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‘Many die’: Ukraine throws it all to halt Russian surge

The casing of a cluster munition stood upright like a fence pole not far from a team of Ukrainian medics rushing a bleeding soldier from the eastern front.

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One of the doctors reassured the wincing fighter that the tourniquet being squeezed just above his knee did not mean he was about to lose a part of his leg.

Another peered back at the smoke rising above one of the biggest battles of Russia’s methodical assault on its pro-Western neighbour and cursed.

Some soldiers formed a protective circle around the scrambling paramedics and took down coordinates over their walkie-talkies for the next medical evacuation from the front.

“They come in waves,” volunteer fighter Mykola said of the Russians’ repeated attempts to push south past a strategic river near a rural settlement called Bilogorivka.

“They tried over the weekend and we pushed them back. Now they are trying again. It goes back and forth. First they hit us, then we hit them.”

Neither Moscow nor Kyiv is a signatory to a 2008 convention banning the use of bombs and rockets that spread small but deadly munitions over larger areas such as fields or city blocks.

Their use in Ukraine highlights the brutal and often indiscriminate nature of the weapons falling from the sky on civilians and soldiers in the two-and-a-half-month war.

The casing from the cluster munition was lying near the last checkpoint leading to Bilogorivka — a village whose fall would help the Russians launch an assault on Ukraine’s eastern administrative capital of Kramatorsk.

Ukraine has been pouring in forces in what appears to be an increasingly desperate effort to hold the line.

Two besieged cities just east of Bilogorivka — Lysychansk and Severodonetsk — are a deserted but still contested war zone that the Russians might claim any day.

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