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Fighting along Ukraine’s Dnieper River continues to escalate as Russia responds to Ukrainian advances by ramping up its shelling offensive on southern cities.
Russian forces overnight conducted two attacks on the city of Nikopol – located on the right bank of the strategically important river – raining down some 60 shells onto the city’s electric infrastructure and private housing, regional officials said Thursday.
The BM-21 Grad Multiple Rocket Launch system was reportedly used in the shelling campaign though no civilians are believed to have been killed in the strikes.
“The ‘Grad’ fire jet systems destroyed twenty-seven private buildings, dozens of houses damaged, two private cars destroyed, damaged gas and power grid, damaged buildings and equipment of three local businesses in, over 100 solar panels,” confirmed Ukraine’s Operational Command South in an update on Facebook.
The command warned Thursday that as Ukrainian forces make some advances in southern Ukraine, Russian shelling is expected to increase.
“The situation in the operation zone of the South…is complex and dynamic in development, but the defense forces are keeping it under control,” the command said. “The enemy has no changes in the composition and position, holds the fortified boundary of defense.”
The attack comes as Ukrainian troops attempt to repel Russia from the Kherson region, roughly 130 miles south of Nikopol.
Over the last week, Ukrainian forces have made some advances in the Kherson region by destroying several logistical routes that Russian forces relied on to connect their supply lines over the Dnieper River with the Crimean Peninsula.
The U.K. defense ministry has assessed that Russia is relying on at least two vulnerable ferry crossings now to transport its logistical needs across the river after the Antonovsky Bridge and a rail line were damaged by Ukrainian forces with U.S.-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).
The defense ministry said Thursday it believes Russian forces are now using pyramidal radar reflectors to protect themselves against Western-rocket systems.
“The radar reflectors are likely being used to hide the bridge from synthetic aperture radar imagery and possible missile targeting equipment,” the ministry said in an intelligence update. “This highlights the threat Russia feels from the increased range and precision of Western-supplied weapons.”
Ukraine’s southern operational command said Russia is relying on land-based artillery and coastal missile systems to hit civilian and military targets in Ukraine.
Ukraine has begun to make some advances against Russia’s military with the aid of Western-supplied artillery systems like HIMARS.
However, officials have warned these systems are not enough to effectively engage with Russia and cannot reach Russian forces firing upon Ukraine from the Black Sea.