Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

Ukrainian forces said they had penetrated the “first line” of Russian strongholds in the Zaporizhzhia region, in a sign that Kyiv is edging closer to Moscow’s sprawling network of fortified trenches along the southern front.

The Ukrainian military claimed on Thursday that its units had advanced toward two villages to the south and east of Robotyne, a village in Zaporizhzhia that Kyiv secured last week amid a grueling counteroffensive that is yielding incremental gains.

“In the Novodanylivka-Novoprokopivka direction, they have been successful, are consolidating their positions, inflicting artillery fire on the identified enemy targets, and conducting counter-battery operations,” the military’s general staff said on Thursday.

Testimonies reviewed by CNN shed light on the numerous challenges for Ukrainian troops trying to break through a dense system of Russian minefields, antitank obstacles and widespread tunnels in parts of southern and eastern Ukraine.

News of the latest progress comes against the backdrop of reports that US and Western allies had noted the slow pace of the counteroffensive. CNN reported earlier this month that the US had been receiving increasingly “sobering updates.”

Russian military bloggers reported increased activity near the village of Verbove, in southeastern Ukraine, but said Moscow’s forces were resisting Ukrainian advances.

On Monday, satellite imagery of the village of Solodka Balka — 7 kilometers (4 miles) south of Robotyne — showed steel-reinforced communications trenches, vehicle shelters and “dragon’s teeth” fortifications aimed at obstructing Ukrainian advances.

Kyiv has expanded its units toward the strategic town of Tokmak in recent weeks, a logistic center for Russian forces with a railhead through which resupply is carried out and depots for fuel and ammunition are situated.

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