Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Anna Malyar has confirmed that Russian ground units have been advancing in the Kupyansk direction in the Donbas regions. “The enemy has been actively advancing since the end of last week in the Kupyansk direction in the Kharkov region. Now the enemy is searching for weaknesses in our defence, actively conducting assault operations… The situation is complicated. Fierce fighting is going on now,” she wrote, following increasingly pessimistic reports in both Kiev and the West regarding the state of planned Ukrainian offensives against Russian positions which were initiated in early June. The Ukrainian Military was able to launch a successful drone strike on the Kerch Strait Bridge linking the Russian mainland to Crimea shortly after 3am on July 17. The strike killed a Russian couple and injured their child, but reportedly caused no other casualties. The strike is far from the first Kiev has conducted against the target, with a previous strike causing part of one of the bridge’s road segments to collapse on October 8, 2022.
Russian sources widely claimed that the latest strike on the Kerch Strait Bridge was an attempt to shift attentions away from losses on the frontlines, with the attack coming as Kiev has faced significant setbacks at recent NATO summit meetings regarding its intentions to join the alliance. Retired Soviet and Russian military intelligence officer Anatoliy Matviychuk was among several sources cited by Russian state media claiming that NATO members were complicit in the attacks, stating that “these were either American or British drones,” with the attack likely planned by instructors from these countries. “And of course their mission was to put the Russian population into a state of shock over the second bombing of the bridge,” he added, with such speculation aligning with Western reports regarding a massive network of U.S. and European advisors helping Ukraine carry out complex operations since early 2022. Russian notably launched massive retaliation in the form of missile and drone strikes against key targets in Ukrainian cities when the bridge was last targeted, raising speculation that escalated strikes could be imminent in the coming days.