Russia blames Ukraine for deadly attacks in border town.jpgw1440

Russia blames Ukraine for deadly attacks in border town – The Washington Post

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At least 18 people were killed and more than 100 injured in a combined rocket and rocket attack on Belgorod, a city in Russia near the Ukrainian border, Russian authorities said on Saturday. They blamed the Ukrainian military for the attack and vowed retaliation for the deaths.

“This crime will not go unpunished,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement, calling the attacks “indiscriminate.”

If confirmed, the attack would be one of the deadliest inside Russia since the invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago. It came as Ukraine was still reeling from the massive drone and missile fire Russia fired at civilian targets and infrastructure on Friday.

The bombing, one of the largest of the conflict, killed 39 people and injured 159, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday. He said the attacks hit 120 towns and villages and called on Ukraine's allies to keep arms flowing to Kiev, which has struggled in recent months to retake territory captured by Russia.

“We cannot delay helping those who oppose terror,” he said. “We all have to defeat terror together.”

Russia destroys the Christmas season in Ukraine with massive rocket fire

Ukrainian officials have not publicly commented on Saturday's attack and rarely, if ever, claim responsibility for attacks inside Russia. But in a speech late Friday, Zelensky said Ukraine would “respond to any attack against Russian terrorists.”

“We will continue to strengthen our air defense,” he said. “And work to push the war back to where it came from – home to Russia.”

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday that Czech Vampire rockets and Olcha rockets armed with cluster munitions had been fired in Belgorod, about 29 kilometers from the Ukrainian border. According to the ministry, anti-aircraft units intercepted 13 of the rockets and missiles.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Saturday that Russian President Vladimir Putin had been informed of the attack. The State Department also said it had requested a U.N. Security Council meeting to address the attacks.

There were also three children killed in Belgorod on Saturday, according to Russian Children's Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova, while five children remain in critical condition. On Telegram, Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said there were casualties after a residential area was hit.

In an evening video address, Gladkov said that local government and emergency teams were working around the clock to deal with the impact of the attack and that all public events in the region would be canceled ahead of the New Year holidays.

“The attack by the Ukrainian army today has caused the most serious consequences in the last two years,” Gladkov said in his speech. “To all the families of the victims; I understand that there are no words that can comfort this grief… the enemy will not be able to escape retribution.”

Saying that the Russian army was working “on the other side,” Gladkov apparently launched a retaliatory missile attack on the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, 44 miles south of Belgorod. According to Kharkiv Oblast Governor Oleh Syniehubov, rockets hit the Kharkiv Palace hotel and a residential building in the city center, injuring at least 19 people.

Videos circulating online after the attack showed thick, black smoke rising from exploded cars in the city center. Bodies could be seen on the ground and people in the footage were seen running from the scene in panic.

Belgorod and surrounding regions bordering Ukraine have come under near-constant shelling and frequent drone attacks over the past year, but civilian casualties are rare.

“Today a tragedy occurred in Belgorod. As a result of the attack by Ukrainian terrorists, peaceful civilians and children were killed, there were many victims… what happened is simply outrageous,” Alexander Bogomaz, governor of the nearby Bryansk region, which also borders Ukraine, wrote in a Telegram post.

On Saturday, Russia's Investigative Committee said it had opened a criminal case to investigate the attack, including on charges of murder, attempted murder and destruction of property.

Ebel reported from London.