Endless shelling and dead soldiers: A vicious artillery war spreads in Ukraine

Pockets of street fighting erupt, but there are few close engagements between opposing troops near the cities. Most of the casualties are the result of barrages: In the last three months of the war, 80% to 90% were due to artillery, with the rest caused by bullets, said Oleg Vrolov, a physical training instructor turned army ambulance driver who joined a few days after Russians invaded his hometown of Kherson in February.

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He has seen the effects of heavy shelling on the soldiers he evacuates near the front lines: Shrapnel slicing up legs so badly that there was no option but to amputate. Shrapnel in tiny pieces boring through a man’s body. Shrapnel cracking bone.

“It’s my job. I wanted somewhere active,” he said. Yet he acknowledged that his response belied the fear he felt when he went to evacuate soldiers from sites near what he called “the zero line.”

“The battles were so crazy that my legs were shaking,” he said. “I want to stay alive, that’s it, but I have to go these places.”

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