Ukrainian shelling kills five, drone sparks fire at refinery–Russian officials
MOSCOW/KYIV — Ukrainian shelling killed five people in a village in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, Moscow-installed officials said on Wednesday, while a drone attack caused a fire at an oil refinery in southern Russia.
Ukrainian artillery also hit a Russian town close to the border for the third time in a week, damaging buildings and vehicles and injuring four people, Russian officials said.
A day after the Kremlin accused Kyiv of sending drones to attack buildings in Moscow, Russian-installed officials in Luhansk said five people were killed and 19 wounded when Ukrainian forces used U.S.-made HIMARS rocket launchers to attack a farm in Karpaty village overnight.
Russian forces control nearly all of the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian artillery also struck the Russian town of Shebekino about 7 km (4.5 miles) north of the border with Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on the Telegram messaging app.
Two people were hospitalized and shells smashed windows and damaged roofs of an eight-story apartment building, four homes, a school, he said.
Reuters was not able to independently verify the reports. There was no immediate response from Ukraine and both sides deny targeting civilians.
The governor of Russia’s southern Krasnodar region said a drone was the likely cause of a fire that broke out at the Afipsky oil refinery.
The fire was put out and there were no casualties, Governor Veniamin Kondratyev said on Telegram. The Afipsky refinery is not far from the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, near another refinery that has been attacked several times this month.
There was no immediate information on who launched the drone but Moscow has accused Kyiv of increased attacks inside Russia in recent weeks, while Russia has repeatedly pounded Ukrainian cities with drones and missiles.
The skies over Ukraine were relatively quiet on Tuesday night, with no major air raids reported after waves of attacks over the previous 24 hours. Russian drone strikes killed one person and wounded four in Kyiv on Tuesday, according to Ukrainian officials.
The attacks in Russia come as Ukraine prepares a counter-offensive in the hope of driving Russian forces out of territory they have occupied since their full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Ukraine almost never publicly claims responsibility for attacks in Russia or on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine.
Ukrainian drones struck wealthy districts of Moscow on Tuesday, Russia said, in what one politician called the most dangerous attack on the capital since World War Two. Kyiv was also hit from the air for the third time in 24 hours.
Air attacks by both sides have intensified as a stalemate endures on the ground with Russian forces entrenched along an extended line in Ukraine’s east and south.
The Russian defence ministry said eight drones sent to Moscow by Ukraine and targeting civilians were shot down or diverted with electronic jammers, though Baza, a Telegram channel with links to the security services, said there were more than 25.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential aide, denied Kyiv was directly involved but said “we are pleased to watch events” and forecast more such strikes.
Two people were injured while some apartment blocks were briefly evacuated, according to Moscow’s mayor. Residents said they heard loud bangs followed by the smell of petrol. Some filmed a drone being shot down and a plume of smoke.
The drones targeted some of Moscow’s most prestigious districts including where Russian President Vladimir Putin and other members of the elite have homes.
Putin said Ukraine’s biggest drone strike on Moscow was an attempt to frighten and provoke Russia, and that air defences around the capital would be strengthened.
Civilian targets in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities have since the earliest days of the war been struck repeatedly by Russian drones and missiles.
But Tuesday marked only the second time Moscow had come under direct fire.
The White House said it was gathering information on the reports of drone strikes in Moscow.
“We do not support attacks inside of Russia. That’s it. Period,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a briefing.
Washington is a major supplier of weaponry to Ukraine on the condition it uses it to defend itself and to retake Ukrainian territory occupied by Russian forces.
Russia’s ambassador to the United States accused Washington of encouraging “terrorists” in Kyiv by publicly ignoring the drone attack.
One of the southern places Russian forces have controlled since just after they invaded is the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, and on Tuesday the chief of the U.N. nuclear watchdog asked Ukraine and Russia to respect five principles to safeguard it.
International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi said there should be no attack on or from Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant and it should not be used as a base for heavy weapons and other military equipment.