Russia accuses Ukraine of helicopter strikes on fuel depot in Russian territory

(CNN) – Russia accused Ukraine of mounting a helicopter attack on a fuel depot inside Russian territory Friday, as footage surfaced of the facility engulfed in flames.

In a statement, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said that the helicopters “entered the airspace of the Russian Federation at extremely low altitude,” at 5 a.m. Moscow time and “launched a missile attack on a civilian oil storage facility located on the outskirts of Belgorod.”

As a result, “individual tanks were damaged and caught fire,” spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said, adding that the depot “has nothing to do with Russian armed forces.”

CNN could not verify the Russian claims.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has neither confirmed nor denied the attack. Russia has hit fuel storage facilities around Ukraine in recent days.

“I would like to emphasize that Ukraine is performing a defensive operation against Russian aggression on the territory of Ukraine,” Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, spokesman for Ukraine’s defense ministry, said in a televised statement Friday.

“That doesn’t mean Ukraine has to be responsible for every miscalculation or event or catastrophe that occurred on the territory of the Russian Federation. This is not the first time we are witnessing such accusations. Therefore, I will neither confirm nor deny this information.”

CNN geolocated and verified social media videos showing two helicopters flying over the Russian city of Belgorod, near the Ukrainian border, but cannot confirm the helicopters are Ukrainian.

In one video, they are spotted during an attack on a fuel storage facility. The video, which was shot at a distance of about 1,800 feet (550 meters) from the facility, shows multiple strikes and a subsequent fire in the distance.
The Belgorod region — which is on the road from Moscow to Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv — has been a hub of fuel supplies that have powered Russia’s invasion of of Ukraine.
The ensuing fire “engulfed fuel reservoirs” at the facility, Russian state media outlet TASS reported, citing the ministry of emergency situations.

About 16,000 cubic meters (3.52 million gallons) of fuel were on fire, encompassing eight tanks with 2,000 cubic meters of fuel each, Russian state media outlet Ria Novosti reported, citing emergency services, and there was the possibility that the fire could spread to another eight tanks.

Two employees of the depot were injured in the fire but their lives were not in danger, Belgorod’s regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on his Telegram channel earlier Friday. Residents in the vicinity of the depot were being evacuated but there was no threat to the population of the city, he added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been informed about the alleged strike, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday, warning that the incident could hinder ongoing negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow.

“The president was informed about Belgorod,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters. “You know that the ministry of emergency situations was sent there. Steps are being taken to reorganize fuel supply points so that what happened in no case affects the level of supply of all necessary types of fuel.”

The Russian military has claimed air superiority over Ukraine.

“Air superiority during an operation is an absolute fact,” Peskov said. “And as for what happened, it probably should not be us giving out assessments, but our law enforcement agencies.”

CNN’s Gianluca Mezzofiore, Katie Polglase and Celine Alkhaldi contributed to this report.


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