(AFP) – Russia on Friday said it had improved its fighting positions around the northeast Ukraine town of Kupiansk, where its advance has prompted Ukrainian officials to urge residents to evacuate.
Moscow also launched a volley of hypersonic missiles at western Ukraine, killing an eight-year-old boy in a part of the country largely spared from attacks.
Kupiansk and the surrounding areas of the northeast Kharkiv region were recaptured by Kyiv’s forces in September, but Moscow has since pushed back, forcing Ukraine to order civilian evacuations.
According to Moscow’s defence ministry, Russian units had “continued offensive operations on a wide front and improved the tactical situation” in Vilshana and Pershotravneve, east of Kupiansk.
The situation around the town was “difficult, given the power of the enemy group, but controlled”, said Sergiy Cherevaty, spokesman for Ukraine‘s eastern forces.
Ukrainian officials in Kupiansk on Thursday urged residents in 37 settlements wedged between the town and Russian lines to evacuate to Kharkiv, some 90 kilometres (55 miles) west, where they would have the option to move to safer regions, they said.
Russia‘s drive in Kupiansk has sought to draw Ukrainian forces away from Kyiv’s own counteroffensive.
Ukraine launched its highly anticipated push in June after stockpiling Western weapons but has struggled to make headway in the face of stiff Russian resistance.
In Brussels, an EU spokesman said Friday the bloc has delivered 223,800 shells to Ukraine out of a planned one million artillery rounds due by next spring to help Kyiv’s fight against Russia.
Fears have been voiced in some EU capitals the bloc will struggle to hit its target.
To date, the EU and its member states say they have spent some 20 billion euros supplying weaponry of all kinds to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022.
– Child killed in strike –
Friday saw Russia launch four Kinzhal hypersonic missiles at targets in western Ukraine, Kyiv’s air force said.
“One Kh-47 missile was destroyed within Kyiv region,” the air force said, while the rest were hit near the Kolomyia airfield in the Ivano-Frankivsk region.
“Civilian facilities and infrastructure were hit, and one of the missiles hit a residential area,” it said.
Kyiv said the strikes hit a house near the western town of Kolomyia, killing an eight-year-old boy playing in the yard, Kolomyia mayor Bogdan Stanislavskyi said on Telegram.
On Thursday, a Russian strike in the city of Zaporizhzhia killed at least one and wounded 14, according to Ukrainian officials.
The United Nations condemned the strike, which it said had hit a hotel used by its teams and other NGOs working in the region.
The Russian defence ministry said it had hit a base for foreign mercenaries in the city.
– Moscow targeted by drone –
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday dismissed the heads of military conscription in every region, in a bid to clean house after a series of corruption allegations.
“This system should be run by people who know exactly what war is and why cynicism and bribery at a time of war is high treason,” Zelensky said.
In Moscow, officials said Friday they had destroyed a drone aimed at the capital, the latest in a string of attacks on the city in recent days.
A Ukrainian drone was destroyed over the western outskirts of Moscow, the defence ministry said, adding there was no damage or casualties as a result of the incident.
“An attempt by the Kyiv regime to carry out a terrorist attack using an unmanned aerial vehicle on a facility in Moscow was thwarted,” said the ministry.
Largely spared in the early part of the conflict, the capital has seen a surge in attacks over the last months.
AFP journalists saw police had cordoned off parts of a park in the Karamyshevskaya embankment in the west of Moscow, where debris landed Friday.
On the fringes of the conflict, Belarus strongman and Russia ally Alexander Lukashenko said he was ready to talk to neighbouring Poland, a NATO member, amid rising border tensions.
Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski retorted that “Lukashenko’s words remain at odds with his actions” and he should “stop attacking our border, free the more than one thousand political prisoners and (Belarusian-Polish journalist) Andrzej Poczobut, stop this hate campaign, this hybrid war against Poland”.
Warsaw last week said two Belarusian helicopters had violated its airspace.
© Agence France-Presse