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Ukraine prepares for prolonged defensive stand

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Ukrainian forces are intensifying their defensive efforts amid a shortage of munitions and manpower, signaling their readiness for a protracted defensive struggle against Russian aggression. President Volodymyr Zelensky recently revealed that Kyiv’s troops are engaged in constructing approximately 2,000 kilometers of defensive lines, underscoring the nation’s commitment to fortifying its positions.

According to Britain’s defense ministry, these defensive measures include a range of obstacles such as anti-tank dragon’s teeth, infantry trenches, minefields, and fortified defensive positions. The ministry highlighted that the establishment of significant defensive positions reflects the attritional nature of the conflict, where breaching operations are anticipated to incur substantial losses for any advancing forces.

The Russian-built “Surovikin Line,” erected in 2023 on occupied Ukrainian territory, has impeded Kyiv’s counteroffensive efforts with its formidable three-layered defense. While Ukraine’s defensive line may be less intricate, it serves as a crucial response to the nation’s ammunition scarcity and declining morale. Analysts emphasize the critical role time plays in constructing robust defenses akin to the Surovikin Line.

Following a counter-offensive in the latter half of 2023, supported by allies including the US, Ukraine experienced minimal territorial gains but suffered significant casualties. The prolonged conflict has underscored the defenders’ advantage over the attackers, with both sides aiming to inflict heavy losses on their adversaries over time. President Zelensky’s fortified lines aim to raise the cost of casualties for Russian forces, according to experts.

Despite Ukraine’s defensive preparations, Russian military observers remain skeptical, viewing the construction efforts as a recognition of Ukraine’s failed offensive. Questions arise regarding the quality and feasibility of Ukraine’s defensive endeavors, particularly amidst concerns of endemic corruption and manpower shortages. However, Kyiv remains steadfast in its objective to reclaim its territories in the eastern Donbass region and Crimea, occupied by Russia since 2014.

As the conflict wears on, both sides anticipate a prolonged engagement, with Ukraine banking on Western sanctions to weaken Russia’s resolve while Moscow hopes to cut off Western aid to Kyiv. The current strategy for both parties revolves around holding ground, with analysts predicting a continuation of the conflict into 2025 and beyond. While negotiations remain a distant prospect, the possibility of de-facto borders emerging from fortified defensive lines looms on the horizon.

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