As Russia continues bombing Ukrainian cities, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Western artillery is beginning to make a difference and called for faster deliveries, especially of antiaircraft systems, The Wall Street Journal reports.
According to video footage posted on Thursday by Kyiv, Ukrainian troops landed on the disputed Snake Island in the Black Sea and planted a Ukrainian flag there for the first time since the conflict began, as intense fighting continued in the eastern Donbas region.
After coming under fire from Western long-range missile and artillery systems, Russian troops pulled out of Snake Island last week, according to the Journal.
The island, which controls the shipping lanes in the Black Sea, is of high strategic value for the Ukrainians, who hope to be able to export their agricultural products by reopening the trade route.
"We finally feel that the Western artillery that we received from our partners is working very powerfully," Zelenskyy said on Wednesday. "Its precision really is at the level that we need. Our defenders carry out painful strikes against warehouses and other important logistic nodes of the occupiers. And this materially lowers the offensive potential of the Russian army."
The United States and allies have sent nearly 200 NATO-standard 155 mm howitzers to Ukraine in the past two months, helping to counter Russia's significant firepower advantage, the Journal reports.
The West has also begun to deliver HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) multiple-launch rocket systems that Ukraine has used to attack weapons depots and fuel-storage facilities in parts of the Donbas controlled by Russia.
On June 23, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that the first HIMARS had arrived in the country.
"Summer will be hot for russian occupiers," he tweeted. "And the last one for some of them."
Advanced air-defense systems that could potentially protect Ukraine's cities from Russian missile strikes have yet to be delivered.
"Regardless of how the war develops on the battlefield, the priority is the defense of the skies," Zelenskyy said. "We count on the arrival in Ukraine of powerful air-defense systems. This is important because it would allow women and children to return home."
Though Ukraine uses Soviet-designed air-defense systems, such as the S-300, and Western-supplied anti-aircraft missiles, such as Stingers, to prevent Russian aircraft from reaching far into Ukrainian airspace, it can only shoot down part of the long-range cruise missiles that Russian forces are firing from hundreds of miles away.
According to the local administration, one of those long-range missiles hit a grain warehouse close to Odesa overnight. A Russian missile strike on Wednesday devastated a university campus in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, according to the Journal.
In the Donbas, Russian soldiers continued to attack Ukrainian defenses near the towns of Slovyansk, Siversk, and Bakhmut, after establishing control over the city of Lysychansk, the Ukrainian military said.
The Ukrainians attempted to undermine the Russian offensive with HIMARS strikes on Russian ammunition depots in the region, according to the Journal.
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