Day 387: March 17Today there are a lot of updates from the Zaporizhia region. Here, Ukrainians broke the long period of low activity by launching extensive artillery preparation on the closest Russian positions to the main Ukrainian strongholds. The artillery and airstrikes were immediately followed by a series of mechanized assaults, with the main goal of reducing the grey zone areas between Ukrainian and Russian forces and getting as close to Russian positions as possible.Two days ago, Ukrainians started preparing for a number of assaults. They launched artillery preparation and shelled Russian positions in front of Robotyne and Novokarlivka. Russian sources also reported about the Ukrainian use of aviation to complement their artillery efforts. After that, Ukrainians conducted two localized assaults.The first assault was launched in the direction of Polohy. Ukrainians reportedly passed Bilohiria and Novopokrovka and attempted to storm Russian fortifications near Luhivske and Novokarlivka. Russian sources reported that Ukrainians used at least one platoon supported by armor. The attack was unsuccessful and Russian forces pushed Ukrainians back by using anti-tank systems and artillery support.The second attack was launched in the direction of Robotyne. The available geolocated footage shows that Ukrainians assaulted an extensive trench network near the highway, around 3 km south of Novodanylove. Ukrainians used at least two platoons, also supported by several tanks, and tried to open several lines of attack, namely from the highway and also directly through the field. The video shows that Ukrainians managed to push Russians from the trenches in the middle of the field, but because their second group did not manage to get close from the side of the highway, the attack failed, and Ukrainians retreated.Russian sources were unanimously saying that if Ukrainians started launching similar assaults in other parts of this front line, then these two attacks, near Robotyne and Polohy, marked the beginning of the preparation for the Ukrainian counteroffensive operation. And seems like it is true because the next day, Ukrainians launched two more assaults.The first assault happened near Novozlatopil, while the second one happened near Vasylivka. Russian sources reported that these attacks were much lighter and that Ukrainians used several squads for conducting these reconnaissance-in-force operations with artillery support. Russians also anticipated the resumption of attacks near Polohy and Robotyne because Russian trenches here were heavily shelled. Ukrainians also shelled Russian positions in completely different regions, such as near Myrne and Dorozhnianka. They also used several assault helicopters to conduct airstrikes.Ukrainian officials, such as the Head of the Security and Defense Council, stated many times that the next Ukrainian counteroffensive would likely be in the south. The increased activity along the whole Zaporizhzhia front line and voluntary imposition of positional fights by Ukrainians is a strong signal that Ukrainians are preparing for the promised big move in late spring or summer. Some Russian sources are cautiously warning that Ukrainians may just want Russians to think that this is what they intend to do, but so far, the actions make sense.At the moment, Ukrainians are attacking the most ambiguous areas, where a lot of territories have been considered as grey zones, especially Bilohiria and Novopokrovka, but also the southern part of Kamianske and the whole Huliapole line. Reduction of the grey zones and formulation of a clear picture of the enemy positions is a necessity, otherwise, launching a counteroffensive out of the blue will come at a high price.The element of surprise is useful, but when it comes to large-scale operations, a complete understanding of the situation on the ground and the development of a high level of coordination between the troops as a result of combat shakedown play significantly more important roles, especially when it is known that Russian forces have been building fortification to complicate rapid Ukrainian advances. As seen from the map of fortifications, it is clear that Russians are anticipating the main attack to come near the Dnipro River. So, the further it gets from the river, the fewer Russians have their fortification. That is why Ukrainians are launching attacks everywhere and trying to reduce the grey zones along the entire southern front. This means that in several months’ time, Ukrainians will be able to evaluate their chances for each possible course of action and pick the most promising direction to deliver their main blow.