If all goes well, the officer hopes he will be back home in Kyiv to celebrate the next New Year. Maybe Georgii can then open his restaurant again and tell his employees that they can go back to work as usual.

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More and more Russian families are finding out that the deaths of their loved ones in the Ukraine war are being covered up. Many do not dare to express their concerns openly. Meanwhile, a new round of conscription for conscripts seems increasingly likely.