PHOTOS: Inside the front-line trenches around a destroyed town where Ukraine is fighting the war's longest and bloodiest battle
Trench warfare has been a major element of fighting between Ukraine and Russia around the eastern city of Bakhmut.
Photographs from the area show elaborate networks of trenches that slice through the earth.
This is what life looks like in Ukraine's front-line fortifications.
Ukraine's grinding but steadfast defense of the country's eastern Donbas region is a battle in the trenches, where soldiers endure harsh conditions and the constant threat of artillery and gunfire, sometimes only a short distance away from the enemy.
Around the war-torn city of Bakhmut, where fierce fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces has been raging for months, winding trenches shield and house Kyiv's troops along the front lines. The elaborate networks of hollowed-out earth — which both sides have used throughout the war — zig-zag and cross over themselves, sometimes proving to be a battleground for close combat.
A French photographer who documented life in Ukraine's trenches before the war previously described the fortifications in Ukraine's eastern Donbas as "endless bowels of Earth."
Here's what life looks like in the front-line trenches near Ukraine's bloodiest and most intense battle, the fight for Bakhmut.
Trenches are not a revolutionary aspect of land warfare — they are part of a tactic that's been used in many conflicts going back in history, though perhaps they are most well-known for their role during World War I.
As a grinding war of attrition that features trenches, constant artillery barrages, incremental gains, human wave attacks, and extremely heavy casualties, the fighting in Ukraine has often drawn comparisons to the First World War.
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Ukraine's battlefields, however, have modern touches like the use of advanced drones that buzz overhead.
Read more: Ukraine's battlefields look like World War I but with a new and terrifying addition that leaves troops with almost nowhere to hide
Fighting in trenches can be "brutal," Billy Fabian, a senior fellow in the defense program at the Center for New American Security and former infantry officer in the US Army, told Insider.
Trenches are a "survival tactic" and are constructed to protect front-line troops from machine guns and accurate artillery, rather than leave them exposed to this modern firepower out in the open, Fabian added.
"Trench warfare often emerges because of a combination of a relatively static battlefield, where forces are in the same place for a long time, so they have the time to dig these elaborate fortifications," Fabian said.
Fabian said trenches involve the constant threat of artillery, a major attack, or a raid, and soldiers often endure really rough conditions.
Read more: Ukraine's troops fight off 'massive' Russian attacks in Bakhmut with World War I-era machine guns and sniper traps
Conditions in the trenches can really deteriorate, Fabian said. "People living in these narrow trenches for weeks and months on end — they get dirty."
Trenches can also be cold and fill up with water when it rains, leading to disease and other health issues like trench foot, a common ailment in World War I.
"The living conditions are very harsh and unhealthy," Gaelle Girbes, the French photographer, told Insider previously of life in Ukrainian trenches as the country fought Russian-backed separatists in the east prior to the invasion. Life "is really hard," she added, saying it takes a mental toll on the troops. Given the intensity of the battle for Bakhmut and the strains on the armed forces, the situation now may be far worse.
Fabian said fighting between Ukraine and Russia around Bakhmut — where both sides make use of trenches — comes at a "very high cost," echoing what officials and military leaders have said about the costly battle.
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Both sides, Russian forces, including Wagner mercenaries, and Ukrainian soldiers, are continuing to push troops to the front, pushing them into a bloody fight for a town gaining significance despite its limited strategic value. So far, here don't seem to be any major breakthroughs, where massive sections of the front are collapsing, Fabian said.
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Fabian described combat as slow and grinding, with "positional warfare" that features "attritional ebb and flow."
When there's attritional warfare on the battlefield, Fabian says the equation boils down to who gets exhausted first.
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"Does the attacker reach a culmination because they just don't have enough combat power anymore to gain anything?" Fabian asked. "Or does the defender no longer have enough people to sort of plug the breach?"
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