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The line of trees appears to fragment and disappear as it winds its way towards the Russian positions on the outskirts of the small town of Velyka Novosilka.

Dima, a Ukrainian army infantryman with the 1st Separate Tank Brigade, treads carefully along a path where army boots have worn through the spring clover. The zero line – the final trench – lies ahead. Russian troops are only 700m away.

Further north in Bakhmut, the Ukranians have been losing ground. But here in the south of Donetsk province, Ukrainian tanks and infantrymen are standing firm.

Despite months of vicious Russian attacks, Dima says the brigade has lost less than 10m of territory. Russian forces, he says, have sustained heavy losses

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