Ukraine announced Wednesday that Russia had bombed more than 100 locations in the past 24 hours, the largest number in a single attack since the start of the year.
Since launching their offensive in February 2022, Russian forces have fired millions of artillery shells at Ukrainian towns and villages near the front lines, reducing many to rubble across the country.
“During the last 24 hours, the enemy shelled 118 localities in ten regions,” Ukrainian Interior Minister Igor Klimenko said in a message posted on social networks.
“This is the largest number of towns and villages to suffer an attack since the start of the year,” he added.
Ukraine and its Western allies fear that Russia will intensify its attacks on the country’s energy infrastructure before the coming winter, as it did last year.
The overnight bombings killed one person in the Kharkiv region and another in the Kherson region, local officials reported.
A Russian drone attack also killed one person and injured four others in Nikopol, in the south of the country.
The Ukrainian Air Force announced on Wednesday that it had shot down 18 of the 20 Russian drones launched during the night.
The Russian Ministry of Defense also announced that it had shot down two Ukrainian drones over the regions of Bryansk and Kursk, which border Ukraine.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky tried to rally his troops and support for Ukraine Tuesday, saying there will be no easy victories in the counteroffensive to retake Russian-occupied territory.
“The modern world is designed in such a way that it gets used to success too quickly,” he said in his nightly address, adding that “when the full-scale aggression began, many in the world expected that Ukraine would not survive.”
“Now the colossal things that our people, all our warriors, are doing, are being taken for granted,” he added.
Defense experts tend to agree that Ukraine’s counteroffensive that was launched in June has not been as successful as hoped, with the front line having shifted little and fighting remaining highly attritional.
There are concerns over the slow progress Ukraine has made in its counteroffensive, with growing impatience and reluctance, in some Western quarters, to continue giving large amounts of military aid to Ukraine.
Any F-16s given to Ukraine will only last ‘around 20 days,’ Russia claims
Russia’s defense minister claimed Wednesday that any F-16 fighter jets that the West supplies to Ukraine will be only last around 20 days if Russian air defense systems are operating effectively.
In a conference call with military officials, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that Russian air defense systems had shot down 37 aircraft in the past month and that this was almost twice the number of F-16 aircraft that was expected to be given to Ukraine by its Western allies.
Several of Ukraine’s allies in Europe, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Norway, have promised to supply Kyiv with F-16 jets, although the timeframe for training and supply, as well as the number of aircraft that will be donated, differs between the nations and is not yet fully confirmed.
Denmark is expected to supply Kyiv with 19 jets but the deliveries will be made in tranches, with the first six to be delivered in March or April 2024.
Ukraine claims Russian warplanes are dropping explosives on Black Sea shipping lanes
Ukraine said on Wednesday that Russian warplanes had dropped “explosive objects” into the likely paths of civilian vessels in the Black Sea three times in the last 24 hours, but that its fledgling shipping corridor was still operating.
Ukraine is trying to build up a new shipping lane without Russian approval to revive its vital seaborne exports. Russia said it would consider any vessel a potential military target after it quit a UN-brokered deal in July that allowed some food exports to flow despite the war.
“The occupiers are continuing to terrorize the paths of civilian shipping in the Black Sea with tactical aviation, dropping explosive objects into the likely paths of civilian vessel traffic,” the southern military command said.
“There were three such drops registered in the last 24 hours. However, the navigation corridor continues to function under the watch of the defense forces,” it said.
Russia’s defense ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The spokeswoman for Ukraine’s southern command said on Tuesday that Russia was regularly dropping guided aerial bombs, sea mines or other as-yet unknown explosive devices into the corridor, the Suspilne public broadcaster reported.
Ukraine is being defeated despite NATO help, Russia’s defense minister claims
Russia’s defense minister claimed Wednesday that Ukraine is facing defeat, despite massive amounts of military support from the Western military alliance NATO.
“Despite the supply of new types of NATO weapons, the Kyiv regime is suffering defeat. The Russian troops continues to conduct an active defense, inflicting effective fire damage on the enemy,” Sergei Shoigu said in a conference call Wednesday, reported by news agency RIA Novosti.
Shoigu then claimed that Ukraine’s forces were “desperately and unsuccessfully” trying to attack in the Zaporozhzhia, Donetsk and Kherson directions, but that this was leading to large losses.
“The forces of Ukraine are being depleted, and the demoralization of personnel is growing,” Shoigu claimed, without presenting evidence. In the meantime, he said, Russian units were advancing.
Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War said Tuesday that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut and in the western Zaporizhia region while “Russian forces “continued offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, west and southwest of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast [region] and advanced near Avdiivka.”