Shelling kills 21 in Russian city of Belgorod following Moscow’s aerial attacks across Ukraine

In this photo taken from video released by Russia Emergency Situations Ministry telegram channel on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2023, Firefighters extinguish burning cars after shelling in Belgorod, Russia. Russian officials have accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the Russian border city of Belgorod. Two children were killed in Saturday's attack, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a statement on social media. He also said that an unspecified number of people had been injured. (Russia Emergency Situations Ministry telegram channel via AP)

Shelling in the center of the Russian border city of Belgorod Saturday killed 21 people, including three children, local officials reported.

A further 110 people were wounded in the strike, said regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov, making it one of the deadliest attacks on Russian soil since the start of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine 22 months ago.


Russian authorities accused Kyiv of carrying out the attack, which took place the day after an 18-hour aerial bombardment across Ukraine killed at least 41 civilians.

Images of Belgorod on social media showed burning cars and plumes of black smoke rising among damaged buildings as air raid sirens sounded. One strike hit close to a public ice rink in the very heart of the city, which lies 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of the Ukrainian border and 415 miles (670 kilometers) south of Moscow. While previous attacks have hit the city, they have rarely taken place in daylight and have claimed fewer lives.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said it identified the ammunition used in the strike as Czech-made Vampire rockets and Olkha missiles fitted with cluster-munition warheads. It provided no additional information, and The Associated Press was unable to verify its claims.

“This crime will not go unpunished,” the ministry said in a statement on social media.

The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin had been briefed on the situation, and that the country’s health minister, Mikhail Murashko, was ordered to join a delegation of medical personnel and rescue workers traveling to Belgorod from Moscow.

Russian diplomats also called for a meeting of the U.N. Security Council in connection with the strike. Speaking to Russia’s state news agency, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Britain and the United States were guilty of encouraging Kyiv to carry out what she described as a “terrorist attack.” She also placed blame on EU countries who had supplied Ukraine with weapons.

“Silence in response to the unbridled barbarity of Ukraine’s Nazis and their puppeteers and accomplices from ‘civilized democracies’ will be akin to complicity in their bloody deeds,” the ministry said in a statement.

Earlier Saturday, Moscow officials reported shooting down 32 Ukrainian drones over the country’s Moscow, Bryansk, Oryol, and Kursk regions.

They also reported that cross-border shelling had killed two other people in Russia. A man died and four other people were wounded when a missile struck a private home in the Belgorod region late Friday evening and a 9-year-old was killed in a separate incident in the Bryansk region. Cities across western Russia have come under regular attack from drones since May, with Russian officials blaming Kyiv. Ukrainian officials never acknowledge responsibility for attacks on Russian territory or the Crimean Peninsula. However, larger aerial strikes against Russia have previously followed heavy assaults on Ukrainian cities.

Russian drone strikes against Ukraine continued Saturday, with the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces reporting that 10 Iranian-made Shahed drones had been shot down across the Kherson, Khmelnytskyi, and Mykolaiv regions.

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