A tank unit is hiding under trees deep in the forests of eastern Ukraine.
Their huge machines, which include Soviet-era T-72s and a more advanced T-84, are sheltered by summer foliage in a luxurious stand, with the bulging leaves blocking most of the light.
But that’s not enough to calm tank crews, who fear the consequences if spotted by a Russian drone.
Each tank has been wrapped in camouflage netting and branches, making them virtually invisible to the human eye. On the way into the forest we passed about six tanks and didn’t see a single vehicle.
I asked the unit’s commander, Lieutenant Vitalii Timoshuk, why they took so much care in disguising her.
“If we don’t have gear, we don’t have anything to fight with. What can I say? We keep our tanks safe because we don’t have many of them.”
We found members of a tank crew frantically working on a T-84. It’s a valuable piece of equipment, the most advanced tank in the military – although Ukraine only has six of them.
Holding an oversized wrench, Andrii Koval told us it’s powerful and fast – although it’s difficult to start at times.
“There are some questions, but overall it’s a good machine. She shoots well at distances of three to four kilometers and drives fast. That’s all we need.”
Andrii and his colleague Vadim are now on their third tank. They lost the first two to heavy Russian fire.
A video of the attacks at first shows his turret smoking in the distance. The crew has been evacuated and Andrii and Vadim are pictured in the field.
“A direct hit on our vehicle, the crew has been evacuated, spotters, mechanics … and I who are being shot at.”
A Russian shell whizzed over her head.
Combatants using their phones to document the battle as they take part have become a feature of this war.
When the commander of this secret tank base, Lt Vitalii Timoshuk, told us how his unit held off a Russian attack last week, he also had the pictures to illustrate it.
Lt. Timoshuk is only 21 years old and officially graduated from his military academy on the day of our visit.
But he says he gets a lot of help from his team.
“Our people are experienced, they know why they came here because of their families and our motherland. That will help us win.”
“You’re not that experienced, you’re 21 years old and you run the unit,” I suggested.
He replied, “I don’t have any difficulties because my staff supports me. I’m proud of her. And it is my pleasure to command them and work with them. Our boys are so cool.”
“What were you thinking when you arrived, a 21-year-old leadership unit?” I asked.
“I haven’t told them I’m 21 for a long time. I don’t look 21. What more can I say?”
The stolen Russian tank
Lt Timoshuk told me that the Ukrainians captured about 400 Russian armored vehicles, including five captured by his unit.
He introduced me to tank crewman Roman Batsenko, who had stolen two tanks from under the enemy’s nose.
“Our secret service told us about them. One hit a mine. The other one was working so we went (to get them).”
I asked him how he felt jumping into a Russian tank.
“Lucky, lucky that we renewed our stock of tanks. The only fear came later when we learned that there were two hundred Russian tanks just a kilometer away. But they didn’t expect us to be so brazen and they steal.”
The Russian military is impressive and much better equipped, but there’s a lot of spirit in the woods. The Russians can be defeated, says the unit commander, but they will have to be smart to get through.