Russia’s defence ministry says its forces destroyed four US-supplied high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) in Ukraine earlier this month.
Between July 5 and 20, “four launchers and one reloading vehicle for the US-made multiple launch rocket systems (HIMARS) were destroyed,” it said in a daily briefing on Friday.
Kyiv rejected Moscow’s claims, calling them “fakes” designed to undermine the West’s support for Ukraine.
Ukraine has accused the Russians of intensifying missile and rocket attacks on cities in recent weeks in a deliberate attempt to terrorise its population.
Thousands of people have been killed and cities and towns devastated by Russian bombardment, with even some towns far from front lines hit by missiles. Moscow denies deliberately firing on civilians and says all its targets are military.
However, there is a growing chance of Russian longer-range weaponry missing their intended targets and causing civilian casualties because Moscow is increasingly using long-range air-defence systems to compensate for a shortage of ground-attack missiles, according to a British military intelligence update.
Meanwhile, Kyiv has hailed the arrival of eight HIMARS in Ukraine as a possible game-changer for the course of the war, now about to enter its sixth month.
The advanced weapons are more precise and offer a longer range than other artillery systems, allowing Kyiv to attack Russian targets and weapons depots further behind the front lines.
‘Chain of command still struggling’
Moscow has accused the West of dragging out the conflict by supplying Kyiv with more arms and said the supply of longer-range weapons justifies Russia’s attempts to expand control over more Ukrainian territory, beyond the eastern Donbas region, for its own protection.
On July 6, just days after the first HIMARS arrived in Ukraine, Russia’s defence ministry said it had destroyed two of them, releasing a video of the alleged attack.
Ukraine has rejected Russia’s claims and said it was using the US-supplied arms to inflict “devastating blows” on Russian forces.
Serhiy Leshchenko, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, said on Friday that Ukraine continued to use HIMARS to “cause numerous losses to the aggressor state”.
“Russia is trying to stop the supply of weapons from the West and intimidate Ukraine’s allies with the fictional power of Russia’s armed forces,” he said in a media briefing.
This week Kyiv has used HIMARS to attack a crucial bridge across the Dnieper River in Russian-controlled parts of the southern Kherson region, punching huge holes in the asphalt and prompting local Russian-installed officials to warn it could be completely destroyed if the attacks continue.
The US said on Wednesday it will send four more HIMARS to Ukraine in its latest package of military support.
The US believes Russia’s military is sustaining hundreds of casualties a day, including thousands of officers up to general rank in total, in the course of the war, a senior US defence official said on Friday.
“The chain of command is still struggling,” the official said in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, although Ukraine had also endured significant casualties.
The official said Washington also believed that Ukraine had destroyed more than 100 “high-value” Russian targets in Ukraine, including command posts, ammunition depots and air defence sites.