Ukrainian authorities say mandatory evacuation begins for families with children and residents with reduced mobility.
Ukraine has ordered the mandatory evacuation of vulnerable residents from the front-line city of Kupiansk and adjacent northeastern areas amid fears Russia will recapture the key city and rail hub.
“Mandatory evacuation of families with children and residents with reduced mobility began in the Kupiansk community,” the Kharkiv regional military administration said on its website on Friday.
“The decision has been made … taking into account the unstable security situation due to the continuous shelling of the territory of the community by Russian forces,” it added.
Ukraine made rapid gains in the northeastern Kharkiv region late last year, penetrating deep into Russian lines, but its forces have been on the defensive for three months.
In September Russian troops withdrew from major cities of the Kharkiv region, including Kupiansk.
The city is an important railway center used by Russia since it took control after the February 24 invasion.
Kupiansk, home to about 27,000 people before the start of the war, is near the frontline in eastern Ukraine and locals fear it could be taken over again.
Kharkiv region governor Oleg Synegubov said on Thursday that Russia “fired” on several settlements in the region with artillery, multiple rocket launchers and mortars, including the city of Kupiansk.
Meanwhile, Russian troops and mercenaries on Friday closed the last approaches to the besieged Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, which is about 130 km southeast of Kharkiv.
The head of Russia’s private army, Wagner, said the city, which has been reduced to ruins, is now almost completely surrounded and only one route is open for Ukrainian troops.
Victory in Bakhmut, with a pre-war population of about 70,000, would give Russia the first major prize of a costly winter offensive after calling up hundreds of thousands of reservists last year.
It says it would be a stepping stone to conquering the surrounding Donbas region, a major war target.