Ukrainian soldiers play football just a few miles from the front lines as a grueling counter-offensive continues

Newsgroups can’t show the bomb craters and shrapnel-riddled buildings surrounding Ukraine’s most secretive soccer field. Telling about your location, you run the risk of giving the game to Russian spotters.

As Ukrainian troops continue their long-awaited counter-offensive against their Russian captors, some soldiers have found a small but welcome respite from the constant tension of battle in this football game played on a field just a few miles from the front lines.

The area even came under Russian shelling on the same day it was visited by CBS News reporters. This did not deter the Kupyansky Battalion of the Kharkov Territorial Defense Brigade, hardened warriors who had gone through some of the most brutal combat missions of the war, including on the battlefields near Bakhmut.

The football match allows players to reminisce about “civilian life” amidst the horrors of war, said the captain, whose only name is Dimitri.

“This is some kind of situation when you close your eyes and forget about the war,” said Dmitry, an accountant by profession.

Soldiers are a close-knit group even off the field, and these breaks make it easier to survive the grueling, intense counteroffensive.

“The war will not last forever, all these people will return to their normal lives,” said Deputy Commander Yuri, who has been fighting Russian and Russian separatists since 2014. “Football is one of the ways they can do that and it helps keep us fit.”

As the game ends, the coach congratulates both sides and the victory anthem “Glory to Ukraine” is played, something that Yuriy and his soldiers swore everywhere.

“This field is a field for victory,” Yuri said.

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