Ukrainian forces advanced cautiously to the south to recapture the only regional capital captured by Moscow since the start of the invasion.
On the front lines at Kherson, a Ukrainian artillery crew on an open field fired two quick shots into the distance targeting the Russian forces.
Wearing camouflage uniforms, they immediately packed up and moved for fear of Russian retaliation, trying to hide from Russian surveillance drones and armed men.
“Now that we dominate, they are slowly retreating. The Russians used them all [troop] reserve forces but they can only reach our front line,” artillery commander Kosiak, 22, told Al Jazeera.
“The situation with drones is very complicated. They are always flying, daily and hourly. It was only scary at the beginning of the war, now we just do our job. Even when they shot back at us, we didn’t panic. We are used to war,” he said.
Kherson city is the only regional capital captured by Moscow since their invasion began on February 24. For weeks, Ukrainian forces have advanced towards the industrial port.
Russian General Sergey Surovikin ordered troops withdraw from Kherson on Wednesday to the east bank of the Dnieper River. Ukrainian officials responded cautiously, warning the announcement could be a trap.
Military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said announced withdrawal from Kherson politically “a disaster”.
“Politically, it’s very embarrassing. Militarily, it makes sense and that’s why it’s very likely that the Russian generals have adopted such a decision,” said Mr. Felgenhauer.
‘The scariest thing’
Returning to the Kherson battlefield, the weapons used by Ukrainian forces are sometimes twice as old as those used by these forces. As they loaded rockets onto a truck, a soldier wrote the names of his fallen comrades on explosives to fire at the Russians.
“As a commander, the scariest thing is losing people. Everyone here in the infantry, artillery and engineering brigades is scared of being under enemy fire,” said Vadym, 23.
“The Russians use everything they have – guns, cannons… MLRS [multiple launch rocket systems]. The enemy is not ashamed to use any weapon.”
The military unit is out of sight and waiting for further orders and intelligence to be relayed from the drones.
“Certainly, this is a war of drones. In most cases, adjustment of artillery fire is done from drones. Both small commercial planes and larger drones have made a difference,” says Vadym.
Recently, the line of communication has moved rapidly.
Infantry commander Mykhailo, 42, said: “The Russians closed in a few months ago, but now the front line is moving. Mostly Russian drones. We didn’t see them, but they kept on flying.”
Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from the Kherson region, said Ukrainian forces believed it was only a matter of time before they removed the Russians from their country.
But Felgenhauer warned: “This is not a defeat for Russia, as they are clearly going to retreat in an organized manner. The Ukrainians will move forward very cautiously, fearful of some sort of Russian maneuver.
“But the decisive moments may come when winter begins, and when tanks and trucks can move easily again through fields and dirt roads, when there will be real action, there will be real action. decisive in this war.
“I believe the Ukrainians will be ready for a major attack; At least they will try to do it and push the Russians really hard out of Ukraine,” he said.