Russia ramps up missile strikes on civilian targets

KYIV, Ukraine – A shopping mall attack on Monday killed 19 civilians. A missile attack on the sleepy resort town on Friday killed at least 21 residents. A cluster bomb blast on Saturday in a residential area in the eastern city of Slovyansk killed four people.

The pace of Russian strikes against civilian targets, often with obsolete and inaccurate missiles, is picking up as Russian forces run out of more advanced weapons in their fight to make progress in the fifth month, according to Ukrainian and Western officials, as well as Russian analysts. conflict.

More than 200 rockets were fired into Ukrainian government-controlled territory in the second half of June, more than twice as many as in the first half of the month. Gene. This was announced by Alexei Gromov at a press conference on Thursday.

Last week saw some of the deadliest blows of the war. Shots were fired at a shopping mall on Monday in the industrial city of Kremenchug, Russia two X-class missiles. The same type of rocket crashed into an apartment building in the Black Sea resort of Sergeevka on Friday.

Soviet X-class missiles designed to destroy ships entered service with the country in the 1960s, prompting analysts to speculate about Russia’s declining ability to wage war with modern weapons.

The use of such weapons “to terrorize Ukrainian cities from the air is further evidence that Russia’s stockpiles of long-range precision-guided munitions are declining,” said Russian military analyst Pavel Luzin.

That assessment was echoed by UK Defense Attaché Mick Smith, who said on Saturday that the use of old anti-ship missiles indicates the depletion of Russia’s modern weapons.

The growing use of X-class missiles has coincided with growing estimates by Western intelligence agencies of Russian military casualties. Last week, the head of the British military department, Ben Wallace, said that 25,000 Russian soldiers died in the war. This figure, the highest estimate provided by a senior Western official, cannot be independently confirmed. The latest Pentagon estimate put Russian casualties at 15,000.

Although casualty estimates vary, most Western officials and analysts agree that it will be difficult for Russia to maintain the pace of its military operations in Ukraine at its current level of attrition.

“Moscow does not want to end the war, but it needs to catch its breath, heal its wounds and partially replenish its stocks of weapons,” he said. Luzin said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday evening that Russian troops fired more than 3,000 rockets into Ukraine in the four months of the war.

More broadly, Ukrainian officials warn that a surge in attacks against civilians could signal a new stage in the war, as Russia seeks to compensate for a reduction in its military capability by trying to humiliate the morale of Ukrainians.

“The Russians have moved on to the concept of war, where they want to create widespread panic in Ukraine,” said adviser to Mr. Mikhail Podolyak. Zelensky announced this on Saturday to the Ukrainian TV channel Channel 24. He said Russia was doing this to force the Ukrainian government to cede territory in exchange for peace, which would allow the Kremlin to claim victory.

Since the beginning of the war, Russia has taken an increasingly untenable position that it only fires at military targets, and that any civilian targets hit have been co-opted by Ukraine for military use.

These claims resonated with Russians, many of whom under the influence of state TV channels and conservative pro-war online commentators supporting the party line.

In recent days, the Kremlin’s propaganda machine has stepped up efforts to avoid accusations, especially among the Russian public, many of whom have deep cultural and family ties to Ukraine, by portraying the bombing of civilian targets as false flag operations by the Ukrainian government.

On Friday, for example, the Russian military alleged without evidence that the attack on Odessa, until recently a predominantly Russian-speaking city, was staged by hired actors. Increased attacks on civilian targets come as both sides announce additional military gains in recent days.

On Saturday, Russian-backed forces said they had captured the city of Lysichansk, the last city in the eastern part of the Luhansk region that remained outside Russian control. This claim was vehemently denied by a representative of the Ukrainian National Guard, who said that Kyiv forces retained control of both the city and the important supply route despite heavy shelling.

At the southern end of the eastern front, Ukrainian forces continued their haphazard counter-offensive, bringing them within 20 miles of the city of Kherson, the provincial capital captured by Russia in the early days of the war.

Last week, a senior US Department of Defense official said that Ukrainians are not only reclaiming their southern villages, but are also demonstrating the ability to hold the reclaimed territories.

The Ukrainian military also said they carried out strikes on Russian military facilities near Kherson on Friday. “Operating in pairs, our pilots attacked the ammunition depots and the accumulation of enemy manpower and equipment” in Russian-held villages north of the city, the Southern Command said on Facebook.

Military analysts attribute some of Ukraine’s gradual gains in the south to permanent flow of advanced Western weaponry into their armed forces.

Recently, the first batch of American-made multiple launch rocket systems, called High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, entered the battlefield. Armed with satellite-guided missiles, they have a range of more than 40 miles – more than anything Ukraine has ever had before.

However, only four launchers and their US-trained crews have joined the fight, although four more are expected this month. Ukrainian officials say they need up to 300 multiple rocket launchers to fight Russia, which produces several times more rounds than Ukrainian forces in an artillery war of attrition.

Military analysts warn that despite Ukraine’s successes in the south, they are currently unable to launch a wide-ranging counteroffensive to capture the city of Kherson, where Russian defenders are well-entrenched, a sign of a protracted conflict.

Valerie Hopkins reported from Kyiv. Mark Santora from Warsaw and Anatoly Kurmanaev from Berlin. Report has been provided Ivan Nechepurenko in Tbilisi, Georgia, Daniel Victor in London and Eric Schmitt as well as John Ismay in Washington