Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country has developed a weapon that can hit a target 700km (435 miles) away, in an apparent reference to an aerial attack this week on an airport in western Russia that destroyed several military aircraft.
The weapon was produced by Ukraine’s Ministry of Strategic Industries but he gave no further details.
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“The range of our new Ukrainian weapons is now 700 kilometers. The task is to make this number bigger,” Zelenskyy wrote late on Thursday night in a post to the social media platform X, previously known as Twitter.
Zelenskyy’s claim of new Ukrainian long-range weaponry came ahead of a Russian official reporting early on Friday morning that air defence units had “neutralised an unidentified object” in Russia’s western region of Pskov, the same region where a Ukrainian aerial attack reportedly damaged four Il-76 military transport planes on Wednesday.
While Ukraine rarely comments directly on specific attacks inside Russia, Zelenskyy appeared to hint twice on Thursday that Ukrainian forces were behind the Pskov attack.
Today was full of events.
With government officials and military, we focused on the frontlines and our offensive operations. The range of our new Ukrainian weapons is now 700 kilometers. The task is to make this number bigger.
Another important piece of news for the frontline… pic.twitter.com/MmfSQupY2L
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) August 31, 2023
“The results of our weaponry – new Ukrainian weaponry – 700km away,” he also said in his nightly video address. “And the task is to do more.”
The airport attacked in Russia’s Pskov region is located approximately 700km north of the Ukrainian border.
Ukraine’s Western allies generally forbid Kyiv from using weapons they supply to attack Russian territory, but they have also said that Ukraine has a right to attack Russian military targets with its own weapons where it sees fit to do so.
Washington DC-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said on Thursday that Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov had recently referred to a new Ukrainian-made missile that had hit a Russian air defence system in Crimea on August 23.
3/ Ukrainian President Volodymyr #Zelensky highlighted #Ukraine’s domestic production of long-range missiles on August 31, likely as part of a coordinated Ukrainian campaign promoting increased Ukrainian strike capabilities against Russian deep rear areas. https://t.co/PSJyTwGqFy pic.twitter.com/0Qt8hr8veh
— ISW (@TheStudyofWar) September 1, 2023
The head of Ukraine’s military intelligence Kyrylo Budanov had also said that Ukrainian forces now “have the ability to to strike any part of occupied Crimea”, the ISW said.
On Wednesday, a four-hour wave of drones – that Moscow blamed on Ukraine – was sent against targets in six Russian regions in what some believe was the biggest drone raid on Russia since it invaded Ukraine last year.
In the past month, Ukraine has stepped up drone attacks on targets deep within Russia – including on the capital Moscow – and in Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine in what appears to be the implementation of a recent promise by Zelenskyy that Ukraine would take the war back to Russia.
‘Erode Russian morale’
Attacks deep into Russia and cross-border sabotage missions are part of Kyiv’s efforts to keep domestic pressure on the Kremlin, militarily and politically, while Ukraine’s counteroffensive launched in June slowly wears down parts of the Russian front line, analysts say.
Ukraine is aiming to “erode Russian morale and increase pressure on its commanders”, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a think tank, said in an assessment this week.
The strategy is “to bring Russian forces to a tipping point where combat power and morale may begin to break”, the IISS said in the analysis.
After months of slowly fighting their way through heavy minefields, Ukrainian forces have reportedly reached the main Russian defensive lines in recent days south of the village of Robotyne which they captured last week in Ukraine’s Western Zaporizhia region.
They are now advancing between the nearby villages of Novopokropivka and Verbove, looking for a way around the anti-tank ditches and rows of concrete pyramids known as dragon’s teeth that form Russia’s main fortifications visible from space, the Reuters news agency reported.
A breakthrough would provide the first test of Russia’s deeper defences, which Ukraine hopes will be more vulnerable and less heavily mined than areas its troops have traversed so far in their offensive.
In a statement on Thursday, Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar reported unspecified successes near Novopokropivka, without giving details. She also said Ukrainian forces were advancing near Bakhmut in the east, the only city Russia captured in its own offensive earlier this year.
Heavy battles were engulfing villages south of the city, she said.
Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, also reported a “positive dynamic” near Bakhmut.