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The delivery of Western precision rocket systems to Ukraine has changed the dynamic of the war, slowing Russia’s advance and lowering Ukrainian casualties along the frontlines. But Russia has increasingly resorted to using its own long-range missiles to wreak havoc on cities deep inside Ukrainian-controlled territory. Simon Ostrovsky and videographer Yegor Troyanovsky report from southern Ukraine.
The delivery of Western precision rocket systems to Ukraine has changed the dynamic of that war in that country, slowing Russia's advanced and lowering Ukrainian casualties along the front lines.
Now Russia has increasingly resorted to using its own long-range missiles to wreak havoc on cities deep inside Ukrainian-controlled territory.
From the Mykolaiv region of Southern Ukraine, special correspondent Simon Ostrovsky and videographer Yegor Troyanovsky report.
For Russia, it seems, no target is too small. This modest warehouse in the southern city of Mykolaiv was hit in was hit in the early hours of July 21. No one was hurt, but a supply of food and drinks donated to the Ukrainian military was completely wiped out.
Russia is destroying much more significant targets as well. This is the aftermath of a July 17 strike which resulted in a mass casualty event that "NewsHour" can for the first time report.
Yuri Horobets, Owner (through translator):
Just look at these ruins. They are really extensive, so this was hit purposefully, you know?
I asked him in Russian if the strike was precise.
Yuri Horobets (through translator):
To about 50 centimeters, exact. Everything hit its target.
Yuri Horobets is the owner of a playground equipment factory that was located here.
This factory and warehouse space was completely destroyed in a recent Russian missile strike. And the Ukrainian military has told us that this is a civilian target and there was no reason for Russia to hit it, but we have seen evidence that the Ukrainian military did indeed use this area as a base.
And, off-camera, one of the volunteers who helped clear bodies out from underneath the rubble told us that he believes that up to 30 or even 40 Ukrainian soldiers and officers may have been killed here.
There is an awful smell here. Did anybody die?
I cannot speak on that subject without permission. This is a sensitive question, you must understand.
A soldier and listed in the unit that had been supported from this base told "NewsHour" the true death toll may have been as high as 50 people and that it was believed that a cleaning woman who worked here supplied Russia with the targeting information for the secret facility.
It's not clear why the Ukrainian authorities suppressed news of this devastating strike, but it highlights the country's desperate need for air defense systems, in addition to the missile systems currently being provided.
Last week, Ukraine's first lady, Olena Zelenska, traveled to Washington to urge the United States to deliver them.
Olena Zelenska, First Lady of Ukraine (through translator): I'm asking for something now I would never want to ask. I'm asking for weapons, weapons that would not be used to wage a war on somebody else's land, but to protect one's home and the right to wake up alive in that home.
I'm asking for air defense systems in order for rockets not to be killed — not to kill children in their strollers.
It all seems to have prompted the Mykolaiv region's governor, Vitaliy Kim, to make this unusual appeal on social media the day after the strike.
Vitaliy Kim, Head of Mykolaiv Region Military Administration (through translator): The Russians are paying our citizens who agree to help them target their strikes. I will pay $100 to anyone who helps find someone who's actually providing targeting information. Good hunting.
Some people thinking that there will be no responsibility for their deeds when they just send SMS with coordinates to Russians, and nothing will happen. He will just get his money.
No, he will get criminal charges in the future. And for now, it is many people wants to help to find the collaborators and traitors, but they don't know how.
Are there a lot of people who support Russia and are helping Russia target their weapons?
No, not much people sympathizing with Russia, but even one traitor is a big problem.
Multiple devastating Russian missile strikes against targets here in Mykolaiv followed Ukraine's announcement that it is preparing for a counteroffensive. The goal? To retake the key nearby Russian occupied city of Kherson, which Russia captured in the early days of the now five-month war.
These Ukrainian positions in the Mykolaiv region are just several miles from the Russian forces that swept through Ukraine's southeast in early March. Kherson lies just beyond these lines. It's the only regional Capitol Russia managed to capture since it launched its so-called special military operation against Ukraine to date.
Ukraine's top military brass say that, since the United States and other countries have supplied high-precision missile systems a few weeks ago, they have been able to stabilize the front line and slow the Russian offensive. Now they're preparing for a counterattack to attempt to retake some of the territories in Southern Ukraine that have been held by Russia since the beginning of the full-scale war.
Ukraine has posted that its new medium-range weaponry, such as the American High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, has severely limited Russia's ability to supply its forward operating troops, because it's made it possible to hit ammunition dumps that were previously out of reach.
Ukrainian troops in the theater of operations told "NewsHour" this has translated into fewer casualties on the front lines.
Sgt. Oleksandr Halkin, Medic (through translator):
After the HIMARS started ruining the Russian Federation's plans, they have a lot less ammunition. The upshot for us is fewer injuries.
The U.S. is supplying about a dozen HIMARS to Ukraine. Meanwhile, Britain, Norway and Germany have said they will send a total of nine similar multiple rocket launchers known as the M-270.
Further back from the front lines, however, it's a very different picture. Russia has responded to Ukraine's new capabilities by stepping up the use of its own long-range weapons to target Ukrainian supply dumps and military bases in Ukrainian cities.
Just in the last two weeks, Russia has launched 129 missiles of various designs at the Mykolaiv region alone, its administration told "NewsHour." And, over the weekend, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned a Russian missile strike on the Port of Odessa, which took place just hours after Moscow signed the deal to lift a blockade and allow grain exports from Ukrainian ports.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian President (through translator):
First of all, we can talk about the Kherson region. The occupiers tried to gain a foothold there. The armed forces of Ukraine are advancing step by step in the region. Today's Russian missile attack on Odessa on our port is a cynical one. And it was also a blow to the political positions of Russia itself.
Human Rights Watch described the southern Kherson the Zaporizhzhia regions occupied by Russia as an abyss of fear and wild lawlessness. In a report published last week, it documented incidents of torture, unlawful detentions, and forced disappearances.
For this reason, Ukraine's president has urged his military to ramp up its counteroffensive in the south, according to Serhiy Leshchenko, an adviser to the office of the president.
Serhiy Leshchenko, Adviser to Office of Ukrainian President: The president is very clear with this. In the cities, there are many Ukrainians who were not able to be evacuated because the occupation was very fast.
And these people, like, are hostages now. If we let Russian occupants to keep this territory under their control, it will let Russians to make roots deeper, to have Russian currency, Russian laws, Russian history, Russian school programs, Russian money. Everything can be changed. That is why we are looking forward to have more weapons and to have this operation started.
Ukraine predicts offensive operations will be difficult to wage in winter and is urging its allies to provide more weapons now, before Russia is able to solidify its substantial gains.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Simon Ostrovsky in Mykolaiv, Ukraine.
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