By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy confirmed on October 17 that Ukraine used U.S.-made Army Tactical Missile System, known as ATACMS, in overnight attacks that the Ukrainian military said destroyed nine Russian military helicopters, an ammunition depot, and an air-defense launching system.
The missile strikes on October 17 hit airfields in Berdyansk, in the southern Zaporizhzhya region, and Luhansk, in the east — areas that are currently under Russian occupation.
The information about the operation, dubbed Dragonfly, was published on the Telegram channel of Ukraine’s Special Operations Forces (SSO). Zelenskiy used his own Telegram channel to thank “those who destroyed the logistics and bases of the occupiers on our land” without giving the precise location or the type of military equipment damaged.
The Ukrainian president said later on Telegram that his agreements with U.S. President Joe Biden “are being implemented” and “executed very accurately,” adding that ATACMS “have proved themselves.”
Biden promised Zelenskiy nearly a month ago to send ATACMS missiles, which have a maximum range of some 300 kilometers.
The White House confirmed in a statement that the United States supplied Ukraine with ATACMS.
“We believe these ATACMS will provide a significant boost to Ukraine’s battlefield capabilities without risking our (U.S.) military readiness,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in the statement.
Watson said the version of the ATACMS sent to Ukraine had a range of 165 kilometers.
Washington had previously not officially acknowledged delivering the long-range ballistic missiles repeatedly requested by Kyiv.
The SSO said the strikes caused dozens of casualties among Russian troops, and that explosions at the Berdyansk depot that had allegedly been struck continued in the early morning hours.
Russia has not officially commented on the reports, and the Ukrainian claim could not be independently verified.
But Vladimir Rogov, a Russia-installed official in the occupied part of Zaporizhzhya, denied that the Ukrainian strike was successful, saying on Telegram that the missiles were shot down.
Sergei Aksyonov, the Moscow-installed governor of occupied Crimea, meanwhile said Russian air defenses shot down eight Ukrainian drones that had attacked the peninsula overnight.
Ukraine has not commented on Aksyonov’s statement, which could not be immediately verified.
In Donetsk, Russian shelling killed at least two civilians in Pervomaysk and wounded a third one over the past day, the region’s governor, Ihor Moroz, said on October 17.
Russian forces also launched several drones and missiles on Ukraine overnight, the General Staff said.
“One Kh-59 guided air missile and six Shahed-136/131 drones were destroyed by air-defense forces,” the military said in a statement, adding that the consequences of the Russian attack were still being assessed.
On the battlefield, intense fighting continued around the eastern city of Avdiyivka, just north of Donetsk, where Russian forces have been attempting a breakthrough for the past several days.
Ukrainian forces in Avdiyivka repelled more than 10 assaults by the Russian troops, who have been trying to surround the city, the military said.
Ukrainian forces also repelled Russian attacks in the Bakhmut, Kupyansk, Maryinka, and Shakhtar directions, it said, adding that Kyiv’s counteroffensive in Zaporizhzhya continues with “partial success” in the direction of Melitopol. The claim could not be independently verified.
The General Staff said that in total, 72 close-quarter battles were fought by Ukrainian troops — an indication of an uptick in fighting along the whole front line.
On October 16, the 600th day of Russia’s all-out invasion, Ukrainian forces fought 53 battles in total, it said.