Ukrainian medics battle to save lives as casualties mounts.

Injured Ukrainian volunteer soldiers on a bench in a hospital in Bakhmut, Donetsk region

The hospital in the small eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut was never intended to receive queues of ambulances bringing the wounded and traumatised from the front line of Europe’s biggest battlefield.

Nor did the volunteer paramedics expect, four months ago, to be shuttling back and forth to the front line of a brutal tank battle, within earshot of rockets and shelling.

“I haven’t seen so much human tragedy before. Absolutely unnecessary suffering,” said Elena Bulakhtina, a Russian-born Canadian medic who joined the Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital, a group of civilian healthcare professionals dedicated to providing medical care on the front line.

The hospital’s main job now is to “stabilise” the injured from the battle zone around the town of Popasna in the Luhansk region so that they can be moved on to bigger hospitals in western Ukraine, further from the main battle.

The sheer scale of a front line that stretches for hundreds of kilometres has pushed Ukraine’s resources to the limit.

Some of the ambulances arriving at the hospital are second-hand German or Polish ones. A few metres from the emergency entrance, a wooden door used as a stretcher lies covered in dried blood.

“We’ve come from hell,” said Igor, an exhausted-looking, mud-covered soldier who joined the fighting a few days after the invasion started in February. He is among a group of soldiers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) waiting at the hospital to be evacuated.

“They attacked us with everything – artillery, aeroplanes – they were shelling everywhere, day and night,” he said. “We were in the battle for almost six days. Popasna is completely destroyed.”

About 70km (44 miles) northwest of Bakhmut, 20-year-old volunteer Aleksandra Pohranychna does not even have an ambulance.

She is the only paramedic serving her unit and waits in the town of Sviatohirsk until soldiers take her to the front or bring the wounded to her.

“I decided to join and help,” she says. “We have to do it.”

A nurse carries a stretcher past an ambulance which is carrying the body of a dead Ukrainian soldier, amid Russia's invasion in Ukraine
A nurse carries a stretcher past an ambulance transporting the body of a Ukrainian soldier. [Jorge Silva/Reuters]

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Ukrainian paramedic Svitlana Druzenko, from the Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital, poses for a photo inside a hospital room that is used to store donated medicines arriving from abroad, amid Russia's invasion in Ukraine
‘When the war had just begun, I wondered what casualties it would bring. And now I see that number of victims is just huge … People are dying – and dying in all cities,’ said Ukrainian paramedic Svitlana Druzenko. [Jorge Silva/Reuters]
Paramedics from the Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital move an injured Ukrainian solider, who was evacuated from the front line in Popasna, from an ambulance
Paramedics from the Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital move an injured Ukrainian soldier, evacuated from the front line in Popasna, from an ambulance. The soldier had suffered a shrapnel injury to his spine. The doctors say his life is not at risk, but he may lose the use of his arms and legs. [Jorge Silva/Reuters]
An injured soldier smokes a cigarette outside the hospital amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Kramatorsk, Ukraine
An injured soldier smokes a cigarette outside the hospital. [Jorge Silva/Reuters]
Ukrainian volunteer paramedic Aleksandra Pohranychna, 20, prepares her first aid bag close to the front line, amid Russia's invasion in Ukraine
Ukrainian volunteer paramedic Aleksandra Pohranychna, 20, prepares her first aid bag close to the front line in Sviatohirsk, Donetsk region. [Jorge Silva/Reuters]
A man drives an ambulance outside a hospital, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Slovyansk, Donetsk region, Ukraine
Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on February 24 in what it called ‘a special operation’ to demilitarise and ‘denazify’ its southern neighbour. Ukraine and its allies dismiss that as a baseless pretext for a war of conquest. [Jorge Silva/Reuters]

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A Ukrainian soldier is carried from an ambulance into a hospital after being injured in combat in Popasna, amid Russia's invasion in Ukraine, at a hospital in Bakhmut, Donetsk region
A Ukrainian soldier is carried from an ambulance into the hospital in Bakhmut after being injured in combat in Popasna. [Jorge Silva/Reuters]
Elena Bulakhtina, a Russian-born Canadian from the Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital carries her dog Rica, who she rescued during a mission a few days prior, amid Russia's invasion in Ukraine, outside a hospital in Bakhmut
Elena Bulakhtina, a Russian-born Canadian from the Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital, carries her dog Rica, whom she rescued during a mission a few days prior. [Jorge Silva/Reuters]
Ukrainian volunteer paramedic Aleksandra Pohranychna, 20, displays her tattoo of the Ukrainian coat of arms with with a quotation from the Ukrainian poet Lesya Ukrainka: “I have in my heart something that will never die.", while on duty, amid Russia's invasion in Ukraine, in Sviatohirks, Donetsk region
Ukrainian volunteer paramedic Aleksandra Pohranychna, 20, displays her tattoo of the Ukrainian coat of arms with a quotation from the Ukrainian poet Lesya Ukrainka – ‘I have in my heart something that will never die’ – while on duty in Sviatohirsk. [Jorge Silva/Reuters]
A nurse cleans blood from volunteer soldier Maksim, who was injured by shrapnel during combat in Popasna, amid Russia's invasion in Ukraine, outside the emergency room at a hospital in Bakhmut, Donetsk region
A nurse cleans blood from volunteer soldier Maksim, who was injured by shrapnel during combat in Popasna. [Jorge Silva/Reuters]
Two bodies lie on the ground after a missile strike hit a residential area amid Russia's invasion in Ukraine, in Bakhmut, Donetsk region
Two bodies lie on the ground after a missile hit a residential area in Bakhmut. [Jorge Silva/Reuters]

WE NEED YOU AT THIS CRUCIAL TIME IN OUR COUNTRY, THOUSANDS ARE DISPLACED WITH A DAILY INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF CASUALTIES FROM THE RUSSIA WAR AGAINST UKRAINE.

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