As Russian Forces Advance, Ukraine Struggles to Build New Defensive Lines

by | May 2, 2024

As Russian Forces Advance, Ukraine Struggles to Build New Defensive Lines

by | May 2, 2024

3rd id conducts live fire exercise with ukrainian soldiers

YAVORIV, Ukraine-- A Ukrainian Soldier assigned to 1st Battalion, 80th Airmobile Brigade clear a trench during a live-fire training exercise, Nov. 12, at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center. Soldiers assigned to 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division is deployed in support of the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine. JMTG-U is focused on direct training of Ukrainian ground forces in the near term while helping to build an enduring and sustainable training capacity for the future. (Army photo by Sgt. Jacob Holmes)

Russian forces are advancing in several places across the 600-mile frontline in Ukraine, straining Kiev’s ability to build rear fortifications. Some in the Ukrainian military fault the country’s leadership for not building stronger second and third-line defenses last year while Russian troops were stalled. 

According to a dozen Ukrainian soldiers, government officials, and construction company directors who spoke with the Associated Press, Kiev is struggling to set up new defensive lines as its forces retreat. The officials cited several issues including decision-making last year, bureaucracy in doling out military contracts, and ammunition shortages. 

A deputy infantry commander fighting near Avdiivka explained that the defensive line needed to be built last year during Ukraine’s offensive. “There was an absence of responsibility. … People didn’t understand that fortifications can save your life if you do it in advance,” he stated. “Many people thought we … wouldn’t need to prepare such lines. They didn’t expect a new Russian offensive.”

Last summer, at Washington’s insistence, Kiev launched a counteroffensive that failed to retake much territory due to deeply entrenched Russian defensive lines. Ukraine lost a significant number of troops and military equipment during the failed assault. 

The AP notes that “Ukraine’s lack of adequate defensive lines has helped Russia make significant military gains, and constant enemy fire hinders building.” 

In a Telegram post on Sunday, Kiev’s Commander in Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said the situation at the front had “escalated,” adding, “Trying to seize the strategic initiative and break through the front line, the enemy has concentrated its main efforts in several directions, creating a significant advantage in forces and in means.”

In the battle for Chasiv Yar, a city in Donetsk, a Ukrainian soldier said the lack of fortified positions allowed Russian forces to prevail, with over 100 men killed or missing after a major withdrawal from the area. “We lost department commanders, platoon commanders, company commanders, and sergeants. That is, we lost the entire skeleton of the brigade,” the soldier explained to the AP. 

Rather than use military engineers to complete the projects, Kiev elected to pay construction companies to build third-line defenses. Ukraine awarded the contracts without following the typical bidding process, raising fears of corruption. Additionally, one contractor said the reported progress on the fortifications has been exaggerated to satisfy the government’s demands.

About Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone is news editor of the Libertarian Institute, opinion editor of and co-host of Conflicts of Interest with Will Porter and Connor Freeman.

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