Russia accused Ukraine on Friday of conducting its first attack on its territory since President Vladimir Putin dispatched soldiers to Ukraine on February 24. Moscow warned that the helicopter strike on gasoline storage in Belgorod would jeopardize talks. Russia and Ukraine started peace negotiations via video conference on Friday, according to a mediator. ‘We are continuing negotiations via video conference,’ Moscow’s lead negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said on Telegram. ‘Our stance on Crimea and Donbass have not altered.’
The helicopters attacked Rosneft’s gasoline storage facility in Belgorod, around 40 kilometres from the Ukrainian border. ‘A fire broke out at the fuel station as a result of an attack carried out by two Ukrainian army helicopters that invaded Russian territory at a low height,’ Belgorod area governor Vyacheslav Gladkov posted on the messaging app Telegram. The Kremlin quickly made apparent the ramifications of the charge.
Russia’s declaration came on the 37th day of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, which has resulted in thousands of deaths and over 10 million displaced people in Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II. The purported strike occurred after Moscow repeatedly claimed that it had decimated Ukraine’s air force.
The fire injured two employees at the storage facility. According to the emergency ministry, 170 firefighters doused the fire, which erupted at 6 a.m. (0300 GMT). A large fire was roaring, with black and white smoke billowing overhead, according to a video uploaded by the ministry. The facility’s owner, the Russian oil company Rosneft, claimed it had evacuated its employees.
The current negotiations take place just days after Moscow announced a reduction in assaults on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and the city of Chernigiv. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, on the other hand, claimed Russia was consolidating and planning ‘strong attacks’ in the country’s east and south, echoing Western assessments that Moscow soldiers were regrouping. ‘This is part of their strategy,’ Zelenskyy stated in a late-night speech.