Artillery vehicle

CBS News crew and Ukrainian troops take cover from Russian artillery

Near Kherson, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said his country will fight until it recovers all of its territory from invading Russian forces. On Tuesday, CBS News correspondent Imtiaz Tyab and his team got to see up close what UkraineTroops are confronted as they retake ground from the Russians.

They were with Ukrainian forces in the countryside near the provincial capital of Kherson, a southern city that Russian troops seized, along with much of the surrounding region.

Tyab and his team were in a small village – just a handful of farms and fields – but which Russia is relentlessly targeting with bombardment.

Major Serhii told CBS News that he and his soldiers have been defending the area for weeks. Recently, however, they have changed tactics: they are now on the offensive, targeting Russian forces who now occupy positions about three kilometers away. And they don’t back down.

As the CBS News crew moved through the village, the crack of incoming Russian shells sent them and Ukrainian forces rushing to find shelter in a disused farmhouse. The artillery kept coming, landing closer and closer, so the whole team ducked under the trees for cover as the strikes intensified.

CBS News correspondent Imtiaz Tyab hides under a tree in a village near Kherson, Ukraine with his team and Ukrainian forces as Russian shells land nearby in late May 2022.

CBS News

Russian forces shelling from afar controlled the village until about six weeks earlier, and Tyab said they were clearly determined to retake it.

Serhii, the Ukrainian major, told CBS News that the Russian military was clearly trying to take control of all the ground around Kherson, but he and his forces were giving battle to their enemies, “every time, every day – trying to shoot at them, attack, using tanks, artillery, javelins, that kind of stuff against them.

He said the Russian forces were “trying to regroup, you know, and trying to provide all the offensive operations” they could, but “they’re just struggling, because we’re holding them back everywhere.”

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CBS News on patrol with the Ukrainian army in villages on the front lines of the war with Russia

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When a Russian drone was spotted circling overhead, the Ukrainian fighters with Tyab and his team knew it was time to move, so they all ran to a building in the village with a cellar that the troops used as shelter for weeks.

As they cowered, the incoming shelling from the Russian side continued overhead, with shells landing just 50 yards away.

Among those riding the latest wave of artillery was Oksana Kozyrenko, leader of the local civil-military cooperation group.

“In every way, this is not normal,” she told Tyab. “The Russians are giving us a hard time, but we can tell they are getting weaker.”

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Oksana Kozyrenko, a Ukrainian soldier and leader of a local civil-military cooperation group near the Russian-occupied southern city of Kherson, speaks to CBS News from a shelter during the Russian bombardment of a village near Kherson , end of May 2022.

CBS News

When asked why she and her comrades were so determined to prevent the indefinable little village from falling back into Russian hands, Kozyrenko didn’t hesitate:

“It’s our land. We have these people, these houses, these villages. They are important to us because it is ours. We don’t need anything else,” she said. “We go after the others [occupied villages]. We don’t want to give up our land. That’s why we stay here and we will protect him until the last Russian is expelled from this country.

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US trains Ukrainians in howitzer artillery

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After several more strikes, the Tyab and his team were ordered to flee while Ukrainian forces used US-supplied howitzers to suppress incoming Russian fire.

They rushed to their cars through the wheat fields, and soon they were driving away from the village on the front line of the battle of the Ukrainians to reclaim their soil – all of it – from Russia.