By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Ukrainian forces looked to build on bridgeheads on the east bank of the Dnieper River on November 18 after a night in which Russian drone attacks blasted Ukrainian infrastructure and residential sites and caused at least two deaths in northern and southern Ukraine.
Kyiv’s forces were attempting to “push back Russian Army units as far as possible in order to make life easier for the [west] bank of the Kherson region, so that they will not get shelled as much,” said Natalya Humeniuk, spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command.
Ukraine’s military a day earlier said its forces had established “several bridgeheads” on the east bank of the Dnieper and that “our defenders are consolidating their positions and firing on the occupiers.”
Reports that Ukrainian forces have transported heavy military equipment and troops across the river and set up beachheads have fueled suggestions Kyiv could be poised for a breakthrough on the southern front and open a new line of attack in the direction of the Crimean Peninsula.
The Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula has been controlled by Russia since 2014, when it was seized and illegally annexed by Moscow.
Ukraine said two emergency rescue workers were killed and at least three people were injured in Russian rocket strikes in a residential area in the southern Zaporizhzhya region on November 18.
Separately, the Kherson region military administration said Russian shelling on November 18 had injured a 54-year-old man, who was being treated in serious condition in the hospital.
Battlefield claims cannot immediately be independently verified.
Earlier, the Ukrainian military said infrastructure in southern and northern Ukraine had been struck in a large-scale overnight drone attack launched from Russian territory.
The Ukrainian Air Force claimed its air defenses shot down 29 out of 38 the Iranian drones used in the attack. It was the largest number of drones launched in an overnight attack by Russia since September 30, according to air force figures.
“Unfortunately, an energy infrastructure facility was hit in the Odesa region,” the press service of the southern military command said on Telegram on November 18. “One civilian employee was injured and hospitalized. An administration building was damaged. A fire broke out and was quickly extinguished.”
Two infrastructure facilities were also reportedly damaged in the northern Chernihiv region, located on Ukraine’s border with Russia and Belarus.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who has said he expects Russia to step up its attacks on Ukraine’s energy and heating infrastructure ahead of winter, congratulated the Ukrainian defense forces for their action against the drones.
“Your accuracy, guys, is literally life for Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.
He warned, though, that “the closer we are to winter, the more Russians will try to make the strikes more powerful.”
Last year, millions of civilians were left without power and heat for extended periods of time during freezing temperatures in what was seen as an attempt by Russia to break their will.
Zelenskiy said on November 16 that Russia was “accumulating” missiles in preparation for the expected attacks, and that while Ukraine’s air defenses would not provide “100 percent” protection, the country’s air defenses were better than last year.
Kyiv was also targeted in the overnight drone attacks, according to officials. All of the drones launched against the Ukrainian capital were downed as they approached the city, the officials said.
The Ukrainian Air Force had announced an air alert in the evening of November 17 advising residents in many areas of Kyiv to stay in shelters.