Russia saw the effects of its war with Ukraine dramatically echoed back into its own territory on Wednesday, after a “massive” shooting attack wounded four people in Belgorod and preliminary information indicated a drone had crashed and set fire to an oil refinery in the south.
Eight apartment buildings, four houses, a school and two administrative buildings were damaged during shelling in Shebekino, a village in the border region of Belgorod, its governor said, as the oblast increasingly became a hotbed of stray violence.
The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said there was more shelling somewhere along the border later Wednesday, which he blamed on Ukrainian forces.
Speaking in a live broadcast, he said that an industrial plant near the city of Shebekino was hit. “The situation in Shebekino is not getting better,” Gladkov said in a live broadcast. “There is a rebellion in Shebekino, there is a fire in one of the industrial enterprises.”
Earlier on Tuesday night, Gladkov said one person was killed and two were wounded in an attack on a temporary accommodation center.
And a the drone crashed at the Ilsky oil refinery in the Krasnodar region, east of the annexed territory of Crimea, which started a fire in the early hours of Wednesday morning, local officials there said. The fire was immediately extinguished.
The incidents come a day after a drone attack in Moscow, which Russia blamed on Ukraine. All eight aircraft-type unmanned aerial vehicles launched at the Russian capital were destroyed, the Russian Ministry of Defense said in a statement.
Kyiv has not yet commented on the drone attack or on Wednesday’s incidents in Belgorod and Krasnodar. The Ukrainian government generally neither confirms nor denies strikes inside Russian territory.
Check out this interactive content on CNN.com
Elsewhere on Wednesday, a drone attack was launched in Russia’s Bryansk region, state news agency RIA Novosti reported. About 10 drones tried to attack the Klimovsky district and were shot down or intercepted, RIA reported citing emergency services.
The string of events – follows attack last week in Belgorod by anti-Putin Russians fighting alongside the Ukrainian military – mark a new turn in a conflict that is increasingly home to Russians, 15 months after Moscow launched its surprise invasion of Ukraine.
Separate strikes hit Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine on Wednesday. Five people were killed and 19 wounded in Ukrainian shelling in the village of Karpaty, in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory of Luhansk, the acting head of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic told Telegram.
And a senior Russian-appointed official in Zaporizhzhia said there had been a series of explosions in Polohy, a Russian-held town near the frontlines that many observers expect to be targeted in an expected counteroffensive by Ukrainian. Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Russian-formed council of Zaporizhzhia’s civil-military administration, told Telegram: “It’s noisy in Polohy. One explosion after another is heard in the town.”
Governor of Belgorod Oblast of Russia
The photos released by the governor of Belgorod clearly show the result of shelling in the region.
Ukraine has denied involvement in Tuesday’s attack in Moscow, though a top official made it clear that Russia was getting a taste of its own medicine after months of bombing Ukrainian cities.
“Of course, we enjoy watching and predicting the increase in attacks,” said Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak. “But of course, we have nothing to do with it directly.”
Russian officials reacted on Wednesday with a predictable range of anger. Regarding the situation in Belgorod, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN in a regular call with reporters on Wednesday: “We are really worried about this situation, the shelling of civilian objects continues there.”
“In this case, also, by the way, we haven’t heard a single word of condemnation from anyone from the collective West, so far,” said Peskov. “The situation is quite alarming. Steps are being taken.”
A damaged multi-storey apartment following a reported drone attack in Moscow on Tuesday.
“I woke up from explosions and the sound of breaking glass,” a woman in Belgorod told Russian news outlet Izvestia. “My wife and I immediately jumped up and ran to the bathroom … and now we’re wandering around. The city center is all scattered.”
White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told CNN on Wednesday that the US is not sure who coordinated the drone incursions. “We’re still trying to get information out here and develop some kind of sense of what happened… but I can’t tell you that we have any definitive information at this point.”
Kirby added that the Biden administration “has been clear, privately and publicly, to Ukrainians that we do not support attacks on Russian soil.”
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed Ukraine for the drone attack in the Moscow region, calling it a “clear sign of terrorist activity.” Putin said that “Kyiv has chosen the path of terrorizing Russian citizens and attacking residential buildings.”
Putin said on Tuesday that the city’s air defenses functioned normally but there was still “work to be done to improve it.” When asked to clarify the statements of the Russian president, Peskov said: “The system worked effectively, but there is room for improvement. The work will continue to improve the air defense system.”
The Freedom for Russia Legion, a group that claimed responsibility for last week’s attack in Belgorod, posted an “additional” recruitment drive for drone pilots on its Telegram channel following the drone attack in Moscow on Tuesday. The legion, made up of Russian citizens fighting in Ukraine against their motherland, joked: “Those who complete the course will have the opportunity to practice their skills.”
But early signs from the West indicate it has little patience for the Kremlin’s efforts to frame the narrative.
“The argument that ‘Russia is the victim’ is so tired and ridiculous that even the Russian people should see it for what it is – an overused and desperate answer by the Kremlin to try and explain away the litany of strategic mistake that destroyed Russia’s once proud global reputation,” UK military adviser Ian Stubbs said in a speech on Wednesday in Vienna.
The incidents come as Ukraine prepares an expected counter-offensive against Russian forces, and follows days of missile bombing of Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities by Moscow.
On Monday, Russia appeared to change its tactics by hitting Kyiv with rockets and missiles during the day, hours after a separate wave of strikes overnight.