According to the local governor, two Ukrainian helicopters attacked and set fire to an oil storage depot in a Russian city just north of Ukraine, causing the depot to catch fire.
A video posted on Twitter shows a fire near apartment buildings in Belgorod, which is around 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Ukrainian border.
Rockets appear to be striking the oil stockpile in some of the footage.
Until now, however, Ukrainian aircraft have not attacked targets in Russian airspace. Despite Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov’s assertion, Ukrainian officials have not corroborated it.
According to the spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, Ukraine was also responsible for the fire and that the incident “cannot be seen as establishing acceptable conditions for resuming the negotiations” with Kiev. So yet, there has been little progress in those peace negotiations.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Russian government, said the authorities were doing everything they could to reorganize the fuel delivery system and avoid a breakdown of energy supplies in Belgorod.
Located immediately north of Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv, which has been brutally shelled by Russian artillery and is surrounded by Russian forces, the city of 370,000 people has a population of 370,000 people.
The governor stated in a Telegram message that “there was a fire at the oil depot as a result of an air strike carried out by two Ukrainian army helicopters that entered Russian territory at a low height.” The governor added that “There were no fatalities,” he continued.
He stated that firefighters were attempting to bring the blaze under control as quickly as possible and that there was “no threat” to residences. The video of the blaze was shared on Telegram by the Ministry of Emergencies.
Residents in the surrounding area were evacuated, and two individuals were hurt at the depot, according to the Russian news agency Interfax. According to the report, eight fuel tanks were on fire, and over 200 firefighters were dispatched to the area. The depot is operated by the Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft.
In the aftermath, long lines of cars formed at local gas stations, but Mr Gladkov claimed that fuel supplies in Belgorod were still adequate.
According to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, the fire in three of the tanks has been put out, but there is still a possibility of the fire spreading.
An ammo store near Belgorod was alleged to have been the site of numerous explosions on March 29th.
It is unclear whether Ukraine will claim responsibility for this attack, but if it does, it would mark the first time that a Ukrainian aircraft has flown into Russian airspace in order to hit a specific target. Bringing the war back to its homeland.
In order to avoid being identified by military radar and air defense systems, Ukrainian helicopter pilots have amassed a great deal of skill flying low and quickly. Exactly this has been going on for years in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where they have a military presence. In 2018, I had the opportunity to watch and experience the incredible abilities of Ukrainian military pilots, who were flying only a few metres over the tree line and telegraph poles.
Although there has been no confirmation of these unsubstantiated stories, launching an attack on an enemy fuel store at night, deep into Russian territory, needed exceptional courage, as well as highly developed flying skills.
Low-flying helicopters are still vulnerable to short-range air defense systems, despite improvements in technology. Flying at night might have reduced that risk, but it would have increased the possibility of hitting an object close to the ground.
The Mi-24, often known as the Hind helicopter, is referred to as the “flying tank.” Its rockets would have been the weapon used to take out the oil store in Belgorod, Russia, if that had been the case.
This purported attack will not have a significant impact on the outcome of the conflict. However, it might demonstrate that Ukraine has managed to keep its air force operational and provide a significant boost to the morale of the country’s military.
Yury Butusov, a well-known Ukrainian journalist in Kyiv, claimed on Facebook that the missile attack occurred at 05:50 local time (02:50 GMT) and was carried out by “two Ukrainian Mi-24 combat helicopters, which flew from Ukraine to Russian Belgorod over low altitudes, inconspicuous for Russian anti-aircraft defense.”
Mr. Vladimir Soloviev, anchor of a pro-Kremlin current affairs program on Russian state television, asked the following question via Twitter: “I have a question. What organization is in charge of the air defenses at Belgorod? Have the helicopters’ bases, from which this strike was launched, been demolished or destroyed? When is a safe zone going to be established in the Belgorod region?”