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August 25, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

1:19 p.m. ET, August 25, 2023

Constant Russian air raids slow Ukraine’s advance in southern Zaporizhzhia region, officer says

A Ukrainian flag flies above a destroyed building in the settlement of Robotyne, Ukraine, in this screen grab taken from a social media video released August 23.

Valerii Zaluzhnyi/Telegram via Reuters

A Ukrainian military officer serving on the front lines in the southern Zaporizhzhia region says Ukrainian units have “almost reached” the main Russian defensive lines, but have multiple challenges in making further progress. 

The officer — who CNN is not identifying, as he is not authorized to speak on the record — said the area between the villages of Robotyne and Verbove “is the hottest right now.”

“We have almost reached their main defense lines. We have constant tactical advances, and we are gradually reclaiming our territory,” the officer said.

But Russian troops have pulled up artillery and their aviation is constantly at work “24 hours a day, there are a dozen air raids a day,” he continued.

The officer, who previously fought around Bakhmut, said the Russian aerial power he is seeing now is “a lot” compared to when he was fighting around Bakhmut.

“The same thing with mines. There were no dense minefields in Bakhmut … Now almost everything is mined. It’s stressful, there are a lot of wounded from mines and explosions of equipment,” he said.

The officer said the open terrain is also a challenge. 

“Drones are hanging in the sky around the clock, both ours and theirs. So it is impossible to hide any movement of equipment. Any maneuver immediately becomes known to the enemy, and shelling begins either with artillery or drones,” the officer said.

He said Ukrainian units use steel nets to protect against drone attacks and are working with small assault groups and equipment.

“We used to work at night and at dusk, but the (Russians) have adapted and started waiting for us at night, so now we have to work during the day as well,” the officer said. “It is much more difficult because the enemy immediately sees movement and starts shelling.”

A grueling counteroffensive: Ukraine’s highly anticipated counteroffensive has been underway for weeks, with fighting focused along the eastern and southern fronts. Kyiv launched the campaign in hopes of recapturing territory seized by Russia. But so far, any gains have been small and painfully fought for.

Now signs are growing that Ukrainian forces have penetrated Russian defenses along part of the front line in the Zaporizhzhia region and are expanding a wedge toward the strategic town of Tokmak. As the officer outlined, any progress remains hard-earned.

CNN’s Tim Lister, Josh Pennington, Olga Voitovych and Anna Chernova contributed reporting to this post.

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