Ukrainian rocket attacks have destroyed more than 30 Russian military logistics centres in recent weeks and significantly reduced Russia’s attacking potential, Ukraine’s defence ministry spokesperson said.
The official, Oleksandr Motuzianyk, on Friday singled out the role played by US-produced HIMARS rocket systems, one of several types of long-range weapons supplied by the West to help Ukraine fight back against Russia.
“In the last weeks, over 30 of the enemy’s military logistical facilities have been destroyed, as a result of which the attacking potential of Russian forces has been significantly reduced,” Motuzianyk said on national television.
Russia, which invaded Ukraine on February 24, has captured a chunk of territory in southern Ukraine and used its artillery supremacy in the east to make gradual territorial gains, eventually capturing the Luhansk region.
But, a top Ukrainian general said on Thursday that Russia had not taken a “single metre” of land in the last week and that Ukrainian rocket attacks were disrupting Russian supply lines, forcing Moscow to keep its ammunition further back from the front line.
Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the claims from the Ukrainian officials.
HIMARS have a longer range and are more precise than Ukraine’s Soviet-era artillery, allowing Ukrainian forces to hit Russian targets that were previously unreachable with more conventional weapons.
Ukraine’s defence minister also said on Friday that Kyiv had received a first consignment of M270 multiple rocket launch systems, without specifying which country provided them.
Russia has criticised the United States and United Kingdom for helping train Ukraine’s armed forces, calling it part of NATO’s “hybrid warfare” against Moscow.
Moscow said Washington was also providing Ukraine with instructors to help use HIMARS.
Kyiv said this week that its forces carried out attacks on Russian military infrastructure in a city that lies deep inside Russian-occupied territory in southern Ukraine.
Fighting in Donetsk
Moscow-backed separatists said on Friday they were closing in on their next target – the city of Siversk – after wresting control of sister cities Lysychansk and Severodonetsk two weeks ago.
Donetsk separatist official Daniil Versonov said rebel fighters were “clearing” eastern districts of Siversk in small groups.
An attack on Friday hit the central square in Kramatorsk, a major city and an administrative centre of the Donbas, where the town hall and cultural centre are located.
Authorities said no one was hurt since it happened during the curfew.
Genya, a 72-year-old resident of Kramatorsk, described seeing from his balcony “something burning in the middle of the square then it exploded”.
Russia’s defence ministry also said that Thursday’s cruise missile attack on the city of Vinnytsia – which killed 23 civilians include children – was directed at a building where top officials from Ukraine’s armed forces were meeting foreign arms suppliers.
Ukraine has denied any military target was hit, saying the attack struck a cultural centre used by retired veterans and had killed only civilians.
Captive aid worker dies
Also on Friday, an official in the self-proclaimed pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) announced the death of British citizen Paul Urey, 45.
Daria Morozova, the human rights ombudswoman for the Moscow-backed separatist leadership in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, said a British “mercenary,” whom she named as Urey, died in captivity on Sunday. She said he had died of chronic illnesses and stress.
A UK charity involved with his case confirmed that Urey’s family had been notified of his death by British officials. The United Kingdom summoned Russian Ambassador Andrei Kelin on Friday to express “deep concern” over reports of Urey’s death.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Urey “was in Ukraine to try and help the Ukrainian people in the face of the unprovoked Russian invasion”, echoing claims from NGOs that he was not a fighter.
Urey was detained in April at a checkpoint near Zaporizhzhia, some 470 kilometres (290 miles) southeast of Kyiv, along with another British man, Dylan Healy. The two men had been operating on their own in the war zone, helping to evacuate civilians.
Two other UK citizens and a Moroccan man, who were captured while fighting for Ukraine, have been sentenced to death in the DPR for alleged mercenary activities.