Russia alleges Ukrainian helicopters struck Belgorod fuel depot
Regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov says Ukrainian helicopters struck the facility after crossing the border at low altitude.
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.
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.
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.
Ukraine’s top security official denied that Ukraine carried out the alleged attack.
Speaking on national television on Friday, Security Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said: “For some reason they say that we did it, but according to our information this does not correspond to reality.”
Earlier, 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.”
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.
The resulting blaze injured two workers, Gladkov added, while some areas of the city were being evacuated.
#BREAKING: Video reportedly of Ukrainian attack helicopters striking oil facility in Belgorod, across the border inside Russia pic.twitter.com/NfQVJ97rbA
— ELINT News (@ELINTNews) April 1, 2022
However, Russian oil firm Rosneft, which owns the fuel depot, said in a separate statement that no one was hurt in the fire, though it gave no information on its cause.
“Previously there were some incidents where Ukrainian shells fell over some villages in Belgorod region, but Russia says this is the first time an oil facility has been targeted,” Al Jazeera’s Ranya Dridi, reporting from Belgorod, said.
“Fires are still blazing at the oil facility and the Russian ministry of emergency announced that the firefighting operations are still going on with around 200 firefighters using about 60 special units to fight the fires.”
Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov said the incident would not affect the region’s fuel supplies or prices for consumers.
The governor of the neighbouring Kursk region, Roman Starovoit, said that region’s fuel supplies were sufficient to last several weeks and called on the population not to stockpile fuel.
An ammunition depot near Belgorod caught fire on Wednesday, causing a series of blasts. At the time, Gladkov said authorities were waiting for the Russian defence ministry to establish its cause.