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Russia alleges Ukraine of bombing fuel depots as first airstrikes on its territory

By Ruchi Upadhyay 
Updated Date

Moscow: A Russian official has alleged that two Ukrainian military helicopters flew across the border and bombed a fuel depot in the eastern city of Belgorod, in what would be, if confirmed, the first known air raid by Ukraine’s forces on Russian soil since Moscow invaded its neighbour in late February.

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Video images of the purported attack posted online on Friday showed what looked like several missiles being fired from low altitude, followed by an explosion that sparked a huge fire. It was not possible to independently verify the images.

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the alleged strike in Belgorod, some 35 kilometres (22 miles) from the border with Ukraine, did not create comfortable conditions to continue peace talks.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said: “I can neither confirm nor reject the claim that Ukraine was involved in this simply because I do not possess all the military information.”

Earlier, regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram that the helicopters hit the storage facility after crossing into Russia at low altitude.

“There was a fire at the petrol depot because of an air strike carried out by two Ukrainian army helicopters, who entered Russian territory at a low altitude,” he wrote in the messaging app.

Two employees at the storage facility were injured in the fire, he said in another post.

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Some 170 firefighters were battling to put out the enormous blaze, which started around 6 am (0300 GMT), the emergencies ministry said.

A massive fire was raging, with black and white smoke billowing overhead, a video released by the ministry showed.

Russian energy giant Rosneft, which owns the facility, said it had evacuated staff from the premises.

Long lines of cars waited at filling stations but the governor urged residents not to panic buy, saying there was enough petrol.

“There aren’t any problems with fuel in the region and there won’t be any,” Gladkov said.

Earlier this week, explosions could be heard from an arms depot in Belgorod but the authorities did not provide any clear explanation for the blasts.

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Belgorod lies around 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Russia’s border with Ukraine and some 80 kilometres from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, which has been pummelled by Russian forces since Moscow sent troops to Ukraine on February 24.

Separately, the Russian defence ministry said that Moscow had destroyed six military facilities in Ukraine, including five depots containing ammunition, rockets and artillery weapons.

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