- Russia has reportedly dug a 45-mile defensive trench in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Oblast, according to satellite imagery.
- The trench begins near Melitopol and stretches west to the village of Marynivka.
- The length of the trench represents approximately a third of the length of the region.
- The trench could provide Russian forces with a defensive line in an area which many analysts believe will be key in Ukraine’s anticipated counteroffensive.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces have seemingly dug a 45-mile defensive trench in Ukraine, according to satellite imagery published by the Ukrainian media outlet Center for Journalistic Investigations.
The images, which were published on Friday, show the continuous trench line sprawling across land that Russia occupies in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
Russia seized control of several communities in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast in the early days of the invasion that Putin ordered last February. Days after the attacks began, Moscow took control of the city of Berdiansk before capturing Melitopol on March 1. Soon, Russian forces also occupied the city of Enerhodar, where the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) is located. However, Ukraine has maintained its hold on the capital city of Zaporizhzhia throughout the war.
The trench begins in the eastern area of the Zaporizhzhia region near Melitopol and stretches west in a horizontal line to the Marynivka village in the Prymorskyi District. The length of the trench represents approximately a third of the length of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast (127 miles).
The Center for Journalistic Investigations reported the trench images were recorded by the Sentinel-2 satellite from the European Union’s (EU) Copernicus Earth observation program. The outlet added that an analysis of photographic evidence shows that digging for the defensive line began in September.
On Saturday, The Kyiv Independent tweeted out one of the pictures of the trench that was obtained by the Center for Journalistic Investigations.
The Center for Journalistic Investigations alleged that Russia has used a labor force made up of immigrant workers from Central Asia—who were reportedly paid by Moscow business people—for much of the work on the trench. Newsweek has not been able to independently verify these claims.
Zaporizhzhia Oblast has not seen as much combat action as other Ukraine regions after Russia’s early victories there. However, The Kyiv Independent wrote on Saturday that many military analysts believe that Ukraine could launch its anticipated counteroffensive in the region in the coming months.
If Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s forces find success in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, such a “breakthrough in southern Ukraine would have the greatest strategic significance, potentially cutting off Russia’s land connection to Crimea and isolating its presence on the occupied peninsula,” according to The Kyiv Independent.
Zaporizhzhia is one of four Ukrainian regions that Putin illegitimately annexed in late September, with Kremlin officials maintaining that the land is considered Russian territory.
Newsweek reached out to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs via email for comment.