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Russian missiles continue to rain down on Ukrainian towns, claiming civilian casualties far from the frontline, as Kyiv says the balance of the battlefield is slowly shifting due to an influx of Western weapons modern for its strengths.

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 large 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,” 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, will become one of the main axes of the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine. . Kramatorsk is one of the few cities in the industrial east still under Ukrainian control.

Kyiv accused Russian forces of stepping up long-range strikes on targets far from the front, killing large numbers of civilians. Moscow says it hits military targets.

Russian missiles earlier hit the port city of Odessa and the eastern city of Toretsk, regional officials said.

Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesman for Odessa’s military administration, said in a July 19 Telegram article that the Black Sea port was targeted by seven “Kalibr” cruise missiles fired from the sea, and that six of them evaded Ukrainian air defenses and hit areas with a “civilian population”.

In Toretsk, a city estimated at 30,000 inhabitants located about fifty kilometers south of Kramatorsk, a Russian bombardment on July 18 killed six people, according to the city’s emergency services.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his regular late-night video address on July 18 that his country is now capable of inflicting “significant casualties” on Russian invaders thanks to an influx of modern Western weapons that are slowly shifting the balance of the field. of battle.

Zelenskiy said 1,028 settlements in Ukraine had been liberated from Russian forces and another 2,621 were still under Russian control.

Zelenskiy said Ukrainian forces “were able to inflict significant logistical losses on the occupiers”, making it increasingly difficult for the Russian military to maintain positions in captured territory.

“Step by step, we are advancing, disrupting the supply of occupants, identifying and neutralizing employees. The prospect is obvious: the Ukrainian flag will be in all our towns and villages. The only question is time, Zelensky said.

Valeriy Zaluzhniy, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, said the “timely arrival” of modern artillery such as the American-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 pieces, could be a game-changer for Kyiv in its attempt to launch a counter-offensive in the south of the country.

A Russian-installed official in the southern Kherson region said on July 19 that Ukrainian armed forces struck a key bridge in Russian-held territory in the south of the country with US-supplied HIMARS rockets.

In a video published by the Russian news agency TASS, the deputy head of the administration installed by Russia in the southern region of Kherson, Kirill Stremousov, said that Ukraine had hit the Antonivskiy bridge in Kherson with HIMARS, damaging the road but not injuring anyone.

On July 18, Ukrainian and US defense officials discussed the situation on the ground ahead of a meeting of the Ukrainian Defense Contact Group scheduled for later this week.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Twitter that he had a phone call with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to discuss the framework for the next meeting.

“We agreed on the agenda, shared info on gun control coming to Ukraine, etc. Also, @SecDef (Austin) has some really good news, but details will come a bit later,” Reznikov said.

The next meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group will take place on 20 July. At the group’s last meeting in May, a total of 47 countries participated and 20 of them announced security assistance programs for Ukraine.

The British Ministry of Defense said on July 19 in its daily intelligence bulletin that Russia’s “declared” immediate objective is to completely take over the eastern region of Donetsk.

However, the British intelligence services said that while the Russians can still occupy more territory, “their operational tempo and rate of advance will likely be very slow without a significant operational pause for reorganization and refit”.

With reports from AFP, Reuters and TASS

Rose D. Jones