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LUHANSKE, UKRAINE — As Russia’s war drags into its fourth summer, the defensive lines on both sides of the front are hardening. With no end of the war in sight, the trenches and dugouts are becoming more elaborate and formidable.

Near Russian-controlled Debal­tseve, a Donetsk Oblast city some 700 kilometers southeast of Kyiv, the soldiers of Ukraine’s 53rd Mechanized Brigade are protecting the town of Luhanske behind a two-and-a-half meter wall of concrete blocks and sandbags. The line bristles with gun barrels, trained due south towards enemy lines.

“In this area, (Russian-led forces) are some 600 meters away from us,” says soldier Valeriy Kupriyenko, whose nom-de-guerre is “Tracer,” as he peers through a firing slot, looking for signs of enemy movement. “We hold on tight here and keep that field in front of us under total fire control: There’s no point in our enemy going over the top — they’d be riddled with bullets.”

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