The Russian ground offensive in the Kharkiv region is underway. A Ukrainian soldier now gives an impressive account of how he fought against Putin’s elite Spetsnaz unit in a village in the region.

The British “ Times ” spoke to the Ukrainian soldier Drago, who met Putin’s elite unit in Kharkiv. Drago is a special forces commander of the so-called Ukrainian “Kraken Company”. It had been moved from Donbass to support the troops in Kharkiv.

The 24-year-old and his men had been watching Russian troops gathering across the border since last month, he reports. However, they were not allowed to fire ATACMS missiles from the US to stop them. “We have a ban on using them there,” he says, shaking his head. “We had to wait until they came across the border.” The Russians then invaded the region on May 10th. There they met Drago’s “First Special Unit” in the village of Krasne, which specializes in night hunting.

Russian artillery opened fire at 3 a.m. Meanwhile, small groups of Putin’s special “Spetsnaz” unit stalked up. The Ukrainian troops had fully expected a frontal attack with armored vehicles and were taken by surprise. “They came through the swamps and trees, almost unnoticed by our attack drones,” says Drago. The Ukrainian men were able to hold off the Russians until daylight. Then 20 Spetsnaz men overran a neighboring position manned by inexperienced fighters and attacked Drago’s six-man team from behind.

Drago’s men had to split into two groups of three. Both groups were surrounded in a trench system with two shelters. As Drago tried to shoot his way free, the Russians threw grenades, setting fire to the wooden supports along the fortifications. Drago then called for artillery fire and took cover. “It worked. The artillery killed at least three of them and they retreated,” he tells the Times. Then an eight-man reinforcement group with machine guns came to his aid. But the Russians were able to shoot one of the shooters and hit a second in the lung this one coughed up blood.

“At first my head was empty,” says Drago. “It was so hard to see my friend dead on the floor. “I was exhausted and devastated that the man who had come here to save us had died.” But then he pulled himself together. “I realized that I had to be patient and calm down, and I had to save the life of my other friend.” He climbed out of cover, pulled the wounded man into the ditch and treated his wound there. He was then hit by another shell, lost his rifle and suffered a concussion. He continued to fight with the Kalashnikov of a dead Russian.

While Drago’s group killed at least two Russians, the other group was able to retreat to an area where the evacuation vehicle arrived. Drago and his men were unable to reach the vehicle. He called for a second driver and stood on the parapet, within sight of the Russians under fire, to signal his position. As the driver arrived, steering with one hand and firing with the other, Drago provided cover with a smoke grenade. In total, the “Kraken” units were able to hold off the Russians for 16 hours, thereby gaining important time for other Ukrainian special forces who were able to take up positions in the village of Lyptsi and fight to defend the plateau there.

If the Russians captured this, they could fire directly at the city of Kharkiv and attack from the west without having to fight through additional villages. “It is a tough job, but we have stabilized the situation along the front line and other units have arrived to support,” said the deputy commander of the “Kraken” command. “They are still attacking from different sides, but we are also trying to find their weak points to expand the front and push them back.”