Ukrainian artillery struck a key strategic bridge for Moscow to supply its forces occupying the southern region of Ukraine, using a US-supplied precision rocket system to deliver a morale-boosting punch .
The Ukrainian army struck the Antonivskyi bridge over the Dnieper in southern Ukraine on Tuesday evening, said deputy head of the Moscow-appointed administration for the Kherson region, Kirill Stremousov.
He said on Wednesday that the bridge was still standing but had holes in its deck, preventing vehicles from crossing.
The 1.4 kilometer (0.9 mile) bridge suffered severe damage during Ukrainian shelling last week, when it suffered several hits. It was closed to trucks but remained open to passenger vehicles until the last strike.
Ukrainian forces used US-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launchers to strike the bridge, Stremousov said.
The HIMARS system has precision strike capability and has added a more modern technological edge to Ukraine’s outdated military assets.
HIMARS have a longer range, much better accuracy and faster rate of fire than the Soviet-designed Smerch, Uragan and Tornado multiple rocket launchers used by both Russia and Ukraine.
Billions of dollars in Western military aid have been crucial to Ukraine’s efforts to repel Russian attacks, but officials in Kyiv say the numbers are still too low to turn the tide of the war.
While the traffic stoppage on the bridge, at least temporarily, only makes a small dent in the overall Russian military operation, the strike showed that Russian forces are vulnerable and was a minor triumph. for Ukrainians.
The bridge is the main crossing across the Dnieper River in the Kherson region. The only other option is a dam at the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant, which also came under Ukrainian fire last week but remained open to traffic.
Bringing down the crossings would make it difficult for the Russian military to continue supplying its forces in the region amid repeated Ukrainian attacks.
At the start of the war, Russian troops quickly overran the Kherson region just north of the Crimean peninsula which Russia annexed in 2014. They faced Ukrainian counterattacks, but largely held their ground.
The precise targeting of the bridge contrasted with Russia’s indiscriminate bombardment of civilian areas since the invasion five months ago.
The governor of Dnipropetrovsk in central-eastern Ukraine said on Wednesday that Russian forces hit two areas with artillery. Governor Valentyn Reznichenko said that in the town of Marhanets a woman was injured and several apartment buildings, a hospital and a school were damaged by shelling.
“The chaotic shelling has no other purpose than to sow panic and fear among the civilian population,” he said.
The Ukrainian attacks on the Kherson bridge come as the bulk of Russian forces are locked in fighting in eastern Ukraine’s industrial heartland, the Donbass, where they have made slow progress in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance .
Russian forces maintained their artillery barrage in the eastern Donetsk region, targeting towns and villages, according to regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.
“The Russian military is using scorched earth tactics to attack Ukrainian cities,” Kyrylenko said in televised remarks.
He said the region is without gas or electricity, while water supplies to some areas have also been cut off.
In Bakhmut, a key town on the frontline of the Russian offensive, the shelling damaged a hotel and caused casualties, Kyrylenko said. A rescue operation was underway.
Amid Moscow’s efforts to take full control of the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, the Russians have gained marginal ground northeast of Bakhmut, according to a Washington DC-based think tank.
However, Russian forces are unlikely to occupy significant additional territory in Ukraine “before early fall”, the Institute for the Study of Warfare said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed Russian military casualties had climbed to almost 40,000, adding that tens of thousands more had been wounded and maimed. His claim could not be independently verified.
The Russian military last reported its losses in March, when it said 1,351 soldiers had been killed in action and 3,825 wounded.