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Ukraine troops admit counteroffensive against Russia "very difficult," but they "keep going"

Inside Ukraine's counteroffensive
As Ukraine increases pushback from Russian forces, American fighting vehicles play pivotal role 02:44

Dnipro — Ukraine said it shot down 13 Russian cruise missiles targeting military airfields in the west of the country, hundreds of miles from the grueling front-line battles raging in the east. Those fights, as Ukrainian troops push their counteroffensive against Russia's invading forces, are getting more and more intense.

Destroyed vehicles and buildings lined the road as our CBS News team drove toward the town of Velyka Novosilka, right on the front line east of Dnipro. The town itself has been reduced to rubble.

Sounds of nearby fighting still echoed down the streets, and the smell of gunpowder lingering in the air gave sense of the intensity of the fighting.

Nearby, Ukrainian soldiers waited for orders to make another push. 

We asked one of them, callsign Hans, how rough the fight in the area had been.

"Very, very intense," he said. "They're throwing everything at us... helicopters, artillery, bombs."

Attacks inside Russia aim to pressure Putin's regime 03:49

Hans said it has been "very difficult" pushing back Russia's entrenched forces, and "we pray to God for more ammunition, weapons and men."

U.S. officials have told CBS News that Ukraine's counteroffensive has made slow, uneven progress along the 600-mile front line that stretches all the way from the country's northern to southern borders, because they're facing stiffer Russian resistance than expected.

Just down the road, a squad of soldiers were firing mortars at Russian positions. Soldiers on the front call in the coordinates of their next target to Yura and his men, and they unleash another volley of mortars.

"I'm not so good," said Yura, anxious. "I'm a little afraid, but I keep going."

But the grinding success of Ukraine's counteroffensive along the southern front is being measured in both newly-liberated villages, and marked by roads lined with the bodies of fallen Russian soldiers.

Close by, Ukraine's 68th Jaeger Brigade also waited to be called into action. They operate American-made MaxxPro armored fighting vehicles.

One of the troops pointed to shattered glass and shrapnel damage on one of the hulking armored vehicles, "from shelling and rockets that targeted us," the driver told us.
But he said it had kept him and his team safe.
Soldier Oleksii said the Russians' defense had been formidable, and they clearly "know how to fight, but our guys are better."

Soldiers from Ukraine's 68th Jaeger Brigade race to get into their U.S.-made MaxxPro armored fighting vehicle after a call from their fellow troops on the nearby front line for support, in the town of Velyka Novosilka, southern Ukraine, June 22, 2023. CBS News

Suddenly, the calm was pierced by a call over the radio for help. The unit was needed on the front, and they quickly sped off.

On Thursday, Ukraine's prime minister described the ongoing counteroffensive as a success, but he admitted the operation was going to take time.

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