Accounts from the front lines in southern Ukraine suggest further incremental gains for Ukrainian forces amid constant artillery, mortar and rocket fire from both sides.
Geolocated videos show a wasteland of shell holes, abandoned trenches and wrecked military hardware in the area between Robotyne, Verbove and Novoprokopivka — a triangle of villages that hold the key for Ukrainians to getting closer to Tokmak, an important hub for Russian defenses.
Here's where the situation stands in and around each of the three villages:
Novoprokopivka: There was an advance in this direction and Ukraine captured several Russian positions east of this settlement, according to an unofficial Telegram account of soldiers of the Ukrainian 46th separate airmobile brigade. "Currently, the success is being secured and counterattacks are being repelled,” the Telegram channel said Thursday, adding that the effort to capture the heights near Novoprokopivka is underway.
This area is just 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) south of Robotyne.
Verbove: The 46th airmobile brigade suggested a harder fight around this area, saying there “was an attempt to gain ground to the north and northwest. Controlling the heights in these areas could strengthen the position of our units in the area of the settlement.”
The channel, which has frequently proven accurate in the past, said that Russian planes continue to bombard rear positions and artillery and drones on both sides were constantly working. In this situation, “it is hardly possible to expect a sharp change in the situation in anyone's favor in the near future,” the channel said.
Robotyne: Ukrainian forces "got Robotyne at a very high price. But the capture of this settlement opens the gates to Tokmak,” according to a soldier with the callsign "Bruce", commander of the 47th Brigade's reconnaissance unit.
“Bruce” added that then the road to the Sea of Azov would be open. “In my personal opinion, this will be the end. Because if we reach the Sea of Azov, both Crimea and the grouping of troops in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia directions will be surrounded, and this will be the end for Putin."
What's Russia saying: Russian-appointed official in control of occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia, Yevgeniy Balitsky, gave a different account of the situation, claiming that Moscow's forces "inflicted massive fire damage" on Ukrainian forces, including loss of soldiers and equipment. A Russian military blogger also claimed that several enemy attacks had been repelled.
What does independent analysis show: "Ukrainian forces have advanced along the trench line west of Verbove,” the Institute for the Study of War says, citing geolocated footage. It also noted claims by Russian military bloggers that Ukrainian forces were now trying to break through in the direction of Novoprokopivka.