As I filmed around back, I was warned not to step off into the grass as there could be unexploded shells.
Passing another home, Dmitry pointed, and commented: "They drew an Orthodox cross on the gate. They hope it will protect them from the firing."
Back in the car, as we drove, on either side of the lane, houses were either burnt out, badly-damaged by heavy machine gunfire or shelling, or boarded up and evacuated.
We parked the car again and walked towards a school that had taken a beating. Dmitry explained it had been nearly destroyed by heavy artillery strikes. With the school behind him, Gyurza speaks.
Since 2014, the defenders of Zaitsevo have defended this place. The school is a very important strategic point: it is surrounded by Ukrainians from two sides.
In October 2014, when the school was still functioning, we brought computers, paper, pens, and other things for the students. Then, we withdrew 1.5 km away, to not be a military presence near a school.
Three or four days later, Ukrainian soldiers came to the school and took all the supplies the People's militia had brought the students and destroyed it all in front of the children. After we came back and saw everything we'd brought the students was broken, we decided to protect the school and the children.
On October 28, 2014, seventy Ukrainian soldiers, with two heavy armored carriers (BNP) and one tank, tried to go to the village center to capture the administration building.
Because of the trees and narrow roads, they couldn't use the tank. But they did advance with the two BNPs. Although there were many more of them than us, they weren't able to capture Zaitsevo; we defended it. They were forced to retreat, but they didn't retreat fully.
That was at the time of the first Minsk agreement, and a ceasefire, but the Ukrainians still tried to capture Zaitsevo. We realized they wouldn't leave, and wouldn't follow the agreement, so we started making trenches and a defense line to protect the village.
After the second Minsk agreement [in February 2015], it was decided there should be a Buffer Zone for three kilometers. So, we remained in our positions and maintained the Buffer Zone from our side.
In October 2015, we saw that the Ukrainians were starting to move their trenches forward. They dug through the buffer zone and continued to dig forward towards our position.
In November 2015, they started shelling Zaitsevo. At that time, they didn't shoot during the day, but every night they started shelling. Each evening, after the school bus left the school, the Ukrainians started shooting with light arms, then 82 mm mortars, and then at night it was hell here, really hell."
Gyurza was interrupted by another officer who told us to move down the lane further from the school. Where we were standing was too risky.
Gyurza then continued:
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