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Close call for CBS News crew as Russia pummels a front-line Ukraine village near Kherson with artillery

On the frontlines of war in Ukraine
On the frontlines of war in Ukraine 02:59

Near Kherson, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country would fight until it recovers all of its territory from Russia's invading forces. On Tuesday, CBS News correspondent Imtiaz Tyab and his team got an extremely close-up look at what Ukraine's troops are up against as they claw back ground from the Russians.

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

Tyab and his team were in a tiny village — just a handful of farmhouses and fields — but one that Russia has been targeting relentlessly with shelling.

Major Serhii told CBS News that he and his soldiers had been defending the area for weeks. Recently, however, they've changed tactics: Now they're on the offensive, targeting Russian forces who now hold positions about two miles away. And they aren't backing down.
As the CBS News team moved around the village, the crack of incoming Russian shells sent them and the Ukrainian forces rushing to find shelter in a disused farmhouse. The artillery kept coming, landing closer and closer, so the whole team ducked under trees for cover as the strikes intensified.

CBS News correspondent Imtiaz Tyab takes cover 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

The Russian forces that were shelling from a distance had been in control of the village until about six weeks earlier, and Tyab said they were clearly bent on retaking it.

Serhii, the Ukrainian major, told CBS News that Russia's military was clearly trying to seize control of all the ground around Kherson, but he and his forces were bringing the fight to their foes, "every time, every day — trying to shoot 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 any offensive operation" they can, but "they are just struggling, because we delay them everywhere." 

CBS News on patrol with Ukraine's military in villages on frontline of war with Russia 02:56

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

As they hunkered down, the incoming shelling from the Russian side continued above, with rounds landing just 50 yards away.

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

"By any measure, this is not normal," she told Tyab. "The Russians are giving us a hard time, but we can tell they're getting weaker."

Oksana Kozyrenko, a Ukrainian soldier and head of a local civil-military cooperation group near the Russian-occupied southern city of Kherson, speaks to CBS News in a shelter during Russian shelling of a village near Kherson, in late May, 2022. CBS News

Asked why she and her comrades were so determined to defend the tiny, nondescript village from falling back into Russian hands, Kozyrenko didn't hesitate:

"It's our land. We have these people, these houses, these villages. They're important for us because it's ours. We don't need anything else," she said. "We are going after others [occupied villages]. We don't want to give up our land. That's why we stand here and we'll protect it until every last Russian will be kicked out of this country."

U.S. trains Ukrainians on howitzer artillery 02:02

After several more strikes, the Tyab and his team got the order to make a run for it while the Ukrainian forces used howitzers provided by the U.S. to suppress the incoming Russian fire.

They dashed for their cars through fields of wheat, and soon they were speeding away from the village on the front line of Ukrainians' battle to reclaim their soil — all of it — from Russia. 

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