OUTSIDE AVDIIVKA, Ukraine — The headquarters of one of the battalions in Ukraine’s 53rd Mechanized brigade smells of fresh-cut pine trees. The smells are from the wooden support beams in the maze of trenches that make up most of the unit’s rudimentary base outside the surrendered city of Avdiivka.

In the main command room, flat-screen TVs, computers and a satellite Internet tube in images from small drones, as a cadre of Ukrainian soldiers keep tabs on their part of the front line.

What they mostly see is a violent stalemate.

As the war enters its 17th month, the fighting has developed a remarkable pace. Russia and Ukraine are locked in a deadly back-and-forth of attacks and counter-attacks. Russian artillery no longer has the clear advantage and Ukrainian troops are struggling with staunch Russian defenses, grinding in their southern offensive, slowed by dense minefields.

Small territorial gains come at great cost. Field hospitals that were closed after the battle for the eastern city of Bakhmut have been reopened, volunteers said, and Ukrainian soldiers described a determined enemy.

“We’re trading our people for their people and they have more people and equipment,” said one Ukrainian commander, whose squad has suffered about 200 percent casualties since Russia launched its full-scale invasion last year.

This New York Times analysis of the war is based on a dozen visits to the front line and interviews in June and July with Ukrainian soldiers and commanders in the Donetsk and Kharkiv regions, where many of the battles are taking place.

Those visits showed that the Ukrainian military faces a litany of new and ongoing challenges that have contributed to its slow progress.

Ukraine has done well to adapt defensive warfare — wiring Starlink satellite internet, public software and off-the-shelf drones to keep constant tabs on Russian troops from command posts. But offensive operations are different: Ukraine has made marginal progress in its ability to coordinate directly between its troops closest to Russian troops on the so-called zero line and those attacking forward.

Ukrainian infantry are focusing more and more on trench attacks, but after suffering tens of thousands of casualties since the start of the war, these ranks are often filled with less trained and older soldiers. And when Russian troops are driven from a position, they have become more adept at targeting that position with their artillery, ensuring that Ukrainian troops cannot stay there for long.

Ammunition is in short supply and there is a mix of munitions sent from different countries. That forced Ukrainian artillery units to use more ammunition to hit their targets, as accuracy varies greatly between the different shells, Ukrainian soldiers said. In addition, some of the older shells and rockets sent from abroad damage their equipment, and injure soldiers. “It’s a very big problem now,” said Alex, a Ukrainian battalion commander.

Finally, in the summer months, camouflage and greenery remain decisive factors in whether a battlefield operation will be successful. Defending forces almost always have the advantage, whether it’s due to unseen trenches or hidden electronic warfare units that use deception and concealment to throw off attacking forces.

The setup that the soldier named Valerii saw in the command center is common among most Ukrainian units fighting in the east. Unlike the United States and other NATO countries, which use complicated military communications equipment to monitor the battlefield, Ukrainian troops use less sophisticated but easier-to-use software such as smartphone messaging apps, private online chat rooms and small Chinese-made drones to keep an eye on what’s going on along the front line.

It is an ad hoc, but effective, communications suite that is overlaid with homegrown Ukrainian software, providing the location of Ukrainian units and suspected positions of Russian troops.

The downside of this system is that it is almost entirely connected to Starlink satellite internet. That means when Ukrainian troops attack — in the absence of a Wi-Fi router — it takes longer to communicate important information like artillery targets because attacking troops have to reach someone with an Internet connection to request support.

Ukrainian forces are also battling Russian forces jamming the radios soldiers use to try to reach their comrades over the internet.

“Mostly we get coordinates over the internet – it’s secure, and as soon as they’re given to us, we use them straight away,” said Anton, the head of an automatic launcher.

In one case in the south of the country earlier this year, soldiers fighting for Ukraine tried to wire Starlink internet to an armored personnel carrier while attacking a Russian position, but the antenna was shot down by friendly fire during the attack.

This month, the system worked as intended. A Ukrainian drone watched as the dirt from a Russian soldier’s shovel piled up next to a trench he was digging: it was a priority target. A new trench meant that Russian forces were getting that much closer to Ukrainian lines and would be one more stronghold for Ukrainian forces to attack.

The coordinates for the trench were sent via smartphone, and minutes later explosions from a Mk 19 automatic launcher erupted on either side of the Russian soldier.

The squad of Ukrainian soldiers of the 59th brigade was drenched in sweat. It was the end of June and they had done the same exercise – attacking a trench used for training, just miles from the front line – countless times, navigating through the overgrown grass, false firing their Kalashnikovs, resting and doing it again.

The purpose of the repetition was to make the process mechanical, so when the new group of mobilized soldiers, whose ages varied between 25 and 40, finally reached the front line, they would not flinch when the time came to attack a well-defended Russian trench.

“We haven’t been in active combat yet but we are preparing for it,” said Mykola, one of the younger soldiers in the group.

With the war in its second year and both armies well-versed in building and defending fortifications, attacking trenches has become one of the most dangerous and necessary tasks for Ukrainian troops trying to retake territory. Training for more specialized skills, such as for snipers, was set aside in favor of trench attacks.

Around the eastern city of Bakhmut, which was captured by the Russians in May, Ukrainian forces made progress on the flanks of the city as Russian forces had less time to dig in. Some elite Ukrainian units in the area are proficient in attacking Russian trenches with good communication and coordinated attacks.

But other Ukrainian formations elsewhere on the front had trouble filling their ranks with the caliber of soldiers capable of carrying out successful trench attacks, as months of fighting depleted their ranks. New replacements are often older recruits who have been forced into action.

“How can you expect a 40-year-old to be a good infantry soldier or machine gunner?” asked the Ukrainian commander, whose platoon suffered dozens of casualties. Youth not only means better physical prowess, but younger soldiers are less likely to question orders.

In recent days around Bakhmut, Ukrainian casualties have increased, a byproduct of Ukraine’s strategy to link Russian forces around the city to complement the ongoing counteroffensive in the south of the country. Russian forces rushed more artillery units to the area so that even if they lose a trench to a Ukrainian attack they can quickly pelt their lost fortifications with shells, forcing Kyivs troops to withdraw from newly recaptured ground.

Outside the eastern city of Siversk, a team of Ukrainian troops manning a US-supplied 105mm howitzer listened to their “neighbor”, a self-propelled howitzer, fire several rounds. Then the 105mm team was given their own fire mission, via smartphone and Starlink internet, targeting a Russian mortar team.

The crew peeled off their camouflage netting, fired twice, and then hid again.

The fire mission was successful. But for many Ukrainian artillery units it is not so simple.

Ukrainian artillery crews navigate a range of munitions supplied by countries such as Pakistan, Poland, Bulgaria and Iran, forcing gun crews to adjust their aim based on which country the ammunition is coming from, and sometimes how old they are, even though they are all the same caliber.

Frequent artillery fire almost always brings retaliation. Twenty minutes after a Ukrainian 105mm salvo fired, the Russians fired back, showering the area with cluster munitions, a class of shells and rockets that explode and distribute smaller explosives over a wide area. Both Russia and Ukraine used the weapons, although many countries banned them.

The Russians used cluster shots, the gun crew said, because they didn’t know exactly where the Ukrainians were, so they chose instead to cover the area with the small exploding bombs in hopes of hitting their target somewhere in the trees.

One of the defining characteristics of a summer battle in eastern Ukraine is the foliage. Covering a tank or artillery piece with camouflage is called “masking” by the Ukrainians, and the routine is critical to avoiding drone detection and the artillery fire that is sure to follow. Around Bakhmut the fields and tree lines are known among Ukrainian troops as the “green belt”.

Outside the Russian-held town of Kreminna, further north, where pine forests dominate the terrain, Russian troops there often debark the trees with incendiary munitions to burn through the foliage, soldiers from the 100th Territorial Defense Brigade said. On that front, Ukrainian troops often go so far as to bury their garbage to stay hidden from drones.

Often, in order to fire or maneuver, Ukrainian combat vehicles must abandon any type of camouflage, exposing them to another weapon that has proliferated across the front line in recent months: Russian GPS-guided Lancet drones.

Often called “kamikaze” drones, they forced Ukrainian artillery and tank crews to take extensive measures to conceal their positions. Some tank crews even welded homemade armor to their turrets to stop the self-exploding machines.

About 40 miles away, on another part of the front line, soldiers from the 15th Separate Artillery Reconnaissance Brigade were monitoring a range of radio frequencies from their computer screens, and trying to figure out how to deal with the Lancets. Blocking them was impossible, at least for now.

Lancets are difficult to fire because they work more like guided bombs than drones, the Ukrainian soldiers said. Instead their electronic warfare radar, known as NOTA, is trying to jam the nearby Russian drone presumably by sending coordinates to the Lancet. But it’s a hard science, the soldiers said.

“We don’t know exactly how they communicate,” said Marabu, a noncommissioned officer working in the NOTA.

Another electronic warfare soldier added that they can only see Lancets briefly on their screen when it turns on its connection to stream video, but that usually only lasts about 15 seconds.

Electronic warfare is a hidden hand behind much of the war, with Russian capabilities surpassing that of the Ukrainians. Russian forces can detect cell phone signals, jam GPS and radio frequencies and often look for Starlink Wi-Fi routers to target with their artillery.

“It’s a very big problem for us,” Marabu said, referring to the Russian forces’ ability to change the frequency of their drones. This makes it difficult for the NOTAN to tell where the drones are on the front line.

Earlier this month, Marabu spotted a Russian surveillance drone somewhere over the town of Svatove. Out of range of the blockade of the NOTA, all Sgt. All Marabu could do was watch as red dots cascaded across a blue background on his screen: the Russian drone was communicating back to its operator, sending grainy footage of the war below.

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