Russian troops are blowing themselves up on their own mines and sustaining significant casualties, according to Ukrainian soldiers fighting in the south of the country.
Zelensky’s army launched its keenly anticipated counteroffensive at beginning of June, as it attempted to take back more territory from the Russians.
After the stunning successes in Kharkiv and Kherson region last autumn, hopes were high of more rapid gains this time round.
However, the Russians have built heavily fortified defensive positions, which consist of an extensive network of trenches, the so-called “dragon’s teeth” anti-tank barriers and above all minefields.
At the same time the Russian army has fought with a tenacity and determination that many thought was beyond it, leading to much slower progress by Kyiv’s advancing troops.
The determined resistance of the Russians was acknowledged by President Zelensky in one of his recent nightly addresses to Ukrainians.
The Ukrainian leader told his audience that Putin’s army was doing “everything they can to stop our soldiers”.
But it is land mines that have proved to be the biggest obstacle to Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which experts say has reclaimed around 253 square kilometres so far.
Ukrainian soldiers have told Western journalists that in some cases entire fields have been laid with mines.
A soldier serving on the frontlines named Serhiy, told the New York Times: “I couldn’t imagine something like this. I thought mines would be lain in lines. But whole fields are filled with them, everywhere.”
The mines, though, are posing problems not just to the Ukrainians but also to their opponents.
In Zaporizhzhia, Kyiv’s army has met particularly fierce Russian resistance as it attempts to push further south towards the Sea of Azov.
Reaching the coastline would potentially cut the Russian army in two and also disrupt overland supply lines to Crimea, whose recapture is a major war goal for Kyiv.
Major Oleksii, a Ukrainian officer serving with a unit in the region, said the area was so heavily littered with mines, that the Russians were stepping on them and taking casualties.
“They have mined this area extremely heavily,” he told Sky News.
“The Russians even blow themselves up. But it makes our operations much more difficult.”
The Russian army has always made liberal use of mines in its various military campaigns.
They were used extensively in Afghanistan and Chechnya, as well as way back in 2014 when war broke out in the Donbas.
The Russians have booby-trapped the mines and attached so-called anti-handling devices that cause them to explode if lifted.
More sophisticated explosives include the so-called jumping mines, which, when stepped on, pop up and spray shrapnel, hitting other soldiers nearby.
In areas where the Ukrainians have succeeded in clearing a minefield, the Russians have fired rockets, which spray small, green, anti-personnel mines and create more lethal obstacles for Zelensky’s soldiers.
Not only have the Russians booby-trapped their own mines, they have also mined their own trenches and the bodies of their dead when they have been forced to retreat.
Glen Grant, a former British Lieutenant-Colonel, told the Express: “When the Russians are forced out of a trench line, they are still leaving mines in the trenches including mining their own casualties.”
Despite the obvious difficulties faced by Ukraine’s army, Mr Grant insisted that the counteroffensive was making “good solid progress” and that reaching the Sea of Azov was still a realistic goal.