Minefields have strengthened Russian defenses as Kyiv presses its counteroffensive, writes The Wall Street Journal.
Ukraine said its forces were advancing on several axes in their counteroffensive but were struggling to counter Russian air and artillery superiority hobbling its assaults in the east and south.
Now into its second week, Ukraine’s ambitious attempt to take back Russian forces is proving to be a hard slog against dense minefields and well-prepared defenses. After Ukraine’s first probing attacks yielded mixed results, its forces have mostly paused their advances in recent days as commanders take stock of the past two weeks and analyze ways to punch through Russian lines without taking huge losses.
Russia has taken advantage of its superior air power and Kyiv’s limited air defenses to strike Ukrainian armored columns and stop several attacks, destroying some of the sophisticated Western weaponry Ukraine is fielding.
The U.K.’s Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence briefing on Saturday that Russia had bolstered its force of attack helicopters in Berdyansk, some 60 miles behind the front line in Ukraine’s south, with more than 20 additional helicopters deployed there.
The move further strengthens Russian air-power potential in the region. Helicopters have successfully fired long-range missiles against Ukrainian ground targets that have had little protection from air-defense systems, the British Defense Ministry said. “In the constant contest between aviation measures and counter-measures, it is likely that Russia has gained a temporary advantage in southern Ukraine,” it said in a post to Twitter.
In the eastern Donbas region, Ukrainian forces have been advancing on the flanks around Bakhmut, the city Russia recently captured after many months of brutal combat. Hanna Malyar, another Ukrainian deputy defense minister, said the intensity of fighting around Bakhmut had lessened and acknowledged that Russia had the upper hand in terms of aviation and artillery forces. Malyar said, moving troops there from other areas while also bolstering units defending parts of the south.