President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said Ukraine is now capable of inflicting “significant losses” on the Russian invaders thanks to an influx of modern Western weapons that is slowly shifting the battlefield balance, as officials reported missile strikes on the port city of Odesa wounded a number of civilians.
Zelenskiy announced in his nightly video message late on July 18 that 1,028 settlements in Ukraine had been liberated from Russian forces, and another 2,621 were still under Russian control.
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Zelenskiy said Ukrainian forces “have been able to inflict significant logistical losses on the occupiers,” making it increasingly difficult for the Russian Army to hold positions on captured territory.
“Step by step, we advance, disrupt supplies for the occupiers, identify and neutralize collaborators. The prospect is obvious: the Ukrainian flag will be in all our towns and villages. The only question is time,” he said.
Valeriy Zaluzhniy, the Ukrainian military’s top commander, said the “timely arrival” of longer-range artillery such as the U.S.-made HIMARS system was helping to change the situation on the battlefield.
“We managed to stabilize the situation. It is complex, intense, but completely controlled,” Zaluzhniy said.
“An important factor contributing to our retention of defensive lines and positions is the timely arrival of M142 HIMARS, which deliver surgical strikes on enemy control posts, ammunition and fuel-storage depots,” CNN quoted Zaluzhniy as saying.
Oleksiy Danilov, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said on TV that “today, we really have a completely different situation than it was a month ago. Now, thanks to the fact that we receive enough weapons from our partners, we have established a certain parity in certain positions.”
Serhiy Hayday, the head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said on July 19 that “Western weapons work not at 100 percent but at 200 percent because [Russian] warehouses are blown up. Command posts are also blown up.”
Russian missiles, meanwhile, struck the port city of Odesa in southern Ukraine, wounding at least six people, including a child, Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesman of the Odesa military administration, said in a Telegram post on July 19.
Bratchuk said Odesa was targeted by seven Kalibr cruise missiles fired from the Black Sea, and six of them evaded Ukrainian air defenses and hit areas with a “civilian population.”
Earlier, Russian shelling of the eastern Ukrainian city of Toretsk on July 18 killed six people, according to emergency services in the town. Toretsk, a town with an estimated population of 30,000 people, is located some 50 kilometers south of Kramatorsk, one of the last Ukrainian-controlled towns in the industrial east.
Ukrainian and U.S. defense officials discussed the situation on the ground on July 18 ahead of a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group scheduled to take place later this week.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Twitter that he had a telephone call with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to discuss the framework of the upcoming meeting.
“We agreed on the agenda, shared information on the control of arms arriving to Ukraine etc. Also, @SecDef (Austin) has some very good news, but details will come a little later,” Reznikov said.
The next meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group will take place on July 20. At the group’s last meeting in May, a total of 47 countries took part and 20 of them announced security assistance packages for Ukraine.
The British Ministry of Defense said on July 19 in its daily intelligence bulletin that Russia’s “stated” immediate goal is to fully capture the eastern region of Donetsk.
The Ukrainian military also said that Moscow was preparing for the next stage of its offensive with the goal of fully capturing the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
However, British intelligence said that while Russians may still occupy more territory, “their operational tempo and rate of advance is likely to be very slow without a significant operational pause for reorganization and refit.”
Kyiv has said in recent days that its forces are themselves preparing for a massive counteroffensive to reclaim land previously lost, especially in the south.