Russia Steps Up Pace of Missile Attacks on Civilian Targets

KYIV, Ukraine – An attack on a shopping mall on Monday killed 19 civilians. A rocket attack hit a peaceful resort town on Friday, killing at least 21 residents. A cluster bomb on Saturday targeted a residential area in an industrial center, killing four people.

Ukrainian and Western officials as well as Russian analysts argue that the speed of Russian strikes on civilian targets, often outdated and inaccurate missiles, is increasing, Ukrainian officials and Western as well as Russian analysts said, as their forces lacked more sophisticated weapons in the struggle to make progress in the fifth month of the conflict.

More than 200 rockets were fired into territory controlled by the Ukrainian government in the second half of June, more than double the number in the first half of the month, Brig Ukraine. General Oleksii Hromov said at a press conference on Thursday.

Some of the bloodiest strikes of the war happened in the past week. During Monday’s shopping mall attack in downtown Kremenchuk, Russia opened fire two KH-class missiles. Same rocket break into an apartment building at the Black Sea resort of Serhiivka on Friday.

The Soviet Union’s Kh-class missiles, designed to target ships, entered the country’s arsenal in the 1960s, prompting analysts to speculate about the possibility of a weapon strike. Russia’s modernity is diminishing as its forces prepare for the next phase of the conflict.

Pavel Luzin, a Russian military analyst, said the use of such weapons “to terrorize Ukrainian cities from the air is proof that Russia is reducing its arsenal of long-range precision weapons”.

That assessment was echoed by the UK’s defense attaché, Mick Smeath, who on Saturday said the use of old anti-ship missiles indicated that Russia’s modern weapons were being depleted.

On Saturday, Russian forces entered Lysychansk, the last city in the eastern Luhansk province that remains outside of Russian control, according to reports. State news agency of Moscow, social media posts by pro-Russian forces and a Ukrainian soldier stationed in the city. Both sides said fighting was taking place in parts of the city.

Military analysts warn Russia now faces the difficult task of sustaining a slow offensive into the neighboring Donetsk province in order to achieve the stated war objective of capturing the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. as the damage increases.

Russia’s growing use of Kh-class missiles coincides with an increasing estimate of Russian military casualties by Western intelligence agencies. Last week, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said 25,000 Russian soldiers had been killed in the fighting. That number, the highest estimate provided by a senior Western official, cannot be independently confirmed. According to the most recent Pentagon estimate, Russian losses were 15,000.

“Moscow does not want to end the war, but needs to breathe to heal its wounds and replenish some of its arsenal,” Luzin said.

Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, said Friday night that Russian forces had struck more than 3,000 missiles into Ukraine during the four months of the war.

More broadly, Ukrainian officials are warning that a sharp increase in civilian attacks could signal a new phase of the war, as Russia tries to offset shrinking military capabilities. by efforts to demoralize Ukrainians.

Mykhailo Podolyak, Zelensky’s adviser, told Ukraine’s Channel 24 television on Saturday: “The Russians have turned to the concept of war where they want to create large-scale panic in Ukraine. He said Russia was doing it to pressure the Ukrainian government to cede territory in exchange for peace, allowing the Kremlin to claim victory.

Since the start of the war, Russia has increasingly maintained the indisputable position that it only fires on military targets and that any civilian facilities attacked are agreed to be used by Ukraine for military use. .

These statements resonated with the Russian people, many of them affected by state-controlled television networks and conservative pro-war online commentators who support the party line.

In recent days, the Kremlin’s propaganda machine has stepped up its efforts to get away with crime – especially among the Russian public, many of whom have deep cultural and familial ties to Ukraine – with depiction of the bombardment of civilian targets as a false flag operation by the Ukrainian government.

For example, on Friday, the Russian military claimed without evidence that the attack on Odesa, until recently a Russian-speaking city, was staged by paid actors. The increased attacks on civilian targets come as both sides claim increased military interests in recent days.

Ukraine was forced to withdraw most of its troops from Lysychansk on Saturday, to escape an impending encirclement from Russian forces that had broken through defenses south of the city, according to Sergiy, the Ukrainian soldier. stationed here, who asked what his last name was. withheld for security reasons. Successful withdrawal is confirmed on Russian state television by Apti Alaudinov, a commander from Russia’s Chechnya region based in Donbas.

At the southern tip of the eastern front, Ukrainian forces continued a hit counterattack that brought them within 20 miles of the city of Kherson, a provincial capital captured by Russia in the early days of the war.

Last week, a senior US Department of Defense official said the Ukrainians not only recaptured southern villages, but also demonstrated their ability to seize recaptured land.

The Ukrainian military also claimed to have hit Russian military targets near Kherson on Friday. “Operating in pairs, our pilots attacked ammunition depots, and a group of enemy troops and equipment” in Russian-administered villages north of the city, the Southern Command said. street, Southern Command said in a Facebook post.

Military analysts have attributed some of Ukraine’s increased interest in the south to line of advanced Western weapons for this country’s army.

Recently, the first batch of American-made multiple rocket launchers, known as the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, entered the battlefield. Armed with satellite-guided missiles, they have a range of more than 40 miles – greater than anything Ukraine has had before.

However, only four of the US-trained launchers and crews are in combat, though four more are expected this month. Ukrainian officials say they need up to 300 multi-role missile launchers to counter Russia, which is firing more rounds than Ukrainian forces in an artillery-led war of attrition.

Military analysts have warned that despite Ukraine’s interests in the south, it is currently unable to launch a widespread counter-offensive to capture the city of Kherson, where Russian defenses are well dug up. – a sign of a protracted conflict ahead.

Valerie Hopkins reported from Kyiv, Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Warsaw and Anatoly Kurmanaev from Berlin. Report contributed by Marc Santora In Warsaw, Ivan Nechepurenko in Tbilisi, Georgia, Daniel Victor in London, and Eric Schmitt and John Ismay in Washington.

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