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Ukraine war takes new turn as shelling and drone strikes hit inside Russia’s border

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Russia saw the effects of its war on Ukraine dramatically reverberate back onto its own territory on Wednesday, after a “massive” shelling attack injured four people in Belgorod and preliminary information indicated a drone crashed and sparked a fire at an oil refinery further south.

Eight apartment buildings, four homes, a school and two administrative buildings were damaged during the shelling in Shebekino, a village in the border region of Belgorod, its governor said, as the oblast increasingly becomes a hotbed of straying violence.

The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region Vyacheslav Gladkov said there was more shelling of a border area later on Wednesday, which he blamed on Ukrainian forces.

Speaking in a live broadcast, he said an industrial plant close to the city of Shebekino had been struck. “The situation in Shebekino is not getting better,” Gladkov said in a live broadcast. “There is shelling of Shebekino, there is a fire at one of the industrial enterprises.”

Earlier on Tuesday night, Gladkov said one person was killed and two were injured in an attack on a temporary accommodation center.

And a drone crashed at the Ilsky oil refinery in the Krasnodar region, east of the annexed territory of Crimea, starting a fire in the early hours of Wednesday morning, local officials there said. The blaze was put out soon after.

The incidents come one day after a drone attack on Moscow, for which Russia has blamed Ukraine. All eight aircraft-type unmanned aerial vehicles launched at the Russian capital were destroyed, the Russian Ministry of Defense said in a statement.

Kyiv has not yet commented on the drone attack or on Wednesday’s incidents in Belgorod and Krasnodar. The Ukrainian government generally does not confirm or deny strikes inside Russian territory.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, a drone attack was launched on Russia’s Bryansk region, state news agency RIA Novosti reported. About 10 drones tried to attack the Klimovsky district and were shot down or intercepted, RIA reported citing emergency services.

The string of events – following last week’s incursion on Belgorod by anti-Putin Russians who had been fighting alongside the Ukrainian military – mark a new turn in a conflict that is increasingly coming home to Russian people, 15 months after Moscow launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Strikes have separately hit Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine on Wednesday. Five people were killed and 19 injured in Ukrainian shelling of the village of Karpaty, in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory of Luhansk, the acting head of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic said on Telegram.

And a senior Russian-appointed official in Zaporizhzhia said there has been a series of explosions in Polohy, a Russian-held town close to the frontlines that many observers expect to be targeted in an anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive. Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Russian-formed council of the civil-military administration of Zaporizhzhia, said on Telegram: “It’s loud in Polohy. A series of explosions is heard in town.”

Russia says the situation is ‘rather alarming’

Ukraine has denied involvement in Tuesday’s attack in Moscow, even as one top official made it clear that Russia was getting a taste of its own medicine after months of bombarding Ukrainian cities.

“Of course, we enjoy watching and predicting an increase in attacks,” said Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak. “But of course, we have nothing to do directly with it.”

“In this case, too, by the way, we have not heard a single word of condemnation from anyone from the collective West, so far,” Peskov said. “The situation is rather alarming. Measures are being taken.”

“I woke up from explosions and the sound of shattering glass,” a woman in Belgorod told Russian news outlet Izvestia. “My husband and I jumped up immediately and ran to the bathroom … and now we’re wandering. The city center is all scattered.”

Kirby added that the Biden administration has “been clear, privately and publicly, with the Ukrainians that we don’t support attacks on Russian soil.”

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed Ukraine for the drone attack in the Moscow region, calling it a “clear sign of terrorist activity.” Putin claimed that “Kyiv chose the path of intimidation of Russian citizens and attacks on residential buildings.”

Putin said Tuesday the city’s air defenses worked normally but there was still “work to be done to make it better.” Asked to clarify the Russian president’s remarks, Peskov said: “The system worked effectively, but there is room for improvement. Work will continue to improve the air defense system.”

The Freedom for Russia Legion, a group that claimed responsibility for last week’s raid in Belgorod, posted an “additional” recruitment drive for drone pilots on its Telegram channel following a drone attack on Moscow on Tuesday. The legion, made up of Russian citizens who are fighting in Ukraine against their motherland, joked: “Graduates of the course will have the opportunity to practice their skills.”

But early signals from the West indicated that it had little patience for the Kremlin’s efforts to frame the narrative.

“The ‘Russia is the victim’ argument is so tired and so ridiculous that even the Russian people must see it for what it is – an overused and desperate retort by the Kremlin to try and explain its litany of strategic mistakes that have decimated Russia’s once proud global reputation,” UK military adviser Ian Stubbs said during a Wednesday speech in Vienna.

The incidents come as Ukraine prepares a much-anticipated counter-offensive against Russian forces, and follows days of missile bombardments on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities by Moscow.

On Monday Russia appeared to change its tactics by striking Kyiv with rockets and missiles during the day, hours after a separate wave of strikes overnight.

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