Russian-Ukrainian War News: Live Updates

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times
Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times
Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

DONETSK PROVINCE, Ukraine — After chasing retreating Russian troops through a stretch of hills and forests for a month, Ukrainian troops in the eastern region of Donbass have slowed almost to a standstill. And in recent days, Russian reinforcements have rushed to the front line, attempting a counterattack to break Ukraine’s momentum.

Moscow is waging the war on two fronts, one on the battlefield, where it has suffered regular casualties, including in the Donbass region, the main focus of its invasion force since April.

On another front, Russia has stepped up its attacks with long-range weapons against civilian targets across Ukraine – including far-off drone strikes in the capital Kyiv that left at least four people dead on Monday.

The military campaign in the east, meanwhile, has become a battle of bombardment, positioning and surveillance where Russian and Ukrainian troops clash within a few hundred meters of each other.

In a village near the frontline on Sunday, a steady volley of mortars slammed into a Ukrainian position as a radio crackled in a small farm, calling for help to find where the Russians were firing from.

“Let’s get to work,” said one of the Ukrainian soldiers, taking a small drone and heading for the gate near the border between Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, which together form the Donbass region.

He was part of a drone reconnaissance team from the National Guard’s Dnipro 1 Battalion that worked near the front line, sheltered from shelling while sending drones to hunt a range of Russian targets, from tanks to the elusive mortar team.

Russian troops were advancing slowly until the Ukrainian army launched a successful counter-offensive in early September, sweeping across a large swath of northeastern Ukraine, retaking strategic towns in Donetsk and threatening Russia’s hold. on Luhansk.

The Russian side is trying to cling to the important transport hubs of Svatove and Kreminna. If Ukraine manages to retake these two cities, it could break Moscow’s hold over much of Lugansk province.

But Russian troops appear to have regrouped after their headlong rush last month. They have tanks, artillery and mortars and hold positions on high ground across a valley. Dnipro 1 men also said there were signs of newly mobilized Russian soldiers on the ground.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

The villages currently behind the Ukrainian front line are almost deserted; burned-out military tanks and trucks sit by the roadside and in the pine forests.

Svetlana, who sat by the road on Sunday afternoon selling mushrooms picked from the woods behind her house, said she returned home as soon as Ukrainian troops recaptured her village. She was unemployed and struggling to survive as a refugee. “For two weeks now, we have felt some relief,” she said.

Closer to the front line, new craters of mortar fire carved out the road.

The confidence of the Ukrainian reconnaissance team has been boosted by recent successes. Five days earlier the Russians had attacked with a large force of 50 to 60 men but were repelled, said one of the officers, Filin, who gave only his code name in accordance with military protocol. The next day they tried again with a smaller force but were also pushed back, said Filin, 32.

Then the Dnipro 1 team carried out an improvised attack, dropping a grenade from a small commercial drone on a Russian armored vehicle where a group of soldiers was gathered. The next day they surveyed the area and saw a dead man on the ground where the grenade had hit, apparently abandoned by his comrades.

“After that they stopped the attacks,” said another member of the team, who uses the code name Kon. “They don’t like drone noise.”

The Russians resumed their incessant artillery and mortar strikes but made no attempt to advance again, the soldiers said.

Some of the Russian soldiers appeared poorly trained and inexperienced, they said. But others were skilled operators: they have jamming devices that interfere with drones and can maneuver their tanks to avoid Ukrainian attacks – hiding in the forest and moving to fire before quickly disappearing, according to the chief of the reconnaissance team, which goes through Android.

Yet after a month of displacement, the Ukrainians said they were confident they would keep moving forward.

“For us, every meter of reclaimed land gives us power,” said Duke, the team’s company commander.