How BBC Verify found and analysed Russia’s defences


Just one look at the map tells you where Russia expects the main thrust of Ukraine’s offensive to be focussed and its forces have planned accordingly.

For Ukraine’s ‘big push’ to have any lasting strategic effect on the war it will need to drive south towards the coast in a bid to split the Russian-occupied areas of the South in two.

To prevent this happening, Russia has spent the last eight months building elaborate defences and fortifications in depth, stretching across a 120km front.

These defences are formidable and consist of deep trenches, minefields, gun positions and concrete ‘dragon’s teeth’ obstacles to block the advance of Ukraine’s newly-supplied western tanks.

None of these obstacles are insurmountable, over time, and Ukraine will be sending armoured engineering, mine-clearing and bridging vehicles to accompany any advance.

But any delays will allow Russian artillery, missiles and possibly air power to target Ukraine’s forces as they wait to advance.

There is a risk they could become sitting ducks while a path through is cleared. Ukrainian commanders know this and they will likely keep Russia guessing until the last minute where they intend to concentrate their forces.

Until then, they will likely make full use of their long-range missiles to strike Russia’s rear logistics, targeting its fuel and ammo depots and its transport hubs, seeking to undermine those defences that Moscow has invested so much in.