Kyiv, Ukraine — Explosion with a dull sound on the outskirts of town and deafening sound in the center of the city. A strike in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv set cars ablaze and blood splattered the sidewalks.
Throughout this week, Russian forces have launched the most intensive barrage of missiles in Ukraine since the war began in February, killing 30 civilians, knocking out electricity and overwhelming air defenses. One thing was to change the course of ground warfare.
Although fought primarily in the trenches, the fiercest fighting today is on the open plains to the south, with rolling hills and pine forests to the east. These battles are where territorial control is determined and where Russian forces continue to be outnumbered. , despite missile attacks.
Ukrainian parliamentarian Volodymyr Aliyev said of the Russian cruise missiles, rockets and suicide drones used in the airstrikes, “They are using expensive rockets for nothing. They just scare people.” Told. “They think they can scare Ukrainians. But the goals they have achieved only anger us.”
The war in the south and east of the country continued swiftly through strikes, with Russia mostly retreating but attacking along part of its front in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir V. Putin moved on Friday to reassure his country that it was making progress in bringing new troops to the front, recently adding 16,000 conscripts “to units involved in carrying out combat missions.” said to have been deployed. He made the remarks amid growing criticism from pro-war bloggers over reports of the death of recruits fighting in Ukraine.
Nevertheless, Ukrainian forces continued their offensive in the Kherson region during Monday and Tuesday, the height of the Russian missile attack, recapturing five villages in two days, according to the military command. Ukrainian forces also liberated villages in the east during the strike.
“The Kremlin continues to struggle to escape the reality of mobilization and military failure,” the research group The War Research Institute wrote in an analysis released Thursday. “The Kremlin continued its common pattern of temporarily appeasing the nationalist community by conducting retaliatory missile attacks.”
War is now split between two arenas that are largely disconnected. By destroying heating, electricity and water infrastructure as winter sets in, Russian forces in two areas where Ukraine is on the front line: an air battle in which Russia uses cruise missiles and drones to demoralize Ukrainians and paralyze the economy. Ground that continues to advance against.
Russia is using Shahed-136 Kamikaze drones purchased from Iran as an addition to its arsenal, not to delay Ukrainian offensives, but primarily for strategic strikes far from the front lines.
Drones that slip past Ukrainian air defense systems fly into cities and detonate, blowing up power plants and municipal boilers used to heat the neighborhood.
Ukraine’s Chief of General Staff said in a Friday morning report that in the past 24 hours, the Russian military and air force had attacked sites across the country with missiles, rockets and self-destructing drones, from the region around Kyiv to Mykolaiv in the south. rice field. , near the Black Sea.
“The enemy has not stopped attacking critical infrastructure and civilian objects,” he said, listing 88 attacks.
The strike refocused Ukrainian attention on the war in cities where a sense of normalcy had returned, including Kyiv.
But even the Ukrainian advance has been bloody and costly, as Russian forces engage in skirmishes and artillery fire to cover their retreat and continued offensive in Donbass. In a morning statement, it said fighting escalated in northern Ukraine from Thursday to Friday night with skirmishes across the front and across the border.
The military reported that mortar and artillery shelling from within Russia struck near four towns in the Sumy and Chernihiv regions of northern Ukraine.
Across the Russian border, the governor of the Belgorod region wrote on the messaging app Telegram that an ammunition depot exploded after being hit by Ukrainian artillery on Friday. Residents told Russian news media that they heard explosions in the city of Belgorod, and local news media reported that a sugar factory in the area was on fire.
In accordance with its ambiguous policy on cross-border attacks, the Ukrainian authorities did not claim responsibility for the ammunition depot explosion.
Officials have hinted at Ukrainian hands in past attacks inside Russia. Ukrainian strikes and sabotage have hit military targets and energy and transport infrastructure in southern Russia.
In the eastern Donbass region, Ukrainian forces reported on Friday that heavy artillery fire and tank battles were being waged along the eastern edge of the city of Bakhmut.
But seesaw battles are common even in the east and south, where the broader trend is Ukrainian advances. Although he was still defending, he said it was only weeks later that he needed to hide from artillery fire. The Russians there retreated about 30 miles.
Attacks on Russian supply routes and depots had seriously hampered them, said the Ukrainian commander, who used only his codename, Arthur, according to military protocol.
“They are running out of ammunition,” said Arthur. In the spring fighting, Russian forces fired 50 shells for every shell fired by Ukrainian forces, he said. “And now it’s the other way around.”
The Ukrainian military, in its report on the battlefield on Friday, also highlighted what it believes to be a Russian manpower shortage and the deployment of newly mobilized recruits and mercenaries to the war zone.
Russia plans to move about 400 foreign mercenaries from unspecified third countries to Crimea and deploy them to front-line positions.
There have been growing fears in Ukraine in recent days that Russia will respond to losses in the east and south with missile attacks on cities and infrastructure and a major invasion of northern Ukraine.
There are daily hints coming out of officials in Ukraine’s northern neighbor, Belarus, that the country could join the war, and perhaps Ukraine could divert its soldiers north from an attack in the east or south. there is.
For example, on Thursday, Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Mackay said the country had declared the launch of a counterterrorism operation to counter the supposed threat from “neighboring countries.” The declaration implied increased military readiness, which Ukrainians interpreted as another threat.
Carlotta Gal contributed a report from Sloviansk, Ukraine.