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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

More than a dozen explosions echo in Belgorod, just across the border from Ukraine

By Megan Specia and Ivan Nechepurenko

Several strikes hit the Russian region of Belgorod near the Ukrainian border Sunday, wounding at least three people, according to local officials, and renewing questions about the security of an area that has been a key supply route for Russian troops in the war.

It was not immediately clear what caused the blasts. Ukrainian officials did not comment, in keeping with an official policy of near-total silence surrounding explosions in Russian territory.

But they appeared to be part of an uptick in attacks in Belgorod, which shares a border with Kharkiv, the northeastern region of Ukraine that Ukrainian forces retook last month in a rapid offensive that began weeks of setbacks for Russian forces.

Belgorod has served as an important staging ground for Russia’s invasion, and Moscow continues to train soldiers there. On Saturday, two men opened fire on Russian soldiers at a training camp in the region, killing 11 and wounding 15, before being killed themselves, according to state-run news outlets.

Several attacks in recent days have targeted Russian-held areas far from the front lines, including in the occupied city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, where explosions hit an administrative building Sunday, and most prominently on Russia’s bridge to occupied Crimea, which was damaged by a blast last weekend. Russia blamed Ukraine for the attacks.

On Sunday, some 16 explosions were heard in the Belgorod region, RIA Novosti, a Russian state news agency, reported. At least three people were injured in an artillery strike, Vyacheslav Gladkov, the regional governor, said in a statement on Telegram, the social messaging app.

Gladkov posted photos that showed shattered glass and scattered debris in what appeared to be a residential area. The images could not immediately be verified. Two injured men were hospitalized with shrapnel wounds, and one woman was treated on-site, Gladkov said.

The city of Belgorod, the regional capital, which has a population of 400,000 and lies just 50 miles from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, increasingly finds itself a target in the conflict across the border, undermining Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to distance the Russian people from the war. Colleges and businesses have conducted evacuation drills, local officials have evacuated towns and villges that have come under shelling, and thousands of people from Ukraine have crossed the border to flee fighting, especially amid the recent Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Sunday was the fourth successive day that strikes have been reported in the area. On Thursday, a rocket hit an apartment building in Razumnoe, a town southeast of the city of Belgorod, without causing injuries, according to state-run media. The following day, Gladkov said, a Ukrainian strike hit a power station.

On Saturday, state-run news agency Tass reported that a fuel depot in Razumnoe was shelled and caught fire. Gladkov posted a photo to Telegram showing thick black smoke and flames rising over a building.

“We’re getting bombed again,” he wrote.

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