A fire at a munitions depot near the Russian village of Timonovo has led to the evacuation of two villages in Russia’s Belgorod region on Ukraine’s northeastern border, an official said on Friday.
The blaze was the latest in a series of destructive incidents on Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine or inside Russia itself.
Roughly 1,100 people reside in the villages of Timonovo and Soloti, around 15 miles (25 kilometres) from the Ukrainian border. There were no casualties in the blaze late Thursday, Belgorod regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said.
The fire came days after another ammunition depot exploded on the Crimean Peninsula, a Russian-occupied territory on the Black Sea that was annexed by Moscow in 2014.
Last week, nine Russian warplanes were reported destroyed at an airbase on Crimea, demonstrating both the Russians’ vulnerability and the Ukrainians’ capacity to strike deep behind enemy lines.
Ukrainian authorities have stopped short of publicly claiming responsibility.
But President Volodymyr Zelenskyy alluded to Ukrainian attacks behind enemy lines after the blasts in Crimea, which Russia has blamed on “sabotage”.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in televised remarks on Friday that statements from Ukrainian officials about striking facilities in Crimea mark “an escalation of the conflict openly encouraged by the United States and its NATO allies.” Ryabkov said Russian officials had warned the US against such actions in phone calls with high-level members of the Biden administration, adding that “deep and open US involvement” in the war in Ukraine ”effectively puts the US on the brink of becoming a party to the conflict.“ “We don’t want an escalation,” Ryabkov said. ”We would like to avoid a situation where the US becomes a party to the conflict, but so far we haven’t seen their readiness to deeply and seriously consider those warnings.” Meanwhile, Kyiv and Moscow continued to accuse each other of shelling Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, stoking international fears of a catastrophe on the continent.
On Friday, Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, accused the US of encouraging Ukrainian attacks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.
The facility has been controlled by Russian forces since shortly after the invasion began on February 24.
“In case of a technological disaster, its consequences will be felt in every corner of the world,” Patrushev said. “Washington, London and their accomplices will bear full responsibility for that.” Ukraine has accused Russia of storing troops and weapons at the Zaporizhzhia plant and using its grounds to launch strikes against Ukrainian-controlled territory.
Ukrainian officials and military analysts say Moscow’s forces have cynically employed the plant as a shield, knowing that the Ukrainians would be hesitant to fire back.
Russia has denied the accusations and, in turn, accused Ukrainian forces of repeatedly shelling the plant.
Yevgeny Balitsky, the Moscow-backed chief of temporary administration for the Russia-controlled part of the Zaporizhzhia region, said on Friday that a mission from the International Atomic Energy Agency could approach the plant from Ukrainian-held territory, a shift in Moscow’s position which previously had suggested that the IAEA mission should travel to the plant from Crimea.
“I believe they may also come from the side of Ukraine,” Balitsky said in televised remarks. “We can safely bring them to the plant and show where the fire is coming from and who is shooting.” Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian envoy to international organisations in Vienna where the IAEA is based, said he believes a visit by the agency could realistically take place in early September.
IN OTHER DEVELOPMENTS: — UN Secretary-General António Guterres visited a port in the coastal Ukrainian city of Odessa, where he praised ongoing efforts to maintain a shipping corridor on the Black Sea allowing for the export of vital Ukrainian grain shipments.
Guterres said that 25 ships have departed from Odessa and other Ukrainian ports since Russia and Ukraine signed a four-month grain export deal in July.
Those ships have carried over 600,000 tons of grain and other food supplies like wheat, corn, sunflower oil and soy beans, Guterres said, adding that getting more food and fertiliser out of Ukraine and Russia is crucial to further calm global commodity markets and lower prices.
Gutteres also urged unimpeded access to global markets of Russian food and fertiliser, which aren’t subject to sanctions. “Without fertiliser in 2022, there may not be enough food in 2023,” he said.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)