Ukraine sets its sights on regaining southern cities and towns lost to Russian troops

Ukrainian reconnaissance team squats in a modest home in a village near Mykolaiv. Machine guns and army knapsacks line the walls, sleeping bags lie rolled out on the floor, and a pot of soup warms on the stove.

Outside, the garden shed is stacked with Javelins and other shoulder-launched anti-tank weapons.

The soldiers smoking on the porch hardly notice the boom of incoming artillery shells landing some 10 kilometers away. Today is not their turn to fight on Ukraine’s southern front.

The owners of the house, who fled to Poland after the war broke out in late February, are happy in the knowledge that their village is now back in Ukrainian hands.

Senior Lt. Andrii Pidlisnyi was one of the soldiers that drove the Russians out two months ago. “At first, it was a defensive operation to stop them,” he says. “After that we found some good places where we can make offensive operations and take back our territories. And now we’re doing that.”

Pidlisnyi commands a unit of 100 men tasked with identifying Russian positions, often by drone. They then call in the artillery.

On his computer, he shows CNN bodycam videos from his missions earlier in the war. He has had some close calls, but says his morale is high after recent successes. US hardware has helped.

One video shows Pidlisnyi sitting in a trench, using his drone to pinpoint Russian tank positions. “Call in the American gift,” he says over the radio.

Russian troops are now on the defensive in this part of the south — unlike in the east, where Ukrainian troops are the ones being forced to cede ground.

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