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For the Ukrainian soldiers fighting to retake ground in the wheat fields and empty villages northwest of the city of Kherson, the liberation of one of Ukraine’s most strategically important Black Sea cities feels tantalisingly close.

“We could be in Kherson in 15 minutes!” said Sergiy, a Ukrainian army officer in trenches along the deserted motorway between the city of Mykolaiv and Kherson. Part of the dugout was plastered with children’s pictures promising “Glory to Ukraine!”

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PHOTO GALLERY (CLICK TO ENLARGE)