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Entreanched retreat, Ukraine dig trenches and set up fortifications to stop Russian progression

Facing the advance of Russian troops, which has been faster and more significant for several weeks, the Ukrainians have undertaken to strengthen their defense system to halt or at least slow the Russian advance at any cost. This dynamic of reinforcing fortification systems was announced in a statement ( on X- ex Twitter) by British Defence Intelligence, released on March 10, 2024. British Defence Intelligence reports indicate this construction includes a comprehensive array of defenses such as anti-tank obstacles known as dragon's teeth, extensive ditch networks, infantry trenches, minefields, and robust fortified positions
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Inside of  Ukrainian Trench system (Picture source: Video capture open source  )

According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russian forces are advancing 2/3 km deep in Ukrainian territory based on the frozen front line during the Ukrainian counter-offensive in September 2023, making incremental progress each day. In response to this steady advancement, Ukrainian forces are enhancing fortifications on their second line of defense. Current efforts include the installation of barbed wire, dragon teeth, deep and reinforced trenches, and minefields.
The construction of dragon's teeth and other anti-tank measures is particularly telling, as these are designed to halt or slow down armored advances, forcing the enemy to either circumvent them, thus extending their supply lines and exposing flanks, or to dismantle them under fire.

Infantry trenches and fortified positions further enhance Ukraine's defensive capabilities, providing cover and strategic advantage to its forces. Meanwhile, minefields act as a deterrent, complicating any direct assault attempts by the adversary. Together, these measures create a layered defense system that not only increases the physical cost of an advance but also the logistical and strategic complexities of mounting offensive operations.

The expansion of defensive lines indicates a strategic calculation by Ukraine, anticipating the need for sustained resistance against Russian advances. This approach underscores the increasingly entrenched positions of both sides in a conflict marked by its high human and material costs. The establishment of such comprehensive defenses suggests Ukraine is preparing for a long haul, recognizing that the path to a resolution may be through endurance and tactical ingenuity.

The British Defence Intelligence assessment highlights the challenges Russia faces in breaching these defenses. Any attempt to overcome these fortified positions will likely result in significant losses, both in terms of personnel and equipment. This, in turn, could impact morale and the overall capability of Russian forces to sustain prolonged offensive operations.

According to Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine Lieutenant General Ivan Havryliuk, construction work on defensive lines is progressing at an accelerated pace. Still, the biggest problem is Russian drones, targeting construction systems on the second defense line.

The situation on the ground in Ukraine indicates a strategic change in the conduct of Ukrainian operations, which faces an increasingly large manpower shortage. This increase in fortification lines will allow for a partial compensation for this lack of manpower, to force the Russians to launch often deadly positional assaults.

Defense News March 2024

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