Ukrainian forces have stepped up their counteroffensive to regain lost territory in the south, as Russia launched deadly strikes in central Ukraine and near the capital as Moscow faces a growing personnel shortage in the East.
The Ukrainian military said its planes hit five Russian strongholds around the city of Kherson and another nearby town in the south, where it is focusing its biggest counteroffensive since the start of the war, seeking to isolate Russian troops in the area.
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Ukraine has used long-range missile systems supplied by the West to severely damage three bridges over the Dnieper in recent weeks, making it harder for Russia to resupply its forces on the western bank.
The Kherson region, which borders Crimea annexed to Moscow, fell to the Russians soon after the February 24 invasion.
Russian strikes on the central Ukrainian region of Kirovograd on July 28 killed five people and injured 26 in the town of Kropyvnytskiy, officials said.
Near Kyiv, 15 people were injured at a military base. The northern and southern regions of Ukraine were also affected.
Russian missile strikes also hit Kyiv, Chernihiv, Mykolaiv and Kharkiv regions. The attack on the Kyiv region – the first in weeks – hit a military unit in a village on the outskirts of the capital, according to Oleksiy Hromov, a senior Ukrainian general staff official.
Fifteen people were injured in the strikes, including five civilians, Kyiv Regional Governor Oleksiy Kuleba said.
Chernihiv regional governor Vyacheslav Chaus reported that the Russians fired missiles from Belarus at the village of Honcharivska. The Chernihiv region had not been targeted for weeks.
There was also heavy shelling along the entire front line in the eastern region of Donetsk as Russian forces targeted Bakhmut and other towns. Three people died in Bakhmut, local officials said.
The UK Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence bulletin on July 29, Moscow has been using mercenaries from the notorious Kremlin-linked Vagner Group in eastern Ukraine since the early days of the invasion alongside regular army units “in coordination with the Russian military “.
Vagner, reportedly controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been involved in covert operations in Africa and the Middle East since 2015.
The use of mercenaries in overt military operations further undermines the Kremlin’s longstanding policy of denying links between private military contractors and the Russian state, British intelligence said in their report.
While the use of Vagner mercenaries in regular military operations was likely prompted by a “major shortage of combat infantry”, British intelligence has suggested it is “highly unlikely” that they would significantly influence the course of the war.
A US lawmaker said on July 28 that more than 75,000 Russian troops – about half the force sent by Moscow to invade Ukraine in February – were reported killed or injured.
Representative Elissa Slotkin (Democrat of Michigan), who spoke to CNN after attending a classified briefing with officials from President Joe Biden’s administration, said the figure was “huge”.
Military casualties are a state secret in Russia, even in peacetime, and there are no updated official figures available on the death toll in the Moscow army. The most recent CIA estimate was that 15,000 Russian troops had been killed in the fighting and three times that number wounded.
Slotkin, who recently returned from a trip to Ukraine, said the next three to six weeks could be crucial for the direction of the conflict.
“I think what we heard very strongly from President Zelenskiy and reinforced today is that the Ukrainians really want to kick Russia in the teeth a few times before winter, put them in the best possible position, in particular by hitting them towards the south,” he added. said Slotkin.
US Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith told RFE/RL in an interview that Ukrainian military commanders can determine the next steps for the counteroffensive themselves, but NATO wants to know which systems would be the most useful.
“We will continue to do everything we can to support the Ukrainian military on the ground and make sure they have what they need so they can prevail in this conflict and stop Russian aggression,” he said. she declared.