Russia has warned it will intensify attacks once again on Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, over alleged cross-border assaults by Ukrainian forces.
In a daily update issued on Friday, Russia’s defence ministry said it would increase the “number and scale of missile strikes” against targets in the city in response to “any terrorist attacks or sabotage” on Russian soil.
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The threat came after Moscow accused Ukrainian troops of launching assaults in Russian border areas on Thursday – a charge Ukraine denied – and coincided with reports of powerful explosions being heard in Kyiv early on Friday morning.
In its briefing, the ministry said its troops had struck a “military” factory on the outskirts of Kyiv late on Thursday using Kalibr sea-based long-range missiles in retaliation for the alleged attacks.
“As a result of the strike on the Zhulyansky machine-building plant ‘Vizar’, the workshops for the production and repair of long-range and medium-range anti-aircraft missile systems, as well as anti-ship missiles, were destroyed,” the ministry said.
The blasts in Kyiv appeared to be among the most significant there since Russian troops pulled back from the area more than two weeks ago as Moscow announced it was refocusing its offensive on Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
They were reportedly heard after the Russian defence ministry said the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, had sunk while being towed after being badly damaged.
Ukraine claimed the Moskva’s damage was the result of one of its missile strikes. Russia’s defence ministry spoke only of a fire breaking out and of exploding ammunition.
‘Kyiv could become a target once again’
Reporting from the Ukrainian capital, Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford said the reported attacks served as an “example that despite the withdrawal of Russian forces from this area, Kyiv could become a target once again”.
Kyiv was first targeted in the early hours of February 24, at the onset of Moscow’s large-scale invasion, but Russian advances on the city and other areas stalled or were blocked by Ukrainian defences.
Separately, Russia’s defence ministry said that its S-400 missile system had shot down a Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter which Moscow said had taken part in air raids on residential buildings in the country’s southwestern Bryansk region on Thursday.
There was no immediate reaction to Russia’s claims from Kyiv, which on Thursday rejected accusations of cross-border raids by its forces and instead accused Moscow of staging “terror attacks” on its own territory to stir up “anti-Ukrainian hysteria” in the country.
Al Jazeera’s Stratford said there were big concerns in Ukraine about potential so-called “false flag” operations by Moscow.
“The Russians have repeatedly been accused of using … falsified pieces of information or falsified video evidence of a Ukrainian strike, according to the Russians, which gives them a pretext to retaliate and to strike Ukrainian targets,” he said.
Russian border regions step up security measures
According to Russian officials, dozens of residential buildings were damaged by the “air strikes” carried out by two Ukrainian helicopters in Bryansk.
At least seven people were wounded in the attacks, Moscow said.
Meanwhile, authorities in another border region, Belgorod, also reported Ukrainian shelling on Thursday.
The region’s governor said the village of Spodaryushino had come under fire, leading to it and another nearby one being evacuated to “ensure security”.
Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the reports.
The reported incidents came after authorities in Belgorod, Bryansk and two other Russian regions bordering Ukraine – Voronezh and Kursk – on Monday announced they would step up security measures over what they warned were “possible provocations” from the Ukrainian side.