After 18-hour aerial assault, Russia accuses Ukraine of shelling border city Belgorod

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Shelling in the centre of the Russian border city of Belgorod killed 14 people, including two children, and injured 108 more on Saturday, emergency services said.

Russian officials accused Kyiv of carrying out the attack, which took place the day after an 18-hour aerial Russian barrage across Ukraine killed at least 39 civilians.

Images of Belgorod on social media showed cars set alight and plumes of black smoke rising among damaged buildings as air raid sirens sounded. Strikes hit close to a public ice rink in the heart of the city, also reaching a shopping centre, residential buildings and a car.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said it identified the ammunition used in the strike as Czech-made Vampire rockets and Olkha cluster munitions. It provided no additional information, and The Associated Press was unable to verify its claims.

“This crime will not go unpunished,” the ministry said in a statement on social media. 

The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin had been briefed on the situation, and that the country’s health minister, Mikhail Murashko, was ordered to join a delegation of medical personnel and rescue workers travelling to Belgorod from Moscow.

No official comment was immediately available from Kyiv, but the Ukrainian news outlet RBC-Ukraine quoted sources as saying Ukrainian forces had struck military targets in Belgorod in response to a massive Russian bombardment of Ukrainian cities the previous day.

Earlier on Saturday, Moscow officials had reported shooting down 32 Ukrainian drones over the country’s Moscow, Bryansk, Oryol, and Kursk regions.

They also reported that cross-border shelling had killed two other people in Russia. A man died and four other people were injured when a missile struck a private home in the Belgorod region late Friday evening and a nine-year-old was killed in a separate incident in the Bryansk region.

Strikes ongoing after Friday barrage against Ukraine

Cities across western Russia have come under regular attack from drones since May, with Russian officials blaming Kyiv. Ukrainian officials never acknowledge responsibility for attacks on Russian territory or the Crimean peninsula.

However, larger aerial strikes against Russia have previously followed heavy assaults on Ukrainian cities.

Russian drone strikes against Ukraine continued Saturday, with the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces reporting that 10 Iranian-made Shahed drones had been shot down across the Kherson, Khmelnytskyi, and Mykolaiv regions.

WATCH | Russia blasts Ukraine in worst aerial barrage since war began: 

Russia launches most intensive attack on Ukraine since invasion began

16 hours ago

Duration 2:45

Russia killed dozens in Ukraine after striking residential towers, a hospital and schools in what’s being called the largest aerial attack since the start of the war. Ukraine says it shot down most of the missiles and drones Russia sent, but Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy is vowing to respond for every strike.

On Friday, Moscow’s forces launched 122 missiles and dozens of drones across Ukraine, an onslaught described by one air force official as the biggest aerial barrage of the war that began with the Russian invasion in February 2022.

As well as the 39 deaths, at least 160 people were wounded and an unknown number were buried under rubble in the assault, which damaged a maternity hospital, apartment blocks, and schools.

Front line fighting bogged down by winter weather

Western officials and analysts recently warned that Russia limited its cruise missile strikes for months in an apparent effort to build up stockpiles for massive strikes during the winter, hoping to break the Ukrainians’ spirit.

Fighting along the front line is largely bogged down by winter weather after Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive failed to make a significant breakthrough along the roughly 1,000-kilometre line of contact.

A soldier crouches down as he fires a missile.
A Russian army soldier fires a Kornet anti-tank missile at Ukrainian positions on Friday. Russia’s ongoing aerial attacks have sparked concern for Ukraine’s neighbours. (Russian Defence Ministry Press Service/The Associated Press)

Russia’s ongoing aerial attacks have also sparked concern for Ukraine’s neighbours.

Poland’s defence forces said Friday that an unknown object had entered the country’s airspace before vanishing off radars, and that all indications pointed to it being a Russian missile.

Speaking to Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti on Saturday, Russia’s chargé d’affaires in Poland, Andrei Ordash, said that Moscow would not comment on the event until Warsaw had given the Kremlin evidence of an airspace violation.

“We will not give any explanations until we are presented with concrete evidence because these accusations are unsubstantiated,” he said.

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After 18-hour aerial assault, Russia accuses Ukraine of shelling border city Belgorod

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