Russian defense lines ukraine fortifications dragons teeth
© Maxar TechnologiesLayered Russian defences have sprung up along the more than 600 miles of front lines
New satellite images reveal the array of minefields, anti-tank ditches and trenches lying ahead of Ukrainian troops

Advancing Ukrainian troops must break through an elaborate network of Russian defences running hundreds of miles across the country that were built in anticipation of Kyiv's offensive.

With the initial assaults now underway, new satellite imagery provided to The Telegraph by Maxar Technologies has revealed the array of minefields, anti-tank ditches, and trenches lying ahead of the Ukrainian troops attempting to push south.

The defences, according to a Ukrainian intelligence officer, are constructed in a "three-line system", with varying levels of fortifications, the depths of which can exceed around 19 miles on some axes.

"They have unbelievable trenches and unbelievable fortifications, it will be hard to break their lines of defence" Serhii, a commander in Ukraine's National Guards, told The Telegraph.

"There are also minefields and they have good artillery - more than us unfortunately."

These layered defences have sprung up along the more than 600 miles of front lines separating Ukrainian forces from the Russian occupiers.

For more than six months, Ukraine has been preparing 12 new offensive brigades, including nine armed and trained by Nato nations, for the task at hand.

This time has given Russia ample time to build fortifications in the areas most likely expected to be targeted by Kyiv - occupied Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine's south and the Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in the east.

One of the new satellite images shows trenches carefully carved into agricultural land outside the town of Mykhailivka, around 40 miles west of Tokmak, where Ukrainian forces are reportedly making a push.
russia fortifications Ukraine
© Maxar Technologies/The Telegraph
russia fortifications ukraine
© Maxar Technologies/The Telegraph
The carefully-constructed ditches stretch for miles across a series of farmers' fields, serving as a rear defensive position on the lands occupied by Moscow's forces.

In a sign of Russian caution, the array of trenches seen in the images are positioned almost 19 miles behind the current front lines.

Other satellite images show deep trenches just in front of a tree line, which is then used to disguise artillery positions that can strike approaching forces.

Closer to the front, Moscow's forces have deployed triangular concrete blocks known as "dragons' teeth" in a bid to slow Ukrainian armour in any attempted push south.

One satellite image taken in March shows hundreds of the anti-tank structures arranged in rows, as well as personnel trenches, just east of Vaylivka, a city which sits on a road junction heading towards occupied Melitopol.

And ahead of those, while not visible to the satellite, would likely be a vast network of minefields aimed at stopping any initial drive south by Ukrainian troops.
russia fortifications ukraine
© The Telegraph
"The first line, along the line of contact, comprises the fighting positions made by the infantry," according to a recent report from the Royal United Services Institute.

"The second constitutes properly made trenches as compared with fox holes in the first - and concrete firing posts where possible.

"Several obstacle belts are laid in front of these positions, usually formed with a 4m deep and 6m wide anti-tank ditch, dragons' teeth and wire track entanglements.

"The depth of defence is usually 5km from the first, and each belt of physical defences tends to span between 700m and a kilometre, so that the entire obstacle series is covered by fire.

"The third line usually comprises full-back fighting positions and concealed areas for reserves, with positions dug for vehicles."

British intelligence officials have described the Russian efforts to fortify their positions as "some of the most extensive systems of military defensive works seen anywhere in the world".

Recent analysis of these positions suggest they could stretch across the entire front line from occupied Crimea to the Donbas.

Ukrainian troops have even grown to admire their enemy's ability to construct trenches, an admission that the counter-offensive is unlikely to be as easy as some observers expect.

"We should learn from our enemy on how they construct their trenches, because they are so excellent at that," Serhii, the intelligence officer, said. "They use specialised vehicles, not only hands."
Joe Barnes is the Brussels correspondent for The Telegraph