Ukrainian troops describe brutal, grinding battle

STORY: This video released by the Ukrainian army shows its soldiers in battle near the village of Staromaiorske, which was recaptured from Russian forces last week.

The marines who fought in the battle, Ukraine's biggest advance in weeks, said that fighting was brutal, their timing was off, and that the invaders were ready for them.

"The Russians waited for us. They shot anti-tank weapons and grenade launchers at us. My car drove over an anti-tank mine, but everything is well – the vehicle held the hit, and everyone was alive. We unloaded and ran towards the cover. Because the most important is to find cover and then move on.”

Kyiv's current counter-offensive is backed by billions of dollars in Western military aid, equipment and training.

But war-stories of the battle of Staromaiorske, recounted to Reuters near the frontline in southeastern Ukraine, give an indication of why this highly-anticipated operation has proven slower and bloodier than expected.

“We advanced slowly but surely. What can I say – they shoot, everything flies. It was scary, but we moved on. Nobody backed up. Everyone did a great job. Many of us didn’t come back. But we mostly preserved our strength.”

The Russians have had months to prepare their fortifications and sow minefields, while the Ukrainians lack the air superiority that their NATO allies normally expect in their training drills.

Ukrainian commanders say the deliberately slower pace is needed to avoid high casualties.

Russia on Monday announced that Ukraine’s counteroffensive was not going as planned.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, speaking at a military conference in Moscow, said Ukraine was (quote) "desperately hurling new forces" into attacks on Russian positions, but had failed to advance.

"Over the past month, due to the successful actions of our troops, the enemy's losses totaled more than 28,000 servicemen.”

Shoigu said Ukraine was wasting billions of dollars of weapons supplied by the West.

"Amid the failure of the so-called ‘counter-offensive,’ the Kyiv regime, backed by its Western sponsors, has focused on carrying out terrorist attacks on civilian infrastructure."

On Monday, two people were killed and four injured – according to Russian officials - in Ukrainian shelling of the city of Donetsk… which is under Russian control.

Some 250 miles to the West, smoke billowed from a gaping hole in an apartment building…. Seen here, in video posted on social media by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

According to Ukraine, a Russian missile attack - on the city Zelenskiy grew up in – killed at least six people and wounded dozens more.