Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

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Ukrainian servicemen ride in a T-80 main battle tank captured earlier from Russian troops, along a road near the front line town of Bakhmut on June 19. Serhii Nuzhnenko/Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Reuters

The minefields in southern Ukraine are so dense, the troops trying to liberate the area can only advance “tree by tree,” one soldier involved in Kyiv’s counteroffensive in the south told CNN. In all his years of service, he said, he’s never seen this many mines.

The soldier, who asked to be identified by his call sign “Legion,” told CNN he believed the actions by his troops were “quite successful and effective.” Yet as he and other Ukrainian soldiers wade through mined areas, encountering heavily fortified defenses and aerial assaults, much of the world seems to think they are moving rather slowly.

Ukraine’s Western allies are getting nervous about the fact that the progress of Kyiv’s long-awaited counteroffensive is being measured in meters, rather than kilometers. Kyiv’s allies are well aware that Ukraine cannot defeat Russia without their help. But the slower than expected pace of the counteroffensive means their support could become increasingly unsustainable if the conflict drags on.

Many of the countries that are supporting Ukraine’s war efforts are struggling with high inflation, rising interest rates and sluggish growth. Their leaders — some of whom are facing elections in the next year and a half — need to justify the huge amount of resources they’ve poured into Ukraine when their own voters are struggling to make ends meet. That can become difficult if there isn’t much battlefield success to show for it.

For now though, the support appears unfaltering. Multiple Ukrainian and Western officials have admitted that the counteroffensive has so far failed to yield major advances — but most were quick to add that the slow progress was justified.

The front lines in southern and eastern Ukraine have not moved much over the past months, giving Russian troops plenty of time to dig in and prepare for a counteroffensive.

According to an assessment by the Washington-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW), some of the most strategic sections of the front line are guarded by multiple lines of defense, making it very difficult for the Ukrainians to break through.

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said that the pace is not surprising, given that Ukrainian soldiers were fighting “for their life.”

“We are giving them as much help as humanly possible, but at the end of the day, Ukrainian soldiers are assaulting through minefields and into trenches,” he said.

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