Ukrainian troops brace for long-awaited counteroffensive

Ukraine's armed forces are braced for the country's much-touted counteroffensive. Near the southern frontline in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, an intensive ground assault training programme is currently taking place. FRANCE 24’s Catherine Norris Trent, Johan Bodin and Dmytro Kovalchuk went to meet the troops poised to try and break through Russia’s defensive lines.

Time’s ticking down, and preparations are under way. In the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia some 5,000 troops are being put through their paces at an intensive ground assault training programme.

“We are trying to squeeze a two-month training programme into two weeks, so we have many groups of men rotating through,” explains Zafar, director of the Alpha Training Centre.

If Ukraine’s counteroffensive comes here in the south, these fighters will have to breach multiple, reinforced lines of defence and trenches. They are particularly dreading Russia’s newly laid minefields.

“We know that they’ve heavily mined their defensive lines and that they’re waiting for our counteroffensive …This is what we’re most afraid of, because mines cause 90 percent of deaths in reconnaissance units like us,” says Matvei, a soldier who belongs to the 102nd brigade of Ukraine’s Territorial Defence unit.

And despite the recent batches of western arms deliveries, a Ukrainian offensive would hardly have any cover from aviation.

“No one has ever fought back against an enemy like this, which has supremacy in the air, as well as quantities of tanks, artillery and heavy weapons,” says Andrii, a commander of the 102nd Brigade.