Kherson: Ukraine is prepping for a counteroffensive
Ukraine has claimed it is making "step-by-step" military advances into Kherson with the aim of retaking the southwestern city from Russian forces by September.
Kherson, which is now reportedly subject to heavy fighting, was Ukraine's first city to fall to Russia in the current Russia-Ukraine conflict. It is a key Russian launching point for strikes on surrounding areas.
Ukraine's military said it had gained momentum along Kherson's northern and western borders in recent weeks. Western supplied mobile rocket and artillery launchers are boosting Ukraine's military capabilities.
Ukraine's government is urging Kherson residents to get out of the city as soon as possible.
"The number of attacks now is bigger – higher. A good recommendation is for people to leave the city," saidDmytro Davydenko, a humanitarian coordinator at Mykolaiv, 50 kilometers west of Kherson.
Mykolaiv is actively engaged in counteroffensive plans.
"We have an opportunity. We see the difference between now and a month ago, and we are preparing and counterattacking already," said Vitalii Kim, governor of Mykolaiv Oblast.
Mykolaiv has repeatedly fought off Russian military advances. The ship-building, industrial port city comes under almost daily missile and artillery attacks.
The conflict's third hardest-hit Ukrainian city, Mykolaiv has gone only 25 days without strikes since February 24, the day that Russia launched its "special military operation," according to local officials.
The same officials estimate that around 8,000 buildings and structures have been hit by Russian land, air and sea strikes, including homes, administrative buildings, hotels, universities, humanitarian centers, grain stores and ports.
Half of Mykolaiv's 500,000 residents have fled the city. Those who remain have been without drinking water since April when the city's main water supply pipe was damaged in the fighting.
For bathing, residents rely on salty "technical water" pumped to homes from nearby rivers.
Recent Russian military advances have been concentrated in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region. Military analysts predict a necessary Russian military "pause" following those advances may present the Ukrainian army with opportunities.