Internet photographs showed explosions illuminating the night sky with contrails near Melitopol, the capital of the Russian-controlled government in Zaporizhzhia, one of the five Ukrainian provinces that Moscow claims to have annexed.
The exiled mayor of the city in Ukraine confirmed that explosions occurred there. According to Moscow-appointed officials cited by the Russian state news agency TASS, a railway depot was damaged, and power was cut to the city and surrounding communities.
Melitopol, which had a pre-war population of approximately 150,000, is a supplies base for Russian forces in southern Ukraine and part of the land bridge connecting Russia to the captured Crimean peninsula.
There was no public information regarding the possible weapons employed by Ukraine in the attack. The city is outside the range of Ukraine's HIMARS rockets, and within the scope of newer weaponry it is claimed to be deployed, such as U.S.-promised JDAM bombs and GLSDB munitions launched from the ground. Russia reported Tuesday for the first time that it had shot down a GLSDB.
The hit could impede Moscow's rear logistics when Kyiv has indicated it may soon launch a counterattack against Russian invading forces that have not won any significant wins despite months of offensive operations during the war's heaviest fighting.
Melitopol is located south of the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. On Wednesday, Rafael Grossi, the head of the UN's nuclear agency, visited the city and reiterated his calls for a safe zone, stating that the situation had not improved and fighting had intensified nearby.
Russian Assault Fails to Make Gains
Since their last major push nearly five months ago, Ukrainian forces have maintained a defensive stance. At that time, Moscow's Wagner private army launched a winter offensive utilizing hundreds of thousands of reservists and prisoners recruited from jails.
However, when winter gives way to spring, it is uncertain how long the Russians can continue their attack and when the Ukrainians will respond.
There are significant indications that the Russian offensive is waning.
From the beginning of March, the average number of daily Russian attacks on the front line reported by Ukraine's general staff has decreased for four consecutive weeks, from 124 in the week of March 1-7 to 69 in the latest week. Wednesday, only 57 attacks were reported.
This week, journalists along the battle lines west of Bakhmut and farther north reported a significant decrease in the severity of Russian attacks.
In Ukraine, anticipation for the forthcoming counteroffensive is growing.
On Wednesday, legislator Oleksiy Honcharenko uploaded a video to social media showing dozens of manned Ukrainian combat vehicles with their engines running in a vast open field.
Despite massive deaths on both sides, the Russians have made no meaningful breakthroughs, and Ukrainian and Western authorities believe the Russian attacking force will soon be exhausted.
According to Russian officials, their forces continue gaining momentum in street-by-street battles within Bakhmut, a small city in the east that has been their primary objective for months. Yet, they have thus far been unable to encircle it and force the Ukrainians to retreat, as had seemed probable for weeks.
Wagner's leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, stated in an audio message, "The battle for Bakhmut today has already practically destroyed the Ukrainian army, and unfortunately, it has also badly damaged the Wagner Private Military Company"
In a Wednesday evening update, Ukraine's General Staff stated that Russian forces had achieved "a degree of success" in their attempts to storm Bakhmut but that Ukrainian soldiers remained steadfast and were "repelling numerous enemy attacks."
Tanks for Spring Counterattack
On Wednesday, British military intelligence reported that the Ukrainians had successfully forced the Russians back from the major supply line to Bakhmut and that Russian attacks on the city were waning.
This past week, Moscow also launched a fresh assault on the tiny city of Avdiivka, located further south. The United Kingdom stated that this, too, had failed to yield any advances while resulting in massive losses of Soviet armour.
The week also saw the arrival of the first complete units of Western main battle tanks in Kyiv, promised two months ago to act as the spearhead of a counteroffensive when better weather dries Ukraine's infamous black muck.
In apparent retaliation, the RIA news agency of Russia stated that Moscow had delivered its forces hundreds of modern and reconditioned tanks.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stated on Wednesday that the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of partner Belarus would force NATO to evaluate the gravity of the situation.
Moscow has repeatedly warned that the conflict could turn nuclear, which Western nations dismiss as a ploy to terrify them into reducing military backing to Kyiv.
The United States vice president Joe Biden described the deployment possibility as "worrisome" even though Washington has not seen any indicators that Russia is closer to using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
On Wednesday, Russia's defence ministry announced that it had initiated exercises with its Yars intercontinental ballistic missile system, involving several thousand troops, in the latest demonstration of its nuclear strike capabilities.
Ryabkov stated that Russia, which discontinued participation in its last arms control deal with the United States last month, was no longer transmitting nuclear activity data to Washington.