In Ukraine, intensive expansion of fortifications has begun along the border with Belarus and Russia, from Volhynia, bordering Poland, to the Kharkiv and Donetsk oblasts, where fighting with Russian troops is ongoing, Reuters reports. President Volodymyr Zelensky announced a “significant strengthening” of the fortifications after the partial failure of the June counter-offensive. – Ukrainians are now taking a defensive stance, said the military expert.
“Rows of concrete barricades and rolls of barbed wire stretch over a kilometer in the open field. Under the cover of darkness, trenches with primitive living quarters are being dug. Artillery roars nearby,” reports Reuters in its report.
The fortifications are being built mainly near Kupyansk in the Kharkov region, a city already controlled by enemy forces in the period from February to September 2022, which may again become the target of a Russian attack. However, work on the construction of fortifications is also ongoing, including: near Chernihiv and around Chernobyl, the site of the nuclear power plant disaster in 1986.
Reuters emphasizes that the intensification of these activities, observed for several months, indicates that the Ukrainian side has withdrawn from planning offensive operations and is focusing on a defensive strategy. Information on the scale of this work is not made public.
Dragon teeth, barbed wire, mines and trenches
On Wednesday, the agency’s correspondents looked at the fortifications being built near Chernihiv. – When the civilians complete their tasks (building defensive positions later), we will mine them heavily. (…) (Work is ongoing) along the entire northern operational zone. Currently, they are being carried out in the Sumy and Chernihiv regions, as well as in the Kiev direction, said General Serhiy Nayev, commander of the Combined Armed Forces, in a conversation with journalists. Ukraine.
As explained by the Ukrainian military, the construction of the fortifications involves building concrete fortifications, the so-called dragon’s teeth, then entwining them with barbed wire and mining them. A few hundred meters behind such defensive lines there is a network of trenches.
– I believe that most of these items should have been prepared much earlier, probably in spring (last year). It takes too much time (now), admitted one of the Ukrainian military engineers working near Kupiansk in an interview with Reuters.
A few hundred meters away, work is underway to expand a network of trenches reinforced with wooden beams, which also housed living quarters and wooden bunk beds.
One of the soldiers explained that Ukraine is trying to minimize the use of mines in its fortifications to avoid leaving explosives on its territory. – This is our land. We wouldn’t want to pollute it so much, he said.
Zelensky on the “significant strengthening” of the fortifications
President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on November 28 that Ukraine was “significantly strengthening” its fortifications after the counteroffensive launched in June failed to lead to the planned breakthrough of Ukrainian forces through Russian lines.
Zelensky emphasized that defensive structures should be strengthened and work on them should be accelerated around three cities in the eastern parts of the Donetsk Oblast and in the Kharkiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, Kiev, Rivne and Volyn oblasts. These regions stretch from the east of Ukraine, along the border with Russia and Belarus, up to Poland. Zelensky said that the southern Kherson region, part of which is still occupied, will also be strengthened.
Reuters writes that Kiev is not backing down from its ambitions to retake the entire occupied territory, but for now it is focusing on politically sensitive conscription reforms aimed at replenishing military personnel, as well as solving the problem of artillery shortage at the front.
“Ukrainians are now taking a defensive stance”
Military analysts cited by the agency say Russia is increasing offensive pressure around eastern cities such as Kupyansk, Lyman and Avdiivka. Experts add that Moscow no longer needs to maintain its reserve troops for fear of a breakthrough in the Ukrainian offensive.
According to Jack Watling, an expert on land wars from the Royal United Services Institute, strengthened fortifications may lead to slowing down Russian troops and freeing some of the Ukrainian forces fighting on the front, enabling them, for example, to undergo additional training.
– The Ukrainians are now taking a defensive stance, said Watling. He added that Russia has regained the initiative on the battlefield and can now choose where to attack. The expert pointed out that as supplies of ammunition for Ukrainian artillery decrease, the number of casualties on the Russian side decreases, which makes it easier for Moscow to form new units, which could, over time, allow it to open new lines of attack.
– The Ukrainian side is trying to minimize its own personnel losses, but also to regenerate its offensive combat power – says Watling. He adds that the fortifications can also be used to defend Ukraine’s flanks when it returns to the offensive.