The Ukrainian military has breached a section of Russia’s main defensive line on the southern front, video footage suggests.
Troops from the 82nd Air Assault Brigade were geolocated on the western outskirts of the Russian-held village of Verbove in the Zaporizhzhia region.
This would mean that they had pushed through the “Surovikin line”, a nexus of mines, barriers and trenches put in place by the former commander of Russia’s invasion to thwart Ukraine’s counter-offensive.
A minute-long clip shared by Russian sources appeared to show members of the elite brigade, armed and trained by Britain, coming under Russian artillery fire while operating in a nearby tree line on foot.
It was circulated on social media as Ukraine said its counter-offensive had “made progress” in two directions on the Zaporizhzhia front line.
Emil Kastehelmi, an open source intelligence analyst with the Blackbird Group, said the progress was local and did not herald a “rapid collapse of Russian defences” but added that “this isn’t looking good for the Russians”.
Ukrainian forces have slowly been advancing to the south and west of Robotyne, a village that was recaptured from Russian control this week in a sign that Kyiv is attempting to deepen and widen its salient in the area.
To reach the outskirts of Verbove, Ukrainian forces had to overcome a series of dragons’ teeth anti-tank obstacles and trenches that make up the first line of Moscow’s defences in the Zaporizhzhia region.
Western analysts have suggested the breach could be limited to infantry units operating a reconnaissance mission beyond the extensive defences.
It was reported on Tuesday that fighting had reached the initial stages of the Surovikin line outside of Verbove.
The village emerged as a potential target in Ukraine’s push towards the Sea of Azov because it is an integrated part of those defences.
Ukraine’s generals want to breach the line to reach the coastal city of Melitopol, thereby cutting Russia’s land bridge and splitting the lines of communications between its forces in the east and south of the country.
It is unclear if Ukrainian forces will attempt to capture the village or continue moving around it to widen its flanks.
Comparisons of satellite imagery taken at the beginning and end of August appeared to show that Russia had made little effort to bolster its defences around Verbove.
But the village could become a considerable obstacle itself because it sits in a valley where Russian forces control the surrounding high points.
Ukraine’s 82nd Air Assault Brigade was recently introduced to the counter-offensive as part of a second echelon of forces brought in to help breach Russia’s heavily fortified defences.
The brigade, which was formed from experienced front-line units to carry out the offensive, was trained by Britain and is known to be equipped with Challenger 2 main battle tanks.
Its fleet of Western tanks and Stryker infantry fighting vehicles did not appear in any of the latest footage shared on social media.
Separate advances by Ukrainian forces to the east of Novoprokopivka were also reported as part of the push.
“They have made progress in the Novodanilivka-Novoprokopivka and Mala Tokmachka-Verbove fronts, consolidating their positions, inflicting artillery fire on the identified enemy targets and carrying out counter-battery measures,” Ukraine’s general staff said in a statement on Wednesday.