The strikes appear to fit a broader pattern in which Russia has launched attacks on seemingly quiet parts of Ukraine, turning lives upside down and infuriating Ukrainians. Videos of the attacks appear to support Ukrainian claims, said a senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity under ground rules laid down by the Pentagon.
“I saw the same videos that you all saw,” the officer told reporters. “I didn’t see anything there that even remotely looked military. It looked like an apartment building.”
Russian attacks in Vinnytsia leave a gruesome civilian toll
The spike in civilian deaths comes as Russian and Ukrainian forces remain engaged in fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine, with territory usually changing hands gradually and at great cost to both sides.
Asked if the war, which is nearing its five-month mark, has reached a stalemate, the senior US defense official said it was too early to say.
The official noted that Ukrainian troops continue to hold back Russia’s attempts to gain ground around the northeastern city of Kharkiv, and that while Russian commanders want to advance on the eastern city of Sloviansk, they “have been unable to do so”.
Two universities in Mykolaiv hit by Russian missile strikes
Ukraine uses sophisticated multiple missile systems, including the US-supplied M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, to attack Russian equipment behind the front lines.
“They … are attacking targets such as ammunition stockpiles, other logistical stockpiles, command-and-control,” the senior US defense official said. “All of these things have a direct impact on the ability to affect frontline operations.”
Ukrainian forces have also made some efforts to retake areas in the southern part of the country that had been captured by Russia. In the Kherson region, 44 settlements were recaptured Counter-offensive, the acting head of Ukraine’s military administration said on Thursday.
Most of the region captured by Russian forces at the start of the war remains occupied, official Dmytro Burtiy said in an interview with the Ukraine Media Center. But Russia has shifted the focus of its invasion to the northeast in recent months, giving Ukraine an opportunity to retake some territory. The counter-offensive brought a new round of fighting to the villages in the area.
“They have a very difficult time because the Russian occupiers are constantly bombing these places, there is widespread destruction, ruins, infrastructure is being destroyed, kindergartens, residential buildings,” Burtiy said.
The senior US defense official said it was unclear from Washington’s latest intelligence what those settlements look like.
“I know,” he said, “that the Ukrainians made small pocket gains in the south.”
Claire Parker contributed to this report.