SOLEDAR, Ukraine—Explosions filled the skies over the apartment complex we’d just been standing in. They were thermite cluster munitions fired by Russia’s multiple long-range rocket systems, spreading white-hot fire over their target. That day, their target was us.
Thick globs of flame, hot enough to melt steel and concrete, slowly descended on the civilian apartment buildings of the town of Soledar, one of the crucial battlegrounds of the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. Vladimir Putin’s forces have been battling to capture the territory for more than six months.
The city was a hellscape of destroyed buildings, with the constant booms of incoming and outgoing artillery fire. Ukrainian army units were moving from basement to basement desperately searching for cover, while quadcopter drones scouting for enemy positions buzzed up above us. If we’d still been in that block, we could have been incinerated.