New Delhi: A flurry of fireballs burst through the sky and came crashing into an oil storage facility in the Russian city of Belgorod early Friday morning.
Russia’s Defence Ministry claimed that two Ukrainian helicopters transgressed into its airspace and struck the oil depot in Belgorod.
However, Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, declared that he could neither deny nor confirm the country’s role in the strike at the oil depot as he did not have military information available.
Other officials in the Ukrainian government have denied the country’s role in the attack, which comes in the fifth week of the Russian invasion.
If Ukraine’s role is confirmed, this would be the first airstrike by the country on Russian soil since the invasion began, thereby expanding the theatre of conflict into Russia.
There have been unconfirmed reports of other suspected attacks, including a missile strike at a military base at the end of February in Millervo, near the border with Ukraine.
Belgorod is located 40 kilometres from the Ukrainian border.
Burning oil depot
In a video shared widely on social media, two helicopters — described as being Mi-24 — are purportedly seen firing rockets at the oil depot in Belgorod.
Eastern European media outlet NEXTA put out a video that showed a raging fire at the oil depot due to the rocket-firing. NEXTA also reported that two people were injured because of the fire.
“The emergency services went to the place of fire, measures are being taken to eliminate it”, said Gladkov, the governor of the region in his Telegram channel. pic.twitter.com/ey7rC5ChSz
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) April 1, 2022
The mayor of Belgorod, Anton Ivanov, said on his Telegram channel that residents of streets adjacent to the site of the fire were being temporarily shifted out. The mayor later posted that the fire had been controlled, and the residents were being allowed to go back.
Among other suspected attacks on Russian soil amid the invasion, on 25 February, Ukraine reportedly struck a military base in Millervo with ballistic missiles.
Ukraine is believed to have launched the Tochka close-range ballistic missile, which damaged infrastructure and one aircraft — the Sukhoi Su-30SM — at the base in Millervo.
Last month, Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov reported explosions near the village of Krasny Oktyabr, but said there were no civilian casualties.
Effect on peace talks
The latest round of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine took place on video Friday, following a meeting in person in Turkey Tuesday.
Reports suggest that the last meeting ended without a “breakthrough”. Ukraine has reiterated its position that it won’t join NATO in return for other states guaranteeing its security, and offered talks on the status of Crimea. Russia has demanded recognition of its control over Crimea and the Donbas region.
Referring to the oil depot strike, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying that “certainly, this is not something that can be perceived as creating comfortable conditions for the continuation of the talks”.
The statement comes as the Russian forces continue their onslaught in Ukraine — attacking cities and leaving many dead, wounded, or displaced.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)
Source: The Print