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Ukraine shells Russian village – governor

Ukrainian forces have now shelled three villages in Russia’s Belgorod region, governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Thursday. The region is under a state of emergency and the villages near the Ukrainian border are being evacuated. The attacks caused damage to buildings and wounded an unspecified number of civilians.

“Our village of Zhuravlevka was shelled from the Ukrainian side,” Gladkov said on Telegram. “There is damage to homes and community buildings.”

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Gladkov initially said he had “no information about injuries or deaths,” but later revealed that there were wounded among the residents.

Zhuravlevka is near the border between Russia and Ukraine. Two other border villages, Spodaryushino and Bezymeno, also came under artillery fire earlier on Thursday. Residents were evacuated and there were no reported injuries.

Also on Thursday, authorities in the Bryansk region – also bordering Ukraine – reported two attacks. Two Ukrainian helicopters allegedly launched rockets at the village of Klimovo, some 40 km north of the border, shortly after noon. The attack injured seven civilians, including a child. 

A short while later, Ukrainian mortars opened fire on a group of 30 or so refugees attempting to cross into Russia at a checkpoint south of Klimovo. Two civilian cars were damaged, but no one was injured, Russian border guards said.

The series of artillery and air attacks comes after the Russian Defense Ministry warned Ukraine against such actions. Bringing up unspecified incidents of sabotage and attacks inside Russia, the ministry’s spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said the Russian armed forces will “strike at the decision-making centers, including Kiev – something we have so far refrained from,” if the attacks continue. 

Calling it a goodwill gesture to promote peace talks, Russia had withdrawn its troops from the Kiev, Chernigov and Sumy regions of Ukraine at the end of March. At this point, however, Ukrainian forces launched attacks into Russia – targeting a military encampment near Belgorod on March 29 and sending helicopters to strike a nearby civilian fuel storage facility several days later.

Russia attacked its neighbor in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, signed in 2014, and Moscow’’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered Minsk Protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.

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