Russian forces have made no headway along the front lines, but are entrenched in heavily mined areas they control, making it difficult for Ukrainian troops to move east and south, Ukrainian officials said on Wednesday. Deputy Ukrainian Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said Russian forces had “tried quite persistently to halt our advance in the Bakhmut sector. Without success”. Russian forces, she wrote on the Telegram messaging app, were beefing up reserves and equipment in three areas further north, where heavy fighting has also been reported in recent weeks.
Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s security council, told Ukrainian national television on Wednesday that Russian forces had ample time in months of occupation to prepare defences and lay extensive minefields. “The number of mines on the territory that our troops have retaken is utterly mad. On average, there are three, four, five mines per square metre,” he said. Danilov restated assertions by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that the advances, while slower than hoped, could not be rushed as human lives were at stake. “No one can set deadlines for us, except ourselves… there is no fixed schedule,” he said.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence has said Ukraine’s counteroffensive is being hindered by Ukraine’s plant life. In its daily intelligence briefing it noted “Undergrowth regrowing across the battlefields of southern Ukraine is likely one factor contributing to the generally slow progress of combat in the area. The predominately arable land in the combat zone has now been left fallow for 18 months, with the return of weeds and shrubs accelerating under the warm, damp summer conditions. The extra cover helps camouflage Russian defensive positions and makes defensive mine fields harder to clear.”