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The secret base where deadly kamikaze drones are being built to kill Russian soldiers

We are racing through town in war-torn eastern Ukraine trying to keep up with an 18-year old with his 21 year-old mate pushing him along; they are not joyriding children. They are soldiers in the military, part of a special unit and will take us to their headquarters.

We met about an hour earlier, when we pulled up in front of another small house that they run from. It had been abandoned by its owners for over a year after constant shelling from Russian forces.

It is the same in large parts of the Donbas: the army has moved into the area, while the civilians have fled.

Because their location is hidden, we can’t film outside. Instead, we are led through a dark corridor and through a curtain.


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Two boys work inside, one using a soldering iron, the other tapping furiously on a keyboard, data and codes scrolling up to the screen.

An AK-47 was also leaned against the wall.

A glass-fronted cabinet houses rows of sealed plastic tubes. Next to stacks upon stacks of batteries, a shelf is covered by piles of neatly stacked drones.

This base is the home of the Seneca unit’s kamikaze drone crew, the 93rd Brigade.

Image Kamikaze drone explodes

Although their job is simple, the dangers are acute.

This team collects donated drones and reprogrammes them so that they aren’t detected in flight. They then attach explosives using cable ties to the drones. Finally, they fly the drone into the Russian lines using virtual reality goggles.

It is crazy, but it works.

This group of four is led by Anna. She tells me, “I’m just very small commander.”

Image Anna (23), says that she might have children after the war is over

Although she’s only 23 years old, she seems younger. She’s an expert in logistics and was given the responsibility of taking care of the three boys.

I asked her about her family’s opinion of her being here.

“They worry. She says, “They worry. But they can’t speak for me because I’m an adult. They may disagree with me, but they agree to help us.”

She says that her dad and mum send care packages to her and she collects donations to help them buy more equipment.

Anna tells me that she was married in the middle of World War II. I then ask where her husband is.

She laughs and says, “He’s just out.” He serves as well.

“We are fighting to protect our land, our history, and our culture. We fight for our freedom, our serenity, and fighting for the rights of our people. Russia has taken everything that is Ukrainian. Unfortunately, this includes Ukrainian culture and Ukrainian history.

Anna hopes that Russia will end its conflict with this war.

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She told me that she plans to start a new life after the end of it all.

“I like CrossFit. Maybe after this or something else with sports, or maybe I’ll get some children. I don’t even know …”.

One of the operators, who goes by the call sign Miami, is only 18. He is from the Donbas and his father is also fighting.

Image “Miami” was nine years old at the time Russia invaded.

They see the Bakhmut war as an attack on their home.

“Miami” was only nine years old when Russia invaded in 2014. He says that although it’s been kind of normal for him to experience the conflict in Donbas, he didn’t expect to witness full-scale war in these streets.

It feels strange because I used to walk in these streets not too long ago. It’s not about Konstantinovka or Chasiv Yar. Novodmytrivka. Bakhmut. It is very odd to see this place during war.

Mark, 21 years old, says he joined the club a few months after Russia invaded last year. He claims he has learned the art of priming and making kamikaze drones while working on the job.

He asks me to get down and explains how he sets up the explosives. He attaches wires and tiny batteries to the simple trigger device, which blinks red before becoming solid, signaling that the charge has been set.

Image Mark (21), joined the military shortly after the Russian invasion

He says, “It’s Hollywood,” and laughs.

He holds the tube and slowly moves it through the air. This simulates the tube being in flight. Then he smashes the tube into the wall.

I jump.

Although it may not be armoured, it is still capable of containing high explosives and small fragments.

Like the others, he says that they can’t help but fight, even though it is a little scary.

He said, “You have the explosions right in your hands, just as this blinking LED. And you know, this can just boom in your hand and it just like that sends you to death.”

“But it’s a happy thing, it’s absurdity of our lives because it’s frightening, and every person who says it’s not scary, it is like b ******t.

It’s frightening, it’s terrifying to attach the bomb, scary just to land, and scary to do all of these things. You know your motivation and you know that what lies behind you is just as bad as a nightmare.

Image Young people claim they have no other choice than to fight

Because they are younger than me, I find it disturbing that their dedication, determination, and complete lack of fear is alarming. Yet, they continue to risk their lives every day to kill Russian soldiers.

A young woman in her 20s, with dyed-blue hair, sits at their headquarters and stares intently at the computer.

A mosaic of screens is displayed on the three walls above her and three other walls.

These live drone feeds are of the Bakhmut battlefield. They transmit real-time information to soldiers on the ground. They can see and warn the Ukrainian troops about the movements of the Russian soldiers.

Operational security prevents us from filming the feeds, but Artem, one of the soldiers shows me the action and explains Russia’s tactics while we watch.

Image Tech soldier, also part of the kamikaze helicopter team

“Our main goal is to hold the city. We won’t surrender our flanks to Russians trying to get around. He points at the screen.

“They are trying breach us everywhere. Their tactics right now are to attack from every direction.”

They call Anna’s team when mortars or artillery can’t work due to friendly fire and send them to front to conduct a targeted hit.

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Image: Sky’s Stuart Ramsay and Artem

While this is a fully-fledged military unit that is involved in a bloody war, one cannot forget their age.

As we were filming, I could smell popcorn in the microwave. They enjoy munching on popcorn as they work, just like any other youngster in the world.

It is truly heartbreaking.

This generation is at war, and it shouldn’t, but everyone in Ukraine is.

Stuart Ramsay reports on eastern Ukraine with Toby Nash as camera operator and Nick Davenport as producers.


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