Internet InfoMedia symbolism or strategy ukraine battles to retain small gains
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Despite American doubts, Ukrainians say that defending places with little strategic value is worth the cost in casualties and weapons, because the attacking Russians pay an even higher price.

Ukrainian soldiers spent hours ducking in trenches as artillery exploded around them, then dashed for the safety of an armored personnel carrier — only to be chased through the open rear ramp of the vehicle by an exploding drone.

“All I could see were sparks in my eyes,” said one of the soldiers, a sergeant, recounting how the pursuing drone blew up, leaving him and his team wounded but somehow still alive. He asked to be identified only by his first name, Oleksandr, according to military protocol.

Fighting on the plain in southern Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, where Oleksandr’s vehicle was hit earlier this year, has raged for 10 months now in two phases: first with Ukrainian forces on the offense, and now on defense, as Russia escalates attacks on the area where Ukraine gained ground in last summer’s counteroffensive.

Military analysts have described Ukraine’s strategy as “hold, build and strike” — holding the line in the country’s southeast, replenishing its units with fresh troops and hitting back with long-range drones attacks on oil refineries and military logistics targets inside Russia.

In Zaporizhzhia, this has meant defending an area created by last summer’s counteroffensive, a 10-mile-deep semicircle that presses into Russian-held territory, forming a bulge. Soldiers describe ruined villages, trenches and fields that are a moonscape of shell craters.

At the southern tip of the semicircle lies the village of Robotyne. Ukraine recaptured it last summer, in the high-water mark of a counteroffensive that not only failed to achieve a breakthrough, but left the Russians in a strong enough position to start pushing back across the southern front.

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