Ukraine’s defence lines stretched as Russian troops advance

  • Author, Jonathan Beale
  • Role, Defence correspondent, reporting from Kharkiv area

We journey at pace in direction of the village of Liptsy – now below siege.

Russian forces have penetrated this border space north of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest metropolis.

We are being escorted by members of Ukraine’s National Guard, among the many newest reinforcements to attempt to halt this most up-to-date Russian advance. They’ve gone from a fierce battle within the east to a different additional north – with out relaxation.

The heavy thuds of artillery develop louder after we arrive at their place, only a mile from the frontline.

We run previous a smouldering fireplace in direction of a bunker, the place we’re instructed to take cowl.

In the dank, gloomy basement a bunch of troopers are watching a drone feed. They’re directing Ukrainian artillery fireplace in direction of a tree line.

Andrii tells me the state of affairs: “It’s dynamic and tense and exhausting to foretell.”

We’ve been instructed we will’t keep for lengthy. Even underground you possibly can hear the explosions.

I ask Andrii whether or not he and his males’s arrival on this entrance is making a distinction.

“Relatively, however it’s at all times exhausting to get entangled in another person’s defence lines as a result of there’s no correct interplay, with different models,” he replies.

But he understands the significance of their job and why the Russians have opened this new entrance.

“They wish to pull our forces from defence lines in Donetsk and Luhansk areas. It was only a query of time. The Russians at all times use imply techniques,” he says.

It’s getting darkish exterior they usually’re now utilizing a thermal picture digital camera on a drone to observe Russian actions. “Our pilot has simply discovered the motion of the enemy group close to to our positions,” Andrii tells me.

We’re instructed to depart shortly.

At a discipline hospital effectively behind the entrance line, Ukrainian medics are treating one more casualty.

Viktor has misplaced a few of his fingers in a mortar explosion. He’s mendacity on a mattress, acutely aware, wrapped in a foil blanket as he receives therapy from a nurse.

Image caption, Viktor, pictured on a hospital mattress, as he receives therapy after a mortar explosion

But Viktor is extra anxious concerning the males he’s left behind. “I can’t live without my guys,” he says, “they’re my associates, my second household.” He says he desires to get again to them as quickly as he’s patched up.

The Russians too have been taking heavy casualties. But there are extra of them.

Viktor says they had been preventing off wave after wave of assaults. “There are quite a lot of them,” he says.

Russia’s believed to have massed a pressure of greater than 30,000 simply over the border.

Ukraine has not simply been outnumbered on this entrance, it’s additionally been outgunned.

“The Russians have every thing, no matter they need says Viktor, “and now we have nothing to battle with. But we do what we will.”

Delays in US navy help has made their job harder. Ammunition has needed to be rationed over the previous few months.

On common Russia’s been capable of fireplace 10 instances as many artillery shells. The hope is the deficit will slender with the arrival of extra US weapons and ammunition.

At an artillery place, hidden in a treeline exterior Vovchansk, males of Ukraine’s 57th Brigade have been firing 50 to 100 rounds a day to defend the city.

When we arrive they’re ready for a recent supply of ammunition for his or her Russian made self-propelled gun. Another 20 rounds are quickly delivered by a small van. It’ll maintain them going for a couple of extra hours.

This unit too had been preventing additional east earlier than the decision got here to defend Kharkiv.

Ukraine’s defence lines are being stretched and thinned out.

Another brigade close by has arrived from Robotyne within the south, the place Russian forces are additionally advancing.

The small features made in Ukraine’s 2023 offensive are slowly however absolutely disappearing.

This time final 12 months Ukraine hoped to take again its land. Now its merely hoping it will probably maintain the road.

Ukrainian reinforcements are making a distinction in repelling this newest Russian assault. But at what value elsewhere on the 800 mile (1,287 km) entrance?

Image caption, “We are losing Vovchansk”, says Mykhailo, a Ukrainian artillery commander

It’ll be exhausting to dislodge all of the Russian forces who’ve now gained a big foothold within the Kharkiv area.

Mykhailo, the Ukrainian artillery commander on the place, tells me: “We are shedding Vovchansk and we’re additionally shedding the villages round Vovchansk.”

And there’s a feeling that this might have been averted if defences had been higher ready.

“We might have used logs and concrete to construct defences. Now we’ll [have] to make use of shells and folks to take again this land,” he tells me.

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