Russia claims to have disabled Ukraine’s air capabilities, but on Friday the Kremlin said Ukraine had carried out a successful fiery attack on a fuel depot in the Russian city of Belgorod. A short time later, Russian media reported that an artillery shell had also landed nearby.
If confirmed, it would be the first time Ukraine has launched a counter-attack into Russian territory.
Video of the attack shows several missiles being fired before a massive explosion as one of the fuel depot silos explodes. Local governor Vyacheslav Gladkov blamed Ukraine for the attack via a Telegram message on Friday. “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.
No one was killed, but he said two workers suffered burns and some parts of the city were evacuated over fears the fuel fire would spread. Reuters reports that the firm that owns the depot said no one was injured in what they referred to as a blaze rather than an attack.
Western media on the ground have not been able to independently verify the claim, but Ukraine has not denied it. Bohdan Senyk, spokesman for Armed Forces of Ukraine, said there was “no information” about Russia’s claims. Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba added later, “I can neither confirm nor reject the claim that Ukraine was involved in this simply because I do not possess all the military information.”
Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, also addressed Russia’s allegations, but refused to go further. “I would like to emphasize that Ukraine is performing a defensive operation against Russian aggression on the territory of Ukraine,” he said in a televised statement that was released Friday. “That doesn’t mean Ukraine has to be responsible for every miscalculation or event or catastrophe that occurred on the territory of the Russian Federation. This is not the first time we are witnessing such accusations. Therefore, I will neither confirm nor deny this information.”
The depot is just over 20 miles from the Russian border with Ukraine. An ammunition depot in the same city caught fire earlier in the week, but that was not blamed on Ukraine.
Russia suggested that the attack could “hinder” peace talks. “Of course, this is not something that can be perceived as creating comfortable conditions for the continuation of negotiations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to various media reports.