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Ukrainian military officials and regional authorities said on July 27 that Russian forces launched fresh indiscriminate missile barrages and drone strikes that killed and wounded several civilians as Ukraine’s military reportedly steps up its counteroffensive in the south.

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In the central region of Vinnytsya, at least five people were wounded by debris falling from downed Russian Kalibr cruise missiles, regional Governor Serhiy Borzov said on July 27. He added that the strikes caused damage to economic and civilian infrastructure.

Odesa regional Governor Oleh Kiper said earlier on July 27 that Kalibr missiles launched from a Russian submarine in the Black Sea killed a security guard and damaged a cargo terminal. Odesa, Ukraine’s main Black Sea port, has been repeatedly targeted by Russian attacks since Moscow’s exiting a UN-brokered grain export deal earlier this month.

Separately, the General Staff of the Armed Forces said in its morning report that Russia once again used Iranian-made Shahed drones, adding that information about the consequences of the drone strikes is currently being clarified.

“Unfortunately, there are victims among the civilian population, and residential buildings were destroyed,” the military said.

Two civilians were also killed by Russian shelling over the past 24 hours in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Kharkiv, regional authorities reported on July 27.

The Ukrainian military has given limited information about the state of its counteroffensive in the Russia-occupied south, with Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar only saying troops are advancing toward the city of Melitopol in the Zaporizhizhya region.

But an unnamed Western official told the Associated Press on July 26 that a Ukrainian surge in troops and firepower has been centered on Zaporizhzhya.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 27 admitted that the fighting in the Zaporizhzhia region of southeastern Ukraine has “intensified significantly,” but claimed that Ukraine’s thrust had been unsuccessful.

Putin, speaking in St. Petersburg on the sidelines of a Russia-Africa summit, lauded what he said was the “heroism” of Russian troops and claimed that Ukrainian forces suffered heavy material and human losses.

His claims could not be independently verified.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on July 27 traveled to the city of Dnipro, which has been repeatedly subjected to air attacks.

“We began the working day in Dnipro,” Zelenskiy wrote on Telegram messaging app. “Close attention to providing troops with ammunition…. The effectiveness of using existing air-defense systems and strengthening the air shield,” Zelenskiy wrote, referring to the topics of discussion with the military and regional officials.

Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said Russia has damaged or destroyed 26 port installations and grain storage facilities since refusing to extend the deal that would have allowed the continued export of Ukrainian food to the world.

Kubrakov, speaking late on July 26, said the goal of the Russian attacks “to deprive the world of Ukrainian food, thus creating a global food crisis.”

NATO allies and Ukraine on July 26 condemned Russia’s decision to withdraw from the Black Sea grain deal and what they said were Russia’s deliberate attempts to stop Ukraine’s agricultural exports.

In a statement issued after a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council in Brussels, NATO said the allies also condemned Russia’s recent missile attacks on Odesa, Mykolayiv, and other port cities, including Moscow’s “cynical” drone attack on the Ukrainian grain storage facility in the Danube port city of Reni, which is close to Ukraine’s border with NATO-member Romania.

“Russia continues to show utter disrespect for international law and for the people worldwide who depend on Ukrainian grain,” NATO Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoana said in the statement. “We stand in solidarity with our Black Sea Allies, we will continue to protect one another, and we will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

In addition, NATO allies said they would step up surveillance in the Black Sea region, including with maritime patrol aircraft and drones.

Zelenskiy welcomed the council’s “сlear and unequivocal condemnation” of Russia’s withdrawal from the grain deal.

The NATO-Ukraine Council serves as a platform for exchanges during crisis situations and aims to foster closer cooperation until Ukraine can fulfil conditions for NATO membership.

The deal expired on July 17 after Russia quit in a move the United Nations said would “strike a blow to people in need everywhere.”

Moscow said its reason for quitting the deal was that its demands to improve exports of its grain and fertilizer were not met.

Russia also said ships traveling to Ukraine’s Black Sea ports would be seen as possibly carrying military cargoes.

Russia fired a barrage of missiles at Ukraine during the NATO-Ukraine council meeting. Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said the Ukrainian military shot down Russian missiles in the Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Dnipropetrovsk regions late on July 26.

With reporting by Reuters

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