The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region has said two people were killed and four others injured on Friday after Ukraine shelled a town near the border, while officials in nearby regions reported overnight drone attacks.
Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote on Telegram that shelling had struck a section of road in the town of Maslova Pristan, about 15 kilometres from Ukraine’s northern Kharkiv region, and shell fragments had struck passing cars.
“Two women were travelling in one of them. They died from their injuries on the spot,” he said.
In another message posted later on Friday, Mr Gladkov said two more people had been injured and an industrial facility had caught fire after shelling in the town of Shebekino.
Mr Gladkov said more than 2,500 people were being evacuated from the Shebekino area.
The governor of the Bryansk region, north of Belgorod, said four homes had been damaged by shelling, while the head of neighbouring Kursk region said some buildings had been damaged in an overnight drone attack. These reports have not been independently verified.
Ukrainian-backed Russian rebel groups have said they are still fighting inside Russia’s Belgorod region, despite Moscow’s claims on Thursday to have repelled the incursion.
The Freedom of Russia Legion posted videos on social media of combat apparently in the Belgorod village Novaya Tavolzhanka, between the Ukrainian-Russian border and the town of Shebekino, the legion’s stated goal.
Unlike the first major incursion into Belgorod on May 22nd, the rebel group acknowledged it had met stiff resistance. “We have active fighting on the outskirts of the village of Novaya Tavolzhanka. Unfortunately, there are wounded legionnaires but freedom is won through blood,” the legion said in a statement. “All the wounded have already been taken to hospital.”
In the initial raid in May, a second rebel group with far-right links, the Russian Volunteer Corps, claimed to have been involved. This time, the corps put out a video showing two fighters in some woods saying they were doing reconnaissance and that their followers would soon find out their plan.
Russian authorities claimed on Thursday to have repelled the rebel incursion, killing 50 of the raiders but the rebels claimed to be still very much involved in combat on Friday.
Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, ordered an audit of all Ukrainian air raid shelters on Friday as a rift widened with Kyiv’s mayor after the deaths of three people locked out on the street during a Russian attack.
A nine-year-old girl, her mother and another woman were killed by falling debris after rushing to a Kyiv shelter on Thursday morning and finding it was shut. The deaths caused a public outcry and a promise of a harsh response from the Ukrainian president, which appears aimed at Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, a former world champion boxer who has previously clashed with the president.
Mr Zelenskiy said he had ordered Ukraine’s strategic industries minister and his interior minister to conduct a full audit of bomb shelters after saying on Thursday that shelters must be kept accessible and that this was the responsibility of local authorities.
Mr Klitschko acknowledged on Friday that he bore some responsibility but said others were to blame, particularly allies of the president. He said spending on shelters in Kyiv districts, most of which were led by members of Mr Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party, had been “extremely unsatisfactory” and underlined that the city’s military administration was led by a presidential appointee.
In a spat in November, Mr Zelenskiy accused Mr Klitschko of doing a poor job setting up emergency shelters to help people without power and heat.
On Friday morning, local Kyiv officials said Ukrainian air defences shot down more than 30 Russian cruise missiles and drones in Moscow’s sixth air attack in six days.
A 68-year-old man and an 11-year-old child were wounded in the attack, with private houses, outbuildings and cars sustaining damage from falling debris, according to Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office. – Guardian and agencies