Drones continue to play a huge role on the battlefield in Ukraine, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reports from the Southern front in Zaporizhzhia oblast.
The AK team, comprising Anton Aleksejev and camera operator Kristjan Svirgsden, visited Ukrainian personnel who, after several weeks, were able to drive Russian forces from their own dug in positions.
On soldier, nicknamed "Gray-head", said: "Given we have breached their first and second lines and are already reaching their third, then in fact they are already retreating to well-prepared positions. So each of their second or third lines might as well be the first line of defense. The closer to the Surovikin line, the better their positions are protected."
The Surovikin Line is a complex set of fortifications in Southeastern Ukraine named after a present-day Russian general.
On this section of the front, drones have proven at least as effective a mode of attack as artillery, in part due to their relatively inexpensive price.
Another Ukrainian, "Geko," says: "We're still working on this attack drone aspect. We're still learning, though we've already hit a couple of targets."
"Dark," another Ukrainian, tells ERR that: "Our attack drone unit can neutralize both personnel and equipment. Drones are much cheaper than using artillery, too. A single shell costs somewhere around $2,000-$3,000, while one drone costs $500 or $600."
Aleksejev and Svirgsden report feeling that drones can indeed prove quite a terrifying weapon just half an hour later, as their small group crosses a clearing.
This made them the perfect target for a drone operated by the enemy, which on targeting them meant the quickly had to take cover under some nearby vegetation.
A Ukrainian soldier nicknamed "Spider" evacuated the group from the area in his car, despite the danger.
This method of transport is quite common on the front line, with volunteers lending their own vehicles or even selling them to the soldiers, who have to pay for them out of their own pocket.
There is a high turnover too. "Spider" says that of over a dozen vehicles he has brought to the area, only three or four remain, the rest having been taken out by drone strikes or artillery.
In nearby positions, Ukrainian forces were busy tackling incoming drones, even as they lacked the jamming tech which would have made this more straightforward.
"They have far more [drones], in industrial quantities. We can't compete with that yet,""Geko" says.
While the Russians have pulled back, they have not left the area. A village a few kilometers away has been razed to the ground by the invaders, but the Ukrainian soldiers counsel against going anywhere near there – putting the return rate of journalists who do venture there at around 20 percent.
The original AK segment (in Estonian, Ukrainian and Russian) is here.
According to some reports, Russian losses in the face of Ukrainian advances in Avdiivka, Donetsk oblast, have been among its highest of this year and may amount to as much as a brigade equivalent.
Editor: Andrew Whyte
Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Anton Aleksejev, Zaporizhzhia Oblast.