Grinding war and a weary anticipation of a Russian invasion wear on Ukrainian soldiers, who know they will be out gunned in any battle with Putin's troops.

“This happens every night,” said Capt. Branitskii, a cleft-chinned company commander with the Ukrainian military’s 25th Airborne Brigade, positioned along the front lines in eastern Ukraine. “Sometimes it’s much heavier, sometimes it’s like tonight. Tonight, this is fine.”

This is what the war has been like for years, a slow, bloody grind that set in after both sides fought to a stalemate over territory seized by Russian-backed forces in 2014. Now Ukrainian and Western officials say something more ominous could be building.

In recent weeks, they have warned that Russia was erecting the architecture for significant military action, possibly even a full-fledged invasion. U.S. intelligence officials have assessed that Moscow has drawn up plans for a military offensive involving an estimated 175,000 troops to begin as early as next year. Recent satellite photos show a buildup in equipment, including tanks and artillery.

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