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    Ukraine’s Northeastern Front Could Decide New Battle Lines

    Ukraine's Northeastern Front Could Decide New Battle Lines

    KUPIANSK, — A tank carrying Ukrainian infantry speeds toward a target position marked with a metal sheet. The soldiers climb down, hurl grenades and unleash a crackle of machine-gun fire. Then they repeat the moves, getting faster with every iteration.

    It's only a drill. But with the sounds of the real war rumbling just seven kilometers (four miles) away, this daily training underscores the high stakes on Ukraine's northeastern front, where officials say a much-anticipated Russian offensive has already started, with fighting that could determine the next phase of the conflict.

    Time is of the essence here, so speed and cohesion is the goal of the exercises that combine reserve tank and the infantry assault units.

    “Synchronization will be important to halt Russian offensives toward Ukrainian defensive lines,” said Col. Petro Skyba, commander of the 3rd Separate Tank Iron Brigade.

    Grueling artillery battles have stepped up in recent weeks in the vicinity of Kupiansk, a strategic town on the eastern edge of Kharkiv province by the banks of the Oskil River. The Russian attacks are part of an intensifying push to capture the entire industrial heartland known as the Donbas, which includes the Donetsk and the Luhansk provinces. It would be a badly needed victory for the Kremlin as the war enters its second year.

    Triumph in Kupiansk could decide future lines of attack for both sides: If

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