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Russia to evacuate 9,000 children from border region after Ukrainian strikes

Around 9,000 children will be evacuated from Russia’s Belgorod Region on the border with Ukraine, following increased attempts by Kiev’s forces to strike targets behind the front line, local Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov announced on Tuesday.

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The first group of 1,200 children will be transported from unsafe areas on March 22 and will be relocated deeper inside Russia to Penza, Tambov, and Kaluga, Gladkov said.

“We are already relocating [people from] a large number of villages. Now we are planning to evacuate about 9,000 children from Belgorod and the surrounding regions, Shebekinsky and Grayvoronsky districts,” he added.

The announcement came a day after President Vladimir Putin said Russia wants to create a buffer zone to protect border regions and civilians from long-range Ukrainian strikes and cross-border raids, which have intensified in recent months.

Civilian areas of Belgorod have been struck with increased frequency in recent weeks. Despite Russian air defenses shooting down large numbers of missiles, 16 people have been killed and 98 wounded over the last week, according to Gladkov.

Around 600 people were in temporary accommodation as of Monday after being evacuated from their homes, the governor added.

On Saturday, Gladkov ordered the closure of shopping malls and schools for several days because of the situation.

Three people, including a teenage boy, were seriously injured on Tuesday following Ukrainian shelling of Belgorod, while the previous day four members of one family died in a missile attack on the village of Nikolskoye, the governor said. The Russian Defense Ministry announced last week that the military had thwarted a Ukrainian incursion in Belgorod and Kursk regions, killing 30 fighters.

School holidays for children from border areas in Belgorod Region will begin on Wednesday, earlier than planned, while colleges and universities will move to online learning, Gladkov announced.

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