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Photos show Ukraine bracing for Russian assaults with some of the same tricks that derailed its big counteroffensive

Kharkiv Region Bolsters Defenses With New Fortifications
  • New photos show Ukraine's military building up its defenses in Kharkiv.

  • Ukraine has already put in trenches and dragon's teeth, among other fortifications.

  • Experts suggest that Ukraine defend what it has and deny Russia more land gains.

Scenes from an area of Ukraine that has seen heavy fighting at times over the course of the war show the country's military preparing various defenses that the Russians have used to slow down the Ukrainians.

In some sectors of the front, due to poor planning, limited tools and stalled support, Ukraine has been slow on the draw in building defenses to stop the advancing Russian army. This problem has been most visible around Avdiivka, where troops may have to build under enemy fire.

Preparing for potential future Russian assaults, Ukraine has begun building defenses in other areas using dragon's teeth, trenches, and bunkers, among other tactics.

Digging Defenses

Kharkiv Region Bolsters Defenses With New Fortifications

With a focus on defense, Ukraine has been building around Kharkiv, where its army recaptured a significant amount of territory from the Russians in fall 2022.

Pictured above is a brown landscape with dirt mounds — the result of continuous digging of trenches and ditches for soldiers to hide in. The deep trenches are then reinforced with logs.

A number of conflict experts have said that given Russia's current advantages, its momentum, and the strains on the Ukrainian armed forces, digging in and weakening the Russian forces through attrition is probably the best option right now.

Bunkers

Kharkiv Region Bolsters Defenses With New Fortifications

Within trenches, bunkers are built, as seen here. They're made up of wood and metal and secured with wiring.

Dara Massicot, a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace senior fellow, argued recently that if Ukraine doesn't build quick enough, Russia will "maximize momentum before the ground thaws and mud returns, take advantage of understrength Ukrainian forces as they ration equipment, and engaging Ukrainian forces before they have time to fully dig in."

This situation may be reality for the areas closely surrounding Avdiivka, where the Russians are rapidly approaching and Ukraine is not sufficiently prepared, but around Kharkiv, in places like Kupiansk, it looks to be a different story.

Dragon's Teeth

"Dragon's teeth" anti-tank obstacles

This image illustrates the strategically placed masses of concrete lined up in between sharp wire for reinforcement.

Drone view of "Dragon's teeth", anti-tank obstacles, seen on the new defense line on March 12, 2024 in Kharkiv region, Ukraine.
Drone view of "Dragon's teeth", anti-tank obstacles, seen on the new defense line on March 12, 2024 in Kharkiv region, Ukraine.Photo by Kostiantyn Liberov/Libkos/Getty Images

Defense mechanisms like dragon's teeth work as anti-tank spikes that act as physical battlefield obstacles and require combat engineers to install and break through them. The razor wire makes clearance more complicated.

By slowing the assault, it potentially leaves troops and vehicles exposed, possibly to indirect fire like artillery or small exploding drones.

The Tools

Kharkiv Region Bolsters Defenses With New Fortifications
Drone view of the construction of the defense line on March 12, 2024 in Kharkiv region, Ukraine. Ukraine has accelerated the building of fortifications, making reinforced dugouts on the second line of defense, setting up anti-tank obstacles, ditches, and trenches for infantry.Kostiantyn Liberov/Libkos/Getty Images

Underground fortifications like trenches require costly equipment like those pictured above. The need for tools like excavators has grown to point where crowdfunding has been key for some units of the Ukrainian military to get what they need.

Drone view of the construction of the defense line on March 12, 2024 in Kharkiv region, Ukraine.
Drone view of the construction of the defense line on March 12, 2024 in Kharkiv region, Ukraine.Photo by Kostiantyn Liberov/Libkos/Getty Images

While crowdfunding may be a helpful short term solution in times of desperation, such as when the demand for this kind of equipment outpaces the supply, Ukraine relies on Western partners, Washington in particular, for most of the necessary, long-term funding and support.

Overview

Kharkiv Region Bolsters Defenses With New Fortifications
Drone view of the construction of the defense line on March 12, 2024 in Kharkiv region, Ukraine. Ukraine has accelerated the building of fortifications, making reinforced dugouts on the second line of defense, setting up anti-tank obstacles, ditches, and trenches for infantry.Kostiantyn Liberov/Libkos/Getty Images

Drone footage offering a birds-eye view of the defenses shows us what lines of defense Ukraine has against Russia. In the front are rows of what look like dragon's teeth. Farther back are where Ukraine's soldiers would actually be.

There may also be mines or other unseen threats. It's hard to tell from the pictures alone.

Drone view of the construction of the defense line on March 12, 2024 in Kharkiv region, Ukraine. Ukraine has accelerated the building of fortifications, making reinforced dugouts on the second line of defense, setting up anti-tank obstacles, ditches, and trenches for infantry.

Having already invested millions of dollars in this defensive strategy in January, Ukraine has only really just begun building defensive fortifications within the past few months.

Experts like Stimson Center fellow Emma Ashford said that although it's unlikely for Ukraine to take back its captured land, a defense strategy should be used to "deny Putin further gains." This includes not allowing Russia to reach Kharkiv.

Read the original article on Business Insider