Ukrainian forces have been able to break through Russian defences and are making progress in their counteroffensive against Moscow’s troops, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday. Stoltenberg said that when Russia launched its invasion, its military was seen as the second strongest in the world, adding: “Now the Russian army is the second strongest in Ukraine. “The Ukrainians are gradually gaining ground and it proves the importance of our support and also our ability and willingness to continue the support,” he told EU lawmakers. “This is heavy fighting, difficult fighting, but they have been able to breach the defensive lines of the Russian forces, and they are moving forward.” In recent days, Ukraine has claimed to have broken through Russia’s heavily fortified first line of defence in its gruelling southern offensive. Ukraine received shipments of Western armour from NATO members, including battle tanks and armoured vehicles, to aid its push. But Kyiv admits the months-long drive southwards has been slower than hoped and has inflicted a heavy toll on its forces. Ukraine’s troops have reportedly had to increasingly resort to smaller-scale attacks on foot after full-frontal assaults were stalled by the dense minefields laid by the Russians. “Hardly any time in history we have seen more mines on the battlefield than we see in Ukraine today.