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Ukraine didn't build the defenses it needs most in a key area when it had the chance, and now it's got a problem

Ukraine
Ukrainian soldiers hide during the shelling at the air defense positions held in Kostiantynivka, Ukraine, on August 8, 2023.Wojciech Grzedzinski/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • In a key area, Ukraine might have to construct defenses while fending off Russian attacks due to planning problems and shortages.

  • Ukraine missed the opportunity to build strong defensive fortifications outside Avdiivka.

  • Ukraine's military has resorted to crowdfunding to procure construction equipment.

Ukrainian forces outside recently captured Avdiivka are outgunned, short on critical supplies, and fighting against a Russian advance from defensive positions that are far from formidable, according to recent reporting.

Planning missteps and various shortages saw Ukraine miss the opportunity to build up defensive lines in a key sector of the front, meaning Ukraine's military may now have to do it while fending off Russian attacks, which could make this endeavor exponentially more difficult.

Satellite imagery of the Ukrainian positions shows largely basic defenses. "The quality of these defensive lines cannot be good enough to resist massive bulldozer tactics by the Russian forces," Serhiy Hrabskyi, a retired Ukrainian Army colonel, told The New York Times.

He said that Ukraine has not placed enough emphasis on building defenses, but also shortages in manpower and equipment have been a problem. Construction has fallen behind. "We have a lack of engineering units. And even the units we have lack equipment," he said.

Ukraine's military began the planning process for defensive fortifications near Avdiivka just three months ago, but there's been limited progress, The Times reported. Ukraine has built pretty basic trench lines but not much else.

For comparison, Russia began plotting its defensive strategy in southern Ukraine over six months before Ukraine's counteroffensive, fortifying positions with multiple layers of threats and obstacles such as land mines, dragon's teeth, anti-vehicle ditches, trenches, and more, all backed by infantry, artillery, and aircraft.

Russian forces have made further gains since the capture of Avdiivka in February, recently capturing three villages in a week's time, but experts have said the terrain may complicate the Russian advance. If it slows the Russians, it might give Ukraine time to build up and improve its defenses, but only time will tell.

War experts have said that digging in is key to Ukraine staying in the fight, and in November, Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy called for a focus on construction outside Avdiivka, which was more heavily defended than some of the surrounding areas Russia is targeting now.

But so far, the results, a satellite imagery analyst told The Times, "do not yet constitute a particularly formidable defensive line."

Elements of the Ukrainian military have taken up crowdfunding as a way to source money for construction equipment like excavators. This equipment can be expensive to acquire though, as an excavator and a utility vehicle combined cost over $70,000.

While some of these fundraising efforts have been successful on a smaller scale, on a larger scale, Ukraine is, as it has been for months now, still waiting for the much-needed aid from the US, which is stalled in Congress.

During a conference in Kyiv on February 25, Zelenskyy said that funding is needed within a month and that Ukraine will be "weaker" on the front lines without it.

Read the original article on Business Insider