Ukrainian artillery on Wednesday struck a key bridge falling in Moscow-controlled territory in south Ukraine, damaging an important supply route as Kyiv’s forces look to wrest back the Kherson region.
The strike on the Antonivskiy bridge over the Dnipro river came hours ahead of the opening in Istanbul of a joint observation centre to monitor Ukrainian grain exports that have been blocked by the Kremlin’s warships.
Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of the Russian-installed regional administration in Kherson, confirmed the bridge had been hit overnight and traffic had been halted.
But he downplayed the damage, insisting that the attack would not affect the outcome of the hostilities “in any way.” “The special military operation is continuing,” Stremousov said in a video posted on social media, using the Kremlin’s preferred term to refer to their invasion.
Ukrainian forces in recent weeks have been clawing back territory in the Kherson region, which fell to Russian forces easily and early after their invasion launched on February 24.
Their counter-offensive supported by Western-supplied long-range artillery has seen its forces push closer to Kherson city, which had a pre-war population of under 300,000 people.
Ukrainian officials in the region have said their forces in the Black Sea region have changed tack, from defensive to offensive and that Kherson will “definitely” be liberated by the end of September.
Russian forces “should leave Kherson while it is still possible. There may not be a third warning,” Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhaylo Podolyak said on Twitter after the attack.
Donbas and beyond
While Ukrainian forces have been piling pressure on Russian positions in the south, the eastern Donbas region has seen intense fighting.
Journalists in Bakhmut, one of the remaining towns in Donbas under Ukrainian control, heard sporadic artillery fire and saw a house on the outskirts that had been hit by a Russian shell.
“I was in the barn and was going to go out. I heard a whistle. And I don’t remember anything. It exploded and I was thrown into the barn by explosion wave, 51-year-old Roman said.
The head of the Donetsk region in Donbas, said on social media that Russian artillery had hit a hotel and initial reports suggested the strikes had left people dead and injured.
Work resumes on grain ports
Also on Wednesday, Kyiv said that work had resumed at three Black Sea ports designated under a recent deal with Russia to resume cereal exports that have been blocked by Russia’s invasion.
“In connection with the signing of the agreement on the unblocking of Ukrainian ports for the export of grain, work has resumed in the ports of Odessa, Chernomorsk and Pivdennyi,” the Ukrainian navy said in a statement on social media.
Last week, Kyiv and Moscow agreed on a mechanism — with the help of Turkey and the United Nations — to allow blocked Ukrainian grain to be exported from the three ports.