The Ukrainian soldier stooped over a cartridge and picked up what looked like a giant metal cork. “Russian mines,” he said.
He walked over to another dumpster inside a large warehouse.
“This is a mortar,” said the 39-year-old serving soldier, wielding the deadly weapon, which was in the shape of a stretchy, gray balloon.
This stretch of road is part of an ammunition depot found at a sprawling, muddy repair yard that Russian soldiers apparently used as a base on the edge of the Ukrainian city of Izyum.
It was left behind, along with shabby-looking pieces of armor, boots and food jars – signs of a hasty retreat by the Russians in the face of a Ukrainian assault to retake the city.
The soldier – who went by the name Granitsya, the sign he said he used for the fight – was part of the operation.
“They just ran away,” he said, describing the attack, which was released last week. “There was a small explosion of weapons but not the major battle we saw in the first days or months of the invasion.”
Sky News met the volunteer soldier as he stood next to an abandoned Russian tank on a street leading deeper into Izyum.
When asked how he felt before the campaign to hit Russian positions across Kharkiv began, he said: “I’m not scared because of what they did to our country. They killed us. Our women, our children, have nothing to fear, only hatred and the desire to tear them apart.
“We are a special unit – Kraken – everyone knows us. We are working to protect our country.”
Abandoned Russian equipment
The Kraken Regiment is a relatively well-known group of volunteers in the Ukrainian armed forces.
Behind him, members of his unit were climbing over the top of the discarded tank, making sure it was secure. The vehicle will be refitted for wartime, effectively switching sides.
Granitsya took Sky News to a nearby repair yard.
Inside a giant coat hanger, were two Russian military trucks. At least one person had the narrative letter ‘Z’ painted white on the door.
The Russian military used this place to repair their military vehicles, the Ukrainian soldier said.
His side seemed to be aware. A giant hole in the roof marks the point where a shell appears to have hit the site, presumably as part of the Ukrainian offensive.
Pits caused by shrapnel dented the walls and twisted metal shards scattered across the floor.
In another part of the compound, inside a cluster of shabby, dimly lit temporary rooms, is where Russians sleep and eat, according to Granitsya. “Russia, Russia, Russia,” he said, pointing to a pile of shabby green armor and dirty boots.
There is also a long box containing jars of possibly pickles.
‘Nobody has to fear them’
Stepping outside, he shouted again: “Russia”, picking up parts of a rusty gun that he said had been fitted to a vehicle.
Granitsya served as a full-time soldier fighting in eastern Ukraine from 2017 to 2020, following the first Russian invasion in 2014.
Britain decided to leave the armed forces but joined the Kraken unit on 24 February after President Vladimir Putin launched an all-out war.
The soldier was harsh about the quality of the Russian army. “Their army is not big and powerful,” he said.
“It’s a big fake. They made this fake [impression of strength] to frighten other nations. But in reality, no one is afraid of them.”