A few days after the bombardment of the Russian border region of Belgorod, which left more than 20 dead, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced further retaliatory attacks on neighbouring Ukraine.
“Surely you have noticed that literally the next day such attacks were carried out,” he said on New Year’s Day at a meeting with injured Russian soldiers in a Moscow military hospital.
“And more are being carried out today, and we will do so tomorrow as well.” In his first reaction to the bombardment of Belgorod last Saturday, Putin also spoke of an “act of terrorism” by the Ukrainian army.
However, in his speech, which was broadcast by state media, Putin did not mention that this barrage was preceded by the most serious wave of Russian attacks against Ukraine since the start of the war.
According to Ukrainian reports, more than 45 people were killed last Friday, partly because residential areas came under fire in many places.
Nevertheless, during his meeting with the soldiers, Putin repeated the common Russian propaganda claim that its own army was allegedly only targeting military sites in Ukraine.
With 24 dead and more than 100 injured, the attack on Belgorod was the first time that Russia had suffered such a high number of civilian casualties in its two-year war on Ukraine. However, this still bears no relation to the number of victims in Ukraine.
The background to the attack on Belgorod also remains unclear. There was no official reaction from Kiev, and some Ukrainian media, citing intelligence sources, wrote that the Russian air defence may not have been accurate. There were also numerous complaints from Belgorod citizens that bomb shelters had been locked during the attack, making them inaccessible.
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