The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine near the city of Kharkiv, has said that at least three people were killed and numerous buildings damaged overnight in the regional capital in what a senior Russian lawmaker called “a direct act of aggression on the part of Ukraine.”
In a post on Telegram on July 3, Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov reported numerous explosions in Belgorod, a city of some 400,000 people about 40 kilometers north of the border with Ukraine. He said at least 11 apartment buildings and 39 detached houses were damaged or destroyed in the overnight incident.
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At least four people, including a 10-year-old child, were injured, Gladkov claimed.
Russian Federation Council lawmaker Andrei Klishas blamed Ukraine for the purported incident.
“The death of civilians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure in Belgorod are a direct act of aggression on the part of Ukraine and require the most severe — including a military — response,” Klishas wrote on Telegram.
The claims of the Russian officials could not be independently verified, and Ukraine made no immediate response. Videos posted on social media purported to show explosions and fires in the city.
The same day, the governor of Russia’s neighboring Kursk region, which also borders Ukraine, wrote on Telegram that “our air defenses shot down two Ukrainian Strizh drones” during the night, adding that there were no casualties in the incident. Unverifiable video posted on social media purported to show a large plume of smoke near the city of Kursk.
The claims of the Russian officials could not be independently verified, and Ukraine made no immediate response. There have been numerous reported incidents of fires and explosions in Belgorod and other regions since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February, but Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for any of them.
The report from Belgorod comes as the Russian military has stepped up missile attacks across Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed and millions displaced since the war began, although Russian officials have denied targeting civilians.
Intense fighting continued on July 3 in parts of eastern Ukraine, particularly in and around the city of Lysychansk, one of the last population centers in Ukraine’s Luhansk region that is not fully controlled by Russia or its proxy forces.
Russian troops have blasted Lysychansk with rocket and missile attacks in the past several days, and the latest fighting comes a week after the fall of its sister city, Syevyerodonetsk, just across the Siverskiy Donets River. That city had been reduced to rubble by Russian forces prior to the takeover.
The head of the Ukrainian military administration of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Hayday, said on Telegram late on July 2 that shelling had prevented the residents of Lysychansk from putting out fires.
“Private houses in attacked villages are burning down one by one,” he said.
Ukrainian officials on July 2 rejected claims by Kremlin-backed separatists that Lysychansk had been completely encircled.
“Fighting rages around Lysychansk. (However) the city has not been encircled and is still under control of the Ukrainian Army,” Ruslan Muzytchuk, a spokesman for the Ukrainian National Guard, told Ukrainian television on July 2.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and dpa