Russia missiles continue to rain down on Ukrainian cities, causing casualties among civilians far from the front line as Kyiv said that the battlefield balance was slowly shifting due to an influx of modern Western weapons for its forces.
At least one person was killed in the latest Russian missile strike on July 19 targeting the center of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, the head of the Donetsk regional administration said.
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Pavlo Kyrylenko said the attack caused loud explosions and a fire in a residential building.
“The Russians hit the central part of the city…At least one dead civilian is currently known about,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
Ukrainian officials have said they expect Kramatorsk, a city of more than 150,000 people before the Russian invasion, to become one of the main focuses of Russia’s offensive in eastern Ukraine. Kramatorsk is one of the few cities in the industrial east still under Ukrainian control.
Kyiv has accused Russian forces of having intensified long-distance strikes on targets far from the front, killing large numbers of civilians. Moscow says it is hitting military targets.
Russian missiles earlier struck the port city of Odesa and the eastern city of Toretsk, regional officials said.
Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odesa military administration, said in a Telegram post on July 19 that the Black Sea port was targeted by seven “Kalibr” cruise missiles fired from the sea, and six of them evaded Ukrainian air defenses and hit areas with a “civilian population.”
In Toretsk, a town with an estimated population of 30,000 people located some 50 kilometers south of Kramatorsk, Russian shelling on July 18 killed six people, according to emergency services in the town.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his regular nightly video address on July 18 that his country is now capable of inflicting “significant losses” on the Russian invaders thanks to an influx of modern Western weapons that is slowly shifting the battlefield balance.
Zelenskiy said that 1,028 settlements in Ukraine had been liberated from Russian forces, and another 2,621 are still under Russian control.
Zelenskiy said Ukrainian forces “have been able to inflict significant logistical losses on the occupiers,” making it increasingly difficult for the Russian Army to hold positions on captured territory.
“Step by step, we advance, disrupt supplies for the occupiers, identify and neutralize collaborators. The prospect is obvious: the Ukrainian flag will be in all our towns and villages. The only question is time,” Zelenskiy said.
Valeriy Zaluzhniy, the Ukrainian military’s top commander, said the “timely arrival” of modern artillery such as the U.S.-made HIMARS system was helping to change the situation on the battlefield.
Military analysts agree that the HIMARS, which are more accurate and have a longer range than other artillery, could be a gamechanger for Kyiv in its attempt to launch a counteroffensive in the south of the country.
A Russian-installed official in the southern Kherson region said on July 19 that Ukrainian armed forces have struck a key bridge in Russia-controlled territory in the south of the country with U.S.-supplied HIMARS rockets.
In a video posted by the Russian news agency TASS, the deputy head of the Russian-installed administration in the southern Kherson region, Kirill Stremousov, said Ukraine hit the Antonivskiy bridge in Kherson with HIMARS, damaging the road but not injuring anybody.
On July 18, Ukrainian and U.S. defense officials discussed the situation on the ground ahead of a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group scheduled to take place later this week.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Twitter that he had a telephone call with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to discuss the framework of the upcoming meeting.
“We agreed on the agenda, shared information on the control of arms arriving to Ukraine etc. Also, @SecDef (Austin) has some very good news, but details will come a little later,” Reznikov said.
The next meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group will take place on July 20. At the group’s last meeting in May, a total of 47 countries took part and 20 of them announced security assistance packages for Ukraine.
The British Ministry of Defense said on July 19 in its daily intelligence bulletin that Russia’s “stated” immediate goal is to fully capture the eastern region of Donetsk.
However, British intelligence said that while Russians may still occupy more territory, “their operational tempo and rate of advance is likely to be very slow without a significant operational pause for reorganization and refit.”