Russia used its newest Kinzhal hypersonic missiles for the first time in Ukraine on Friday to destroy a weapons storage site in the country’s west, the defence ministry said.

Russia has never before admitted to using the high-precision weapon in combat, and state news agency RIA Novosti said it was the first use of the Kinzhal hypersonic weapons during the conflict in pro-Western Ukraine.

“The Kinzhal aviation missile system with hypersonic aeroballistic missiles destroyed a large underground warehouse containing missiles and aviation ammunition in the village of Deliatyn in the Ivano-Frankivsk region”, the Russian defence ministry said Saturday. A defence ministry spokesman declined to comment when reached by AFP.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has termed the Kinzhal (Dagger) missile “an ideal weapon” that flies at 10 times the speed of sound and can overcome air-defence systems. The Kinzhal missile was one of an array of new weapons Putin unveiled in his state-of-the-nation address in 2018.

Deliatyn, a village in the foothills of the picturesque Carpathian Mountains, is located outside the city of Ivano-Frankivsk. The region of Ivano-Frankivsk shares a 50-kilometre (30-mile) long border with Nato member Romania.

Stepping up threat to target arms shipments to Ukraine

Russia stepped up warnings that its forces would target convoys carrying weapons into Ukraine, five days after a deadly missile strike on a Ukrainian military training facility near Poland.

“We clearly said that any cargo moving into Ukrainian territory which we would believe is carrying weapons would be fair game,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with state-run RT on Friday.

The US and its European allies have been accelerating weapons shipments to Ukraine, helping it to stall a Russian invasion now in its fourth week. The training centre targeted had been used by Nato as recently as February. The attack, which killed 35 people according to Ukrainian authorities, raised new concerns about the conflict potentially spilling over Ukraine’s borders.

Russia’s top diplomat said that US President Joe Biden understands it’s “inadmissible” to establish a no-fly zone or to provide Ukraine with warplanes as requested by Kyiv because it would instantly increase the risk of “direct confrontation” between Nato and Russia.

Hopes to evacuate civilians via 10 humanitarian corridors

Ukraine hopes to evacuate civilians on Saturday via 10 humanitarian corridors from cities and towns on the front line of fighting with Russian forces, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.