Ukraine acknowledged on Friday its troops were not making speedy headway in their summer offensive to recapture territory in the east and south of the country from Russian forces.

“Today it's advancing not so quickly,” the head of the presidency Andriy Yermak told reporters, conceding that battles were difficult.

Has the summer offensive stalled?

No, Ukraine is still making some progress.

Kyiv said on Friday its troops had advanced nearly two kilometres along the southern front over the past week.

Mykola Urshalovych, a senior representative of the National Guard, told reporters that the force's 15th Karadag brigade and regular troops had moved towards the occupied southern city of Melitopol during the ongoing offensive.

The soldiers, "supported by tanks, have advanced 1,700 metres (1.1 miles) to the south and southeast" over the past seven days, he said.

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He also said the units of the National Guard were preparing to expand an offensive in the Avdiivka sector in eastern Ukraine.

And earlier this month, Kyiv said Ukrainian troops had captured key heights around the eastern city of Bakhmut.

Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar said that Kyiv's troops had  established fire control over "entrances, exits and movement of the enemy around the city.”

Why is it going so slowly?

Russia has had months to prepare its defensive lines and vast swathes of land have been mined and getting through these requires the arduous task of demining before troops can advance.

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Urshalovych said troops are advancing despite "dense" minefields and shelling and that in the Berdyansk sector National Guard troops continued to maintain their positions “under constant enemy fire.”

Earlier this month President Zelensky said the slow delivery of promised arms was slowing Kyiv's counteroffensive, and called on the United States and other allies to provide long-range weapons and artillery.

What do Ukraine’s allies say?

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Ukraine’s allies have high expectations for the summer offensive and Kyiv recognises that future weapons pledges depend significantly on the ability to show they are being put to effective use.

US President Joe Biden said on Thursday that he expected the counteroffensive would lead to negotiations to end the war.

"My hope is and my expectation is, you'll see, that Ukraine makes significant progress on their offensive and that it generates a negotiated settlement somewhere along the line," Biden told a press conference in Helsinki.

Is the US pressuring Ukraine to make more progress?

Not according to Yermak, who is seen as President Volodymyr Zelensky's right-hand man.

"There is no pressure, just a question: how can we help you further?" he said.

"It's clear that our successes on the battlefield influence everything that is happening," he said.

At a meeting with Ukrainian armed forces leadership on Friday, "the president informed the military that this is important", Yermak added.

Publicly, Kyiv does not appear to be too worried about developments. "If we are going to see that something is going wrong, we'll say so,” Yermak said.

“No one is going to embellish."

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How does Ukraine feel about negotiations with Russia?

Kyiv would not negotiate with Russia until Moscow withdrew its troops from Ukraine, Yermak also insisted.

"Even thinking about these talks is only possible after Russian troops leave our territory," he said.

How do Ukraine’s troops feel?

On the southern flank of Bakhmut, Vitaliy Stolyarchuk, 31, heads up an infantry unit that has been fighting and advancing around the village of Klyshchyvka.

"Of course it is scary, only a fool would not be afraid," said the bespectacled Stolyarchuk, who worked as a barman in the port city of Odesa before the war.

"I believe in God and I always pray that my brothers and I come out alive from the battle. You have to keep a cool head and a 360-degree view," he said, calling the Russians “formidable adversaries.”

Stolyarchuk pointed out the particular danger posed by anti-personnel mines laid by retreating Russian forces.

“The (Ukrainian) soldiers are inexperienced and fall into the trap.”

Volodymyr Veselovsky, a volunteer medic at a first aid point for wounded soldiers, said he had noticed more mine blast injuries recently but most wounds were still from artillery fire.

“For several weeks, we have had more traumas caused by landmines. There are injuries to the feet and legs. One day we had five injuries that had to be amputated,” he told AFP.

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