War in Ukraine live updates: Ukraine won't deny it struck a Russian oil depot

Published April 1, 2022 at 7:54 AM EDT
An image of damage after what Russian officials called a Ukrainian helicopter hit on an oil refinery in Belgorod, Russia, on Friday.
Anadolu Agency
via Getty Images
An image of damage after what Russian officials called a Ukrainian helicopter hit on an oil refinery in Belgorod, Russia, on Friday.

Russian officials said Friday that Ukrainian helicopters struck anoil depot in the Russian city of Belgorod, about 20 miles from the border with Ukraine. Ukraine refused to confirm or deny the report

Here's what else we're following today:

In Chernobyl: Russian troops leaving the area of the defunct nuclear power plant likely suffered radiation exposure, Ukraine said.

In Mariupol: The humanitarian relief team that was planning to evacuate civilians today was unable to reach the besieged city and will try again tomorrow, officials said.

Zelenskyy removes two generals: The Ukrainian president has stripped two of his generals of their rank, calling them "traitors" and "antiheroes."


Today's planned humanitarian evacuations from Mariupol aren't happening

Posted April 1, 2022 at 1:35 PM EDT

The humanitarian relief team that was planning to evacuate civilians from Mariupol today was unable to reach the besieged city and will try again tomorrow, officials said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said its staff had to return to Zaporizhzhia "after arrangements and conditions made it impossible to proceed." It had sent a team of three vehicles and nine personnel.

"For the operation to succeed, it is critical that the parties respect the agreements and provide the necessary conditions and security guarantees," it said without elaborating — though the announcement comes after Russia said that Ukrainian forces had struck an oil depot in Russian territory, a claim that Ukraine refused to either confirm or deny.

The ICRC said its staff would make another attempt at evacuations on Saturday, and explained that "if and when" the operation does come to pass, its role as a neutral intermediary would be to accompany the convoy from Mariupol to its destination.

"Our presence will put a humanitarian marker on this planned movement of people, giving the convoy additional protection and reminding all sides of the civilian, humanitarian nature of the operation," it added. "The parties to the conflict would also need to fulfil the agreements reached to allow for this operation to happen."

Getting personal

Gerard Depardieu slams Putin’s war in Ukraine, and the Kremlin offers to give him a lesson

Posted April 1, 2022 at 12:24 PM EDT
A Jan. 5, 2013, photo shows French actor Gerard Depardieu, left, meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Putin's residence in Sochi. Depardieu has Russian citizenship, but the Kremlin is displeased with his recent criticisms of the war in Ukraine.
Mikhail Klimentyev
AFP via Getty Images
A 2013 photo shows French actor Gerard Depardieu, left, meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Putin's residence in Sochi. Depardieu has Russian citizenship, but the Kremlin is displeased with his recent criticisms of the war in Ukraine.

The Kremlin is offering to give actor Gerard Depardieu an explanation of Russia’s relationship with Ukraine after Depardieu sharply criticized Russia’s invasion.

Depardieu, who has previously been friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putin, caught Moscow’s attention with his latest remarks on Ukraine. Early in the war, he merely called for negotiations between “brother countries.” On Thursday, he went further.

"The Russian people are not responsible for the crazy, unacceptable excesses of their leaders like Vladimir Putin," Depardieu told Agence France-Presse.

Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, delivered an icy response, noting that the actor had mentioned the president by name.

Peskov told journalists that he assumes Depardieu doesn’t fully understand what Russia is doing in Ukraine. He said that if it’s necessary, the Kremlin will explain all of it to Depardieu to make sure he understands — adding, “If he wants to.”

Russian State Duma Deputy Sultan Khamzaev also spoke out, saying Depardieu had spoken out of turn. He added that the Kremlin should punish the actor by withdrawing his passport, and his real estate holdings in Russia should be given to charity, according to state-owned news agency RIA Novosti.

Depardieu was granted Russian citizenship by Putin personally in 2013 after the movie star said he would renounce his French citizenship over a hike in income taxes for the wealthy. Last year, he was also accused of rape and sexual assault in France, stemming from an incident in 2018.

After his spat with France over its taxes, Depardieu was seen alongside Putin, as well as Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov — another controversial figure who is tightly linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It’s not clear whether Depardieu ever fully renounced his citizenship, but in 2018, he voted in Russia’s presidential election by casting a ballot at the Russian Embassy in Paris. He had previously stated his support for reelecting Putin, calling him “just the right kind of man that Russia needs."

Information war

Russia threatens Wikipedia with a fine if it doesn't remove its page about the war

Posted April 1, 2022 at 11:52 AM EDT
The backlit keys of a computer keyboard.
Chris Delmas
AFP via Getty Images
Russia's communications regulator is threatening to fine Google and Wikipedia for not removing what it describes as misinformation about the war in Ukraine.

The Russian government is threatening to fine Wikipedia if it doesn't remove content that contradicts its narrative about the war in Ukraine.

Communications regulator Roskomnadzor announced on Thursday that it had asked the online encyclopedia to remove a page containing "unreliable socially significant materials, as well as other prohibited information" about its operations in Ukraine. It accused the site of intentionally misinforming Russian users.

It said it will fine Wikipedia up to 4 million rubles, or nearly $47,000, for failing to remove those materials, which are illegal under Russian law.

Russia enacted legislation last month that criminalizes war reporting that doesn't echo the Kremlin's version of events — including by calling it a war. The law has forced most of Russia's remaining independent news outlets to close and many journalists to leave the country for fear of facing up to 15 years in prison.

The Wikipedia page in question describes the history and context of the war, as well as specific military operations, casualties and humanitarian impact, human rights violations, legal proceedings, international reaction, economic consequences and media depictions.

Roskomnadzor's announcement came just days after its second warning to Wikipedia, Newsweek reports. The agency said on Monday that the article contained "inaccurate information about the special military operation to protect the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics for the de-militarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine," including the use of the words war, aggression and invasion.

The Wikimedia Foundation (which owns and operates the encyclopedia) said last month that on March 1 it had received a Russian government demand to remove content related to the invasion that was posted by volunteer contributors to Russian Wikipedia.

It said the takedown request "threatened censorship," and that denying people access to reliable information at a time of crisis could have "life-altering consequences." As of March 3, they said the English-language version of the page had been viewed more than 11 million times, and articles about the war had been created in more than 99 languages.

The information on Wikipedia is sourced and shared by volunteers, who the foundation says invest time and effort to make sure content is "fact-based and reliable." It added that Ukrainian volunteers were continuing to make additions and edits to the encyclopedia even as the war on their country unfolded.

"Wikipedia is an important source of reliable, factual information in this crisis," the foundation wrote. "In recognition of this important role, we will not back down in the face of efforts to censor and intimidate members of our movement. We stand by our mission to deliver free knowledge to the world."

Wikipedia isn't the only information platform facing such a request from Roskomnadzor. Just days ago, the agency warned it would fine Google up to 8 million rubles (more than $94,000) for not following its orders to remove YouTube videos to which it objected.


Georgia says it's sanctioning Russia after all, a departure from previous statements

Posted April 1, 2022 at 11:10 AM EDT
A woman wearing a red vest and scarf tied around her neck sits in front of a Mac computer, with red and white flags behind her.
Daro Sulakauri
Getty Images
Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili in her office last month in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Georgian officials say the country is participating in Western sanctions against Russia, weeks after declaring that such a move could put its people at risk.

President Salome Zourabichvili has been outspoken about Georgia's need to provide more support for Ukraine, a position that has put her at odds with members of her country's governing political party. The leaders are all wary of provoking Russia, which invaded Georgia in 2008 and still occupies two breakaway regions (one of which, South Ossetia, said yesterday that it's planning a referendum on joining the Russian Federation).

Georgia is not in NATO, so wouldn't be protected under Article 5in the case of an attack by Russia. Zourabichvili told CNN'sAmanpour on Thursday that Georgia can't make much of a difference when it comes to sending armaments to Ukraine, but is showing its support in other ways.

"We are participating to all the international financial sanctions, and that's something for the Georgian financial sector," she said. "And we are at the same time participating in all of the resolutions that have been taken to support Ukraine."

Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani made similar comments on Thursday, saying Georgia had "done its best" to support its international partners in the U.N. Security Council and General Assembly on the issue of the war.

"We are in full compliance with the financial sanctions imposed by the international community [against Russia]," he said, according to the English-language platform Agenda.ge. "The National Bank of Georgia has already made it clear that Georgia is complying with its obligations and international standards."

That had not exactly been clear, given Georgia's earlier public statements on the subject.

A day after Russia first invaded Ukraine, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili told reporters that it would not sanction Russia, citing its national interests.

“I want to state clearly and unambiguously, considering our national interests and interests of the people, Georgia does not plan to participate in the financial and economic sanctions, as this would only damage our country and populace more,” Garibashvili said.

Shortly after, Georgia's National Bank accused Russian channels of spreading disinformation that falsely suggested it was not imposing restrictions on sanctioned financial institutions.

"We would like to emphasize that the National Bank of Georgia is acting in accordance with the international resolutions and standards and cannot and will not help evading implementing these sanctions," it said.

But Georgia's stance was also called into question on Thursday, when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyyrecalled Ukraine's ambassadors to Georgia and Morocco and suggested they hadn't done enough to persuade those countries to support Ukraine or punish Russia in the wake of its invasion.

"With all due respect, if there are no weapons, no sanctions, no restrictions for Russian business — please look for another job," Zelenskyy said.

Zourabichvili told CNN that there is a lot of public support for Ukraine — in the forms of flags and demonstrations — in Georgia, as the countries "share two centuries of common history of Russian aggression."

She also spoke to NPR last month about how the war in Ukraine will alter events in and beyond Georgia.

"We all know that there will be economic consequences for everyone, and the decisions that are going to be made afterwards will also affect all the countries in different manners," she said.

on the ground

Ukraine isn’t confirming or denying an attack on Russian soil

Posted April 1, 2022 at 10:44 AM EDT

Ukraine’s defense ministry is refusing to say whether it’s responsible for a huge fire at an oil depot in Belgorod, Russia, after Russian officials accused the country of carrying out its first attack on Russian soil.

“I’ll not confirm or disprove this information,” defense spokesman Col. Oleksandr Motuzyanyk told reporters who asked repeatedly about the incident, according to an official translation.

Earlier Friday, Vyacheslav Gladkov, the Belgorod regional governor, said two Ukrainian military helicopters struck the oil depot near the border from Ukraine. In a message on his Telegram channel, he said the aircraft had entered Russia flying at low altitude.

But Motuzyanyk refused to confirm that version of events, emphasizing that Ukraine’s battle against Russia has been a defensive operation against an invading force.

“It does not mean that Ukraine has to bear liability for all those catastrophes and all those events that happen within the territory of the Russian Federation. This is not the first time where we see such accusations,” he said.


NPR will share its coverage of Russia's war in Ukraine on Telegram

Posted April 1, 2022 at 10:19 AM EDT
NPR is
Carl Court
Getty Images
NPR is delivering updates on the war in Ukraine to the messaging app Telegram.

NPR will now deliver major news updates on the war in Ukraine to the popular messaging app Telegram — compiling coverage from our team of journalists in the U.S. and correspondents on the ground in Europe in one, easy-to-access channel.

The move follows similar efforts by The New York Times and the Washington Post to make verified reporting of the war accessible to those who seek it.

If you have Telegram downloaded, you can follow the @NPRnews channel by clicking here. Or download the app here.

International Relations

As the Kremlin vies for India's support, a U.S. diplomat says Russia 'has nothing to offer'

Posted April 1, 2022 at 9:40 AM EDT
A woman with gray shoulder-length hair wearing a blue jacket speaks into a microphone while seated in a leather chair.
Kevin Dietsch
Getty Images
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland testifies before a Senate Foreign Relation Committee hearing on Ukraine on March 8 in Washington, DC.

India is not fully committed to either side of the war: The world's largest democracy has become more aligned with the U.S. in recent years, but relies on Russian weapons and oil and has yet to embrace Western sanctions.

Both Russia and Ukraine have been lobbying for India's support, with a rotating cast of international officials visiting the country in recent weeks. Russia's foreign minister is there this week, Russian bank officials have already stopped by and U.S. and British officials are visiting too.

One of the U.S. officials involved in these conversations is Victoria Nuland, a veteran diplomat who currently serves as the undersecretary of state for political affairs.

In an interview withMorning Edition's Steve Inskeep, Nuland acknowledges that the situation is complicated, especially since nearly all of India's ground force uses Russian weaponry. That dependence on Russia puts India in an awkward position, as the war in Ukraine and international backlash continue.

"I think they are quite uncomfortable, particularly as they see how Russian weapons have performed and the fact that they're likely not going to be a very reliable supplier going forward," Nuland says. "For a long time the U.S. was not willing to supply weapons to India ourselves, so now that has changed and now we are talking about how we help them make that transition."

A black car with a Russian flag drives on a sunny road as photographers take pictures from the sidewalk.
Prakash Singh
AFP via Getty Images
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrives in a car for a meeting with Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Friday.

While India has long been friendly with Russia (and the Soviet Union before that), Nuland says U.S. officials are emphasizing that Russia is increasingly aligned with China — meaning that if India were to come into conflict with China, it can't count on having Russia in its corner.

Nuland also said that autocracies are increasingly banding together, "and that's not where India wants to be as one of the world's largest and oldest democracies." She is confident that India is becoming more aware that an allegiance with Russia is not in its best interest.

"I think the Russians are going to be sorely disappointed by their partnership with India, if our consultations in recent days and weeks are any example," she said. "Russia has nothing to offer India, they increasingly know that, and our partnership is far more valuable. And we are working to strengthen that."

Officials from Russia's central bank have recently met with their Indian counterparts to talk about potential mechanisms for avoiding Western sanctions. Keep reading for Nuland's take on that, and the most challenging part of her recent visits.

Nuland says she and her colleagues have been stressing to Indian officials that if they cannot join with Western sanctions, they can at least ensure that Russia isn't using India to evade them.

"The Indians are not going to be fooled by Russian ploys, but that doesn't stop the Russians from going all around the world for cash now," Nuland adds. "And the reason they're doing that is because our sanctions have been very crushing on their economy."

Inskeep points out that the U.S. deputy national security adviser also traveled to India, and warned, according to local media, that there are consequences to countries that attempt to circumvent or backfill sanctions against Russia. What are those consequences?

"This is not a matter of warning, it's simply a matter of reminding India that Russia will try to abuse their longstanding defense relationship to get advantages here, and that it is not a good bet to help Russia out during this brutal conflict," Nuland says.

She adds that even though the U.S. has concerns about the things India has done in recent years to weaken democracy — like cracking down more on the media and political opposition — she doesn't see any indication that the country wants to live more like Russia or China than the West. In fact, Nuland says, she believes they are looking for ways to "divest themselves" of these relationships.

Nuland sees the most difficult issue as one of timing, and how quickly India can get the international help it needs to break out of these "legacy relationships," like its dependence on Russian energy products.

"The question is simply how much can we do together in this context to strengthen the democratic world and can we do it fast enough," she explains.

International Dispatch
From Berlin

German industry is nervous about Putin's gas payment decree

Posted April 1, 2022 at 9:16 AM EDT
A gas station is lit by yellow lighting and a blue neon sign against a dark sky.
Michael Probst
A gas station is pictured in Frankfurt, Germany, last month.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree stating that gas payments must be made in rubles starting today. As a result, European countries reliant on Russian fossil fuels are nervous about Moscow cutting off their supplies.

Germany’s Finance Minister Christian Lindner says Putin’s demands are tantamount to “blackmail” and insists that Berlin will continue to pay for Russian gas in euros and dollars.

The Kremlin’s decree actually allows payments to be made in foreign currencies via Russia’s Gazprom Bank, which is not currently sanctioned. The foreign currencies would then be converted into rubles.

Following a call with Putin on Wednesday in which the new payment procedure was discussed, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s office said the German leader had not agreed to it. But speaking in Berlin on Thursday, Scholz tried to reassure German industry that gas supplies from Russia will continue to flow.

While Finance Minister Lindner says the Kremlin’s new payment procedure would undermine the sanctions the EU has imposed against Russia, he confirms that the German government is looking into the details of how it might work.

Italy’s Prime Minister, Mario Draghi — who was formerly the president of the European Central Bank — has also admitted to not yet fully understanding how Putin’s new payment procedure works, but said following a phone call with the Russian leader that it was being pitched as a “concession” to European gas customers.

Earlier this week, the G7 — currently headed by Germany — rejected Putin’s previous demand that payments be made in rubles, declaring it a “unilateral and clear breach of the existing agreements.”

Read more here about Putin's decree.


‘Russian mutants lost this round,’ Ukraine says after troops leave Chernobyl

Posted April 1, 2022 at 9:02 AM EDT
Energoatom, Ukraine’s state power company, said on Friday that all control and monitoring systems are operating normally. But it has warned that Russian soldiers likely received high radiation doses. Here, an abandoned railway is seen in the Chernobyl zone close to the Ukraine-Belarus border crossing, weeks before the Russian invasion.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Getty Images Europe
Energoatom, Ukraine’s state power company, has warned that Russian soldiers likely received high radiation doses at Chernobyl. Here, an abandoned railway is seen in the Chernobyl zone close to the Ukraine-Belarus border, weeks before the Russian invasion.

Russia’s force has fully withdrawn from the area of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine’s defense ministry confirmed on Friday. It cited two reasons for the exit: military losses and radiation exposure.

“Russian mutants lost this round of @stalker_thegame,” the ministry said via Twitter, referring to the Stalker video game franchise that is set in the notoriously radioactive zone.

When they left, Ukraine’s ministry added, the Russian troops looted the power plant, taking “kettles, lab equipment, and radiation.” They also took the captured Ukrainian national guard members who had been at the facility when Russia invaded in late February.

In an update on conditions at the Chernobyl plant, Energoatom, Ukraine’s state power company, said on Friday that all control and monitoring systems were operating normally, despite the removal of several containers and spare parts. Ukrainian workers who remained at the plant throughout the occupation to monitor it had remained safe from radiation, it added.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Thursday that it’s still working to determine the veracity of reports that Russian soldiers received high doses of radiation in the notoriously contaminated Chernobyl Exclusion Zone during more than a month of occupation.

Energoatom has said Russian troops left the site after digging trenches and building fortifications in the Red Forest — an area it says is the most heavily polluted in the entire zone. Without providing details, the company said a panic broke out when the first signs of radiation sickness emerged. On Friday, the company reiterated that the greatest threat to the occupiers was likely posed by inhaling radioactive dust disturbed by their actions.

The IAEA said Russian forces had sent two buses of troops out of the area to Belarus as they returned control of the Chernobyl site to Ukraine. A third bus also left a nearby city where many of the Chernobyl staff members live, it said.

Zelenskyy speech

Zelenskyy calls 2 Ukrainian generals traitorous and strips them of their rank

Posted April 1, 2022 at 8:36 AM EDT
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks while standing outside on the street in front of a stately building lit by lamps at night.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Office
In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv on Thursday night.

Ukraine's president has stripped two generals of their military rank, calling them "traitors" and "antiheroes."

Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly public address on Thursday the two intelligence officers — Naumov Andriy Olehovych, the former chief of the main department of internal security of the Security Service of Ukraine, and Kryvoruchko Serhiy Oleksandrovych, the former head of the Office of the Security Service of Ukraine in the Kherson region — are no longer generals.

The Security Service of Ukraine is the government's main intelligence and security agency focused on counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism. Kherson is one of the few big Ukrainian cities that has fallen to Russian forces, who occupied it in the early days of the war.

Zelenskyy did not elaborate on the reasons behind the decision, but suggested that the generals had not been loyal to Ukraine.

"According to Article 48 of the Disciplinary Statute of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, those servicemen among senior officers who have not decided where their homeland is, who violate the military oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people as regards the protection of our state, its freedom and independence, will inevitably be deprived of senior military ranks," he said, according to an English translation. "Random generals don't belong here!"

He added that he does not have time to deal with all such traitors, "but gradually they will all be punished."

Zelenskyy also mentioned that a government program to compensate citizens who have lost their homes has received more than 25,491 applications in just a few days, even though the estimated number of residents in these houses and apartments is closer to 63,000.

"But we know that more needs to be restored," he said. "Much more."

On the ground

As peace talks resume, fighting continues in many parts of Ukraine

Posted April 1, 2022 at 8:23 AM EDT
A soldier walks towards a destroyed gas station, where a tall sign has a fake cactus on top.
Anastasia Vlasova
Getty Images
A Ukrainian serviceman walks by a destroyed fuel station on Thursday in Stoyanka, Ukraine.

Peace talks are set to resume today between Ukrainian and Russian officials as the war enters its sixth week and fighting continues in many parts of the country.

In the last round of diplomatic talks, Russia said that it would reduce its troop presence around the capital city. Is it actually? NPR's Nathan Rott is in Kyiv and tellsMorning Edition that the answer is both yes and no.

Western intelligence agencies say they're seeing some of those troop movements, particularly near Kyiv and to the northeast in Chernihiv. Governors in both of those places made similar comments today, but also said that other troops are digging in.

"Just about every Ukrainian you talk to, from politician to military medic to person walking their dog on the street, is highly skeptical that Russia is actually going to relieve pressure on either of these areas," Rott says.

Russia has suffered heavy losses in both places, and we're hearing that Ukrainians have been able to force troops out of some of these areas — even though they're still unsafe for civilians to return to. In southern Ukraine, the military says it's retaking 11 towns in the Kherson region (near the Crimean peninsula). Much focus today is on the southern part of the country, where a major Red Cross convoy is trying to get into the besieged city of Mariupol to deliver aid and evacuate civilians.

In Kyiv, Rott says that the nights are "ghostly silent" except for air raid warnings, as curfews are in effect, the streets are empty of cars and buildings lights are out. During the day there's more activity, however. People are out, businesses are starting to reopen and some people are returning to the city.

Olgha Selho, 26, is one of them. She told Rott that she's still readjusting to being back.

"When you leave you understand in one way that it's war and you need to go somewhere," she says. "And then you come back but it's still war and the action is different but you need to get know how to live again."

She says it feels safer in Kyiv. But as Rott points out, it's hard to say anywhere in Ukraine is safe right now, with Russian strikes still happening all over.

International Dispatch
From Kyiv

Officials are still working to evacute civilians from Mariupol, despite challenges

Posted April 1, 2022 at 7:58 AM EDT
A child looks out the blurred window of a yellow bus against a blue sky.
Chris McGrath
Getty Images
A large convoy of cars and buses carrying hundreds of people evacuated from Mariupol and Melitopol arrived at an evacuation point in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, last Friday.

Efforts are still underway in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol to evacuate residents to safety. Officials there are hoping to get thousands more out today, in a caravan of 45 buses.

The Red Cross plans to participate in the Mariupol evacuation, bringing humanitarian aid into the seaside city that has been devastated by Russian forces in the last month.

Ukrainian officials have been facilitating humanitarian corridors to provide safe passage for cars and buses leaving the city, but have faced ongoing challenges. More than 600 people were able to flee on Thursday using these routes — but in a city of about 450,000 residents, many remain trapped.

Other Ukrainian efforts to bring aid and run evacuations in southern cities have met resistance: A caravan of 12 buses loaded with humanitarian aid previously attempted to enter the southeastern city of Melitopol but, according to Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, Russian forces took all 14 tons of food and aid.

Ukrainian officials are also hoping to evacuate 2,000 people from Berdyansk — a port city in the Zaporizhzhia region — today after humanitarian corridors with the Red Cross failed yesterday. Many of the people there came from Mariupol, and are using it as a transit point. The government says that 15 metric tons of aid has gotten to Berdyansk already, but little of that is getting to Mariupol.

On the ground

Russia says Ukrainian helicopters struck an oil depot on Russian soil

Posted April 1, 2022 at 7:54 AM EDT
In this handout photo released by Russian Emergency Ministry Press Service on Friday, April 1, 2022, firefighters work at the site of fire at an oil depot in Belgorod region, Russia. The governor of the Russian border region of Belgorod accused Ukraine of flying helicopter gunships into Russian territory and striking an oil depot Friday morning. The depot is run by Russian energy giant Roseneft about 21 miles from the border. The governor says it was set ablaze by the attack that left two people injured. If confirmed, it would be the first attack of its kind by Ukrainian forces inside Russia. (Russian Emergency Ministry Press Service via AP)
Russian Emergency Ministry Press Service
This handout photo released by the Russian Emergency Ministry Press Service on Friday shows a fire at an oil depot in Belgorod, Russia, about 20 miles from the border with Ukraine.

Russian officials said Friday that Ukrainian helicopters struck an oil depot in the Russian city of Belgorod, about 20 miles across the border from Ukraine.

It is the first time Russia has reported a Ukrainian airstrike on Russian soil. The Ukrainian Armed Forces has not confirmed the attack.

“The fire at the oil depot was the result of an airstrike from two helicopters of the armed forces of Ukraine, which entered Russian territory at a low altitude,” wrote Vyacheslav Gladkov, the Belgorod regional governor, on the social messaging app Telegram.

Two people were injured in the resulting fire, he said. Amid reports of long lines at gas stations, Russian officials said the attack would not affect the region’s fuel supplies and urged residents not to panic.

Earlier this week, an ammunition depot in Belgorod caught fire, causing several explosions. At the time, Gladkov said the cause was unknown, and that authorities were waiting for word from the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Belgorod’s proximity to Ukraine means the region has been militarized for months. The nearest Ukrainian city is Kharkiv, which has seen some of the most intense fighting since the Russian invasion began in February.