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Indiscriminate shelling by Russian troops has killed at least four civilians in eastern and southern Ukraine, regional officials reported on July 18, as the Ukrainian military said the situation is difficult but under control in some parts of the eastern front, while in the south, incremental advances are being made.

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Russia also kept up the pressure on Ukraine’s air defenses, launching a fresh wave of drone strikes early on July 18 that was largely repelled, but drone debris damaged infrastructure in the Black Sea port of Odesa.

In the northern part of the Donetsk region, three civilians — a 52-year-old woman and two men, aged 49 and 52 — were killed by Russian shelling, regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reported.

In the southern Zaporizhzhya region, a 72-year-old woman was killed in the shelling of the town of Orikhiv, Governor Yuriy Malashko said.

The United Nations said that as of the end of last month, 9,177 civilians had been killed and 15,993 wounded since the start of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

On the battlefield, Ukrainian forces continued their counteroffensive operations in the Berdyansk and Melitopol areas of the southern region of Zaporizhzhya, the General Staff of the Ukrainian military said in its daily report on July 18, adding that in the east, 36 combat actions were recorded over the past 24 hours.

General Oleksandr Syrskiy, commander of Ukrainian ground forces, said on the Telegram messaging app on July 18 that the situation was “complicated” in the Kupyansk area of the eastern Kharkiv region but that Ukrainian forces continued to register successes in parts of the south, where it pressed on with its counteroffensive.

“The situation is complicated, but under control. The enemy is transferring reserves to the Bakhmut area [of Donetsk], trying to stop our advance,” Syrskiy said. “At the same time, the enemy concentrates its main forces in the Kupyansk direction, where Ukrainian soldiers are on the defense.”

On July 17, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said on Telegram that the situation was becoming difficult for Ukrainian troops in the eastern region of Kharkiv, where Russian forces were “actively advancing” in the Kupyansk direction for two days in a row.

“We are on the defensive. Fierce battles are taking place,” Malyar wrote.

WATCH: A section of the Crimea Bridge was damaged by a deadly explosion on July 17. Moscow said two people were killed and a child was injured in the blast that it blamed on Ukrainian maritime drones.

Early on July 18, Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesperson for the military administration of the Odesa region, said Ukraine’s air defenses had repelled a Russian air attack on the port city.

Ukraine’s Operational Command South later said in a statement that “debris from the destroyed missiles and the blast wave from the downing damaged the port infrastructure facilities.”

The strike on Odesa, which is crucial for Ukraine’s grain exports, came a day after Moscow pulled out of a UN-brokered deal to allow the transit of the grain, refusing to extend it after it expired on July 17.

Russia overnight also launched an attack on Mykolayiv region, using Iranian-made drones that caused a fire, regional Governor Vitaliy Kim, said on Telegram.

The mayor of the city of Mykolayiv, Oleksandr Sienkovych, said the fire broke out at one of the city’s facilities and assessed it as “quite serious.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry and the Moscow-installed head of annexed Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, said on July 18 that Russian forces repelled an attack by 28 Ukrainian drones on the eastern part of region.

The ministry said in a statement that 17 drones were destroyed and 11 were disabled by electronic means. Both the ministry and Aksyonov said the attack caused no casualties or damages.

The report, which could not be independently verified, came a day after an attack by seaborne drones on the bridge that links Crimea with Russia that killed two people and caused major damage and a disruption to traffic. Russia has blamed Ukraine for the attack.

Kyiv did not claim responsibility, but Ukrainian media quoted sources as saying security services had deployed maritime drones.

In a statement quoted by the TASS news agency, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on July 18 that it had carried out “revenge” strikes in Odesa and Mykolayiv against sites that Moscow claimed were used by Ukraine to prepare seaborne drones of the type suspected to have hit the Crimea bridge.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP

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