An oil depot in the western Russian city of Belgorod, near the Ukrainian border, was destroyed in an airstrike Russia has attributed to Ukraine.
At least two attack helicopters were caught on video firing missiles at the depot before it exploded. The strike comes after more than a month after Russian forces invaded Ukraine.
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the Russian gas depot was hit in the strike, in comments to Russia’s state-run TASS news agency and other media outlets. Peskov attributed the attack to Ukraine, and said, “Clearly, it’s not what could create conditions for further talks.”
More videos taken in the Belgorod area on Thursday night showed the missiles being fired at the fuel depot.
Witnesses also captured footage of the suspected Ukrainian Hind attack helicopters leaving the area after the strike, flying away fast and low as the light of the fire could be seen in the distance.
Belgorod is situated just 20 miles from the Russian-Ukrainian border. According to the New York Times, the Friday attack was the first time Russia has reported a Ukrainian airstrike on its side of the border since the war began. The Ukrainian side has not yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
The fire at the Belgorod fuel depot continued to burn for hours on Friday.
TASS reported around 1,200 people living in the vicinity of the fuel depot were evacuated.
Two people were injured in the attack, according to Belgorod Regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov.
Another explosion took place at a suspected ammunition depot near Belgorod earlier this week. Around the same time, TASS reported a Ukrainian artillery strike landed near a temporary military camp in the area. It was not immediately clear if this reported strike on the military camp was part of a larger attack that resulted in the explosion at the suspected ammunition depot.
As New York Times noted, the strike comes a week after Russian military leaders assessed Russian forces had “practically destroyed” Ukraine’s air forces. Russia now attributing the Belgorod explosion to a Ukrainian airstrike would appear to cut against their earlier assessment of success against Ukraine’s air forces. On Friday, Peskov still insisted Russia’s air superiority in Ukraine remains “an absolute fact.”
TASS further reported that firefighters had contained the blaze, which had engulfed half of the fuel tanks at the facility.
Photos taken in the area purported to show pieces of an S-8 rocket. The rocket is a Soviet-era design and is used by both Russia and Ukraine.
Despite the damage at the fuel depot, Gladkov insisted gas stations in the area continue to operate normally and the Belgorod region can receive gas from the nearby Kursk and Voronezh Regions if the need should arise.