Nineteen civilians were killed in an attack on a shopping mall on Monday. A missile strike in a sleeping resort town on Friday claimed the lives of at least 21 residents. On Saturday, a bunch of bombs hit a residential block of an industrial center, killing four people.
The The speed of Russian attacks on civilian targetsPicking up, often with old and indefinite missiles, Ukrainian and Western officials, as well as Russian analysts, say its forces are running out of more sophisticated weapons in their struggle to advance in the fifth month of the conflict.
In the second half of June, more than 200 missiles were fired into government-controlled territory in Ukraine, more than doubling in the first half of the month, said Ukrainian Brigadier General. General Oleksiy Hormov made the remarks at a news conference on Thursday.
There have been some of the deadliest attacks in the war in the past week. Russia fired two B-missiles at a shopping mall in the central city of Kremenchuk on Monday. A similar missile exploded in an apartment building at the Serhivkar Black Sea resort on Friday.
Soviet B-class missiles, designed to target ships, entered the country’s arsenal in the 1960s, prompting analysts to speculate about reducing the ability to strike with modern weapons as its forces prepare for the next phase of the conflict.
“The use of such weapons to terrorize Ukrainian cities from the sky serves as further evidence of Russia’s declining stockpile of accurate long-range weapons,” said Pavel Luzin, a Russian military analyst.
That assessment was echoed by the United Kingdom’s defense attache, Mick Smith, who on Saturday said the use of old anti-ship rockets pointed to Russia’s decaying modern weapons.
On Saturday, Russian forces stormed the last city in the eastern Luhansk province, Lysichansk, which was out of Russian control, according to Moscow’s state news agency, the social media post of pro-Russian forces and a Ukrainian soldier stationed in the city. Fighting is reported in some parts of the city.
Military analysts warn that Russia is now facing the difficult task of maintaining its slow offensive in the neighboring province of Donetsk in order to achieve its declared war goal of occupying the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine as its losses increase.
The growing use of B-class missiles coincides with Western intelligence agencies’ growing estimates of Russian military casualties. British Defense Chief Ben Wallace said last week that 25,000 Russian troops had been killed in the war. This number, the highest estimate given by a senior official in the West, could not be independently confirmed. The Pentagon’s latest estimate puts Russia at 15,000.
“Moscow does not want to end the war, but will have to hold its breath to heal the wounds and partially replenish its weapons stockpile,” Luzin said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday night that Russian forces had seized more than 3,000 missiles in Ukraine during the four-month war.
More broadly, Ukrainian officials warn that the sharp rise in civilian attacks could signal a new phase in the war as Russia seeks to replenish its shrinking military capabilities in an effort to demoralize Ukraine.
Mikhailo Podoliak, Zelensky’s adviser, told Ukraine’s television channel Channel 24 on Saturday that “the Russians have gone to the idea of war where they want to create large-scale panic in Ukraine.” He says Russia is doing this to pressure the Ukrainian government to hand over territory in exchange for peace, allowing the Kremlin to claim victory.
Since the start of the war, Russia has maintained an increasingly unstable position that it only fires at military targets and any civilian facilities that have been hit have been coordinated by Ukraine for military use.
These demands have found resonance among the Russian people, many of whom are influenced by state-controlled television networks and conservative pro-war online commentators who strengthen the party line.
In recent days, the Kremlin’s propaganda machine has stepped up efforts to avoid blame – especially among the Russian public, many of whom have deep cultural and family ties to Ukraine – portraying bombings at civilian targets as a false-flagged operation by the Ukrainian government.
On Friday, for example, the Russian military claimed without evidence that the attack in Odessa, until recently a majority Russian-speaking city, was staged by paid actors. There have been increasing attacks on civilian targets while both sides have claimed some military gains in recent days.
Ukraine withdrew at least some troops from Lysichansk on Saturday to avoid a possible siege by Russian forces penetrating the defense south of the city, according to Sergei, a Ukrainian soldier recently withdrawn from the city. He asked to keep his last name secret for security reasons.
Russia’s Chechnya-based commander in the Donbass has confirmed the withdrawal of Apati Alauddinov on Russian state television.
On the southern edge of the eastern front, Ukrainian forces launched a hit-and-miss counter-attack that brought them within 20 miles of the city of Kherson, the Russian-occupied provincial capital, in the early days of the war.
A senior U.S. Defense Department official said last week that Ukrainians are not only retaking villages in the south, but also showing the ability to retake occupied land.
The Ukrainian military has demanded that Kherson launch an attack on a Russian military base. The Southern Command said in a Facebook post, “Working in pairs, our pilots hit an ammunition depot and a cluster of enemy troops and equipment” in a Russian-controlled village north of the city.
Military analysts have attributed some of Ukraine’s growing gains in the south to the steady flow of advanced Western weapons to its military.
Recently, the first batch of US-made multiple rocket launchers called High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems or HIMARS entered the battlefield. Equipped with satellite-guided rockets, their range is more than 40 miles – more than before Ukraine.
Still, only four launchers and their US-trained crew have joined the fight, although four more are expected this month. Ukrainian officials say they need more than 300 rocket launchers to fight Russia, which fires several times more rounds than Ukrainian forces in artillery-driven warfare.
Military analysts have warned that despite Ukrainian gains in the south, they are currently unable to launch a wide-ranging counter-attack to seize the city of Kherson, where Russian defenders have dug well – a sign of a protracted conflict ahead.