A series of explosions were heard in the early hours of Wednesday in three Russian provinces bordering Ukraine, authorities said, and an ammunition depot in the Belgorod province caught fire around the same time.
Belgorod regional governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said no civilians had been injured in the fire, which broke out at a facility near Staraya Nelidovka village and was subsequently extinguished.
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Earlier this month, Russia accused Ukraine of attacking a fuel depot in Belgorod with helicopters and opening fire on several villages in the province.
The Belgorod province borders Ukraine’s Luhansk, Sumy and Kharkiv regions, all of which have seen heavy fighting since Russia invaded Ukraine two months ago.
Separately, Roman Starovoyt, the governor of Russia’s Kursk province, which also borders Ukraine, said explosions had been heard in Kursk city early on Wednesday, which were most likely the sounds of air defence systems firing.
He later said that a Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle was intercepted in the sky over Kursk region, adding that there were no casualties or damage.
In Voronezh, the administrative centre of another province adjacent to Ukraine, Russia’s TASS news agency cited an emergency ministry official as saying that two blasts had been heard and the authorities were investigating.
Russia said it was sending investigators to Kursk and Voronezh regions to document what it calls “illegal actions by the Ukrainian army”.
‘Karma is cruel’
A top Ukrainian official on Wednesday described the attacks as payback and “karma” for Moscow’s invasion.
“If you (Russians) decide to massively attack another country, massively kill everyone there, massively crush peaceful people with tanks, and use warehouses in your regions to enable the killings, then sooner or later the debts will have to be repaid,” Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said.
Podolyak said it was not possible to “sit out” the Russian invasion. “And therefore, the disarmament of the Belgorod and Voronezh killers’ warehouses is an absolutely natural process. Karma is a cruel thing,” he said.
Earlier this month, Russia accused Ukraine of attacking a fuel depot in Belgorod with helicopters, which a top Kyiv security official denied, and opening fire on several villages in the province.
The incidents have exposed Russian vulnerabilities in areas close to Ukraine that are vital to its military logistics chains.
Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on February 24 in a “special operation” to degrade its military capabilities and root out what it calls dangerous nationalists.
Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw its troops.
Meanwhile, Russia halted gas supplies to Poland under the Yamal contract on Wednesday, data from the European Union network of gas transmission operators showed,
Meanwhile, Russian energy giant Gazprom said on Wednesday it had halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland for failing to pay for gas in roubles amid a deepening rift between the West and Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. It is the first time Moscow has cut off the gas supply to European buyers since it invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Ukraine also accused Russia of trying to drag Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria into its war after authorities in the Russia-backed region, adjacent to southwest Ukraine, said they had been targeted by a series of attacks.
Diplomacy and aid
On Tuesday, the United States hosted defence talks in Germany, involving more than 40 countries, that sought to speed and synchronise the delivery of arms to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Germany announced its first delivery of heavy weapons – Gepard tanks with anti-aircraft guns – to Ukraine after weeks of pressure at home and abroad.
“Nations from around the world stand united in our resolve to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s imperial aggression,” said US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
One of President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies said Ukraine was spiralling towards a collapse into several states because of what he cast as a US attempt to use Ukraine to undermine Russia.
Meanwhile, the Russian president agreed “in principle” to UN and International Committee for the Red Cross involvement in the evacuation of civilians from a besieged steel plant in Ukraine’s southern city of Mariupol, the United Nations said.