By Natalia Zinets
KYIV (Reuters) -Ukraine said on Monday its forces had used U.S-supplied HIMARS rocket systems to destroy 50 Russian ammunition depots since receiving the weapons last month.
In comments on national television, Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov underlined the growing impact that the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) are having as Ukraine tries to repel Russia's invasion.
"This cuts their (Russian) logistical chains and takes away their ability to conduct active fighting and cover our armed forces with heavy shelling," Reznikov said.
Reuters could not independently verify Reznikov's remarks. Russia did not immediately comment.
Reznikov said Ukrainian artillery crews had conducted "precise" strikes on several bridges. He gave no details but was apparently referring to three river crossings in Russian-occupied Kherson region which local occupation authorities say were attacked by HIMARS over the past week.
Reznikov also said Ukraine had received three Gepard anti-aircraft armoured fighting vehicles, the first of 15 expected, and that Kyiv was expecting to take delivery of several dozen Leopard tanks.
Russia says it has destroyed several of the HIMARS systems though Ukraine has denied this. In the latest such report, Russia's Defence Ministry said on Monday its forces had destroyed an ammunition depot for HIMARS systems in the Khmelnytskyi region in western Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials have said repeatedly that Western supplies of weapons are critical to Ukraine's military effort, and underlined the importance of the HIMARS because of Russia's artillery supremacy in terms of numbers and ammunition.
HIMARS have a longer range and are more precise than the Soviet-era artillery that Ukraine had in its arsenal.
Russia has criticised the United States in particular for providing Ukraine with instructors to help Ukrainian forces use HIMARS.
Russia, which invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, has captured a chunk of territory in southern Ukraine and used its artillery supremacy in the east to make gradual territorial gains.
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets, writing by Max Hunder, Editing by Timothy Heritage)