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Ukrainian attacks bring war back to Russia, fraying civilians’ nerves

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RIGA, Latvia — The Kremlin has sought to downplay talk of Russian war casualties inside Ukraine. But apparent Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil last week show how the conflict has spilled over the border, confusing residents of areas near the border and threatening to thwart President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to isolate his citizens from the fighting. that he triggered.

After bombings and strikes, local authorities sound the alarm – as well as calling for revenge and in some cases evacuations – as they face mounting peril.

The attacks, which Ukraine’s leaders neither confirmed nor denied but which a senior adviser called “karma” on Wednesday, suggest kyiv is increasingly able to reach Russian territory as the war escalates. continues. Reinforced by military aid from NATO, Ukrainian troops strike infrastructure, military targets and, according to Russian authorities, at least some villages. Russian citizens are now waking up to the same explosions that Ukrainians have faced for over two months, making the conflict much more immediate and dangerous.

At least 11 hits appear to have occurred since fighting began Feb. 24, most since late last week. Most appear to have involved bombing or setting off Russian anti-aircraft weapons. A handful were suspicious explosions at Russian military installations near the border.

They drew Russian fury.

“The Anglo-Saxons publicly recommend that Ukraine move hostilities to Russian territory. And give it the means to implement this plan,” said Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the official Russia Today newspaper. tweeted Thusday. “What choice do you give us, idiots?” Complete destruction of the remaining Ukraine? Nuclear strike?

In recent days, residents of the most vulnerable areas have posted videos of apparent explosions and Russian air defense rockets streaking through the night sky.

“I think it’s happening here,” an anxious witness can be heard saying, accompanied by an expletive, in a video showing intense flames and a huge plume of thick smoke rising above the city of Belgorod early Wednesday.

In another video filmed several hours later, what is described as a Russian aid convoy is targeted as it speeds through open fields in the afternoon sun.

“We drive here, they bomb us, we try to escape. God have mercy! It’s scary,” said Alena Berezovskaya, a pro-Kremlin activist and journalist, in the clip released Thursday by state media RIA Novosti.

Berezovskaya sits in what looks like a military truck. Booms can be heard around her. The convoy was reportedly attacked at Zhuravlyovka, less than a mile into Russia, after delivering supplies to Russian-held territory near Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

She nervously adjusts her green helmet as the rolling Russian countryside rolls past her window, the fields bearing the first green blush of spring.

“It’s scary on a human level, sure, but it’s all in God’s hands,” she said.

With large parts of Russian border territory feeling a sense of vulnerability, local leaders have had no choice but to acknowledge what is happening to their residents and try to protect them. Earlier this month, authorities declared the second highest terrorist threat level in the regions closest to Ukraine. They advised residents to avoid gathering in large crowds.

Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said Wednesday he was awakened at 3:35 a.m. that day “by a loud noise, like an explosion.”

The governor of neighboring Kursk, Roman Starovoit, explained that the loud banging noises Kursk residents heard were from Russian air defense equipment. On Monday, two Turkish-made Bayraktar drones were shot down over the region, RIA Novosti reported, citing the possibility of serious danger for local residents since drones can be equipped with powerful weapons.

Some expect that in the next stage of the war, attacks will be almost daily.

“We assume that … some kind of missiles or Bayraktars will fly and strike almost every day, and we will see many more such reports,” said Ruslan Leviev, founder of the Conflict Intelligence Team, an independent analysis group that uses open information. -data source to track military activities.

Few Ukrainians offer any sympathy, with an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky saying the Russians shouldn’t be surprised to find themselves targeted.

“Sooner or later the debts will have to be repaid,” Mykhailo Podolyak wrote in Russian in a Telegram post that attributed the unexplained bombings, explosions and fires to the work of “divine intervention” after Mariupol’s relentless assault on the during the week before Orthodox Easter.

Western donors to Ukraine support strikes on military sites inside Russian territory.

The country should “do whatever is necessary to defend itself against Russian aggression,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a congressional panel on Wednesday. It would be “legitimate under international law” for Ukraine to attack “the logistical structure of the Russian army”, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told the BBC on Thursday.

Kremlin slams West for backing Ukraine’s right to retaliate against Russia

Many NATO countries were initially cautious about supplying weapons that could reach Russia deeply. These warnings have diminished somewhat. But even without directly supplying long-range equipment, the alliance can still fill Ukraine’s stockpiles and allow it to take greater global risks.

Given broad Russian support for the war, incursions on Russian soil are likely to provoke public calls for escalation, rather than the opposite, said Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of political analysis firm R. Politik based in France.

“Russian society is not ready for peace. Russian society expects Ukraine to be defeated,” she said. “Anything from Ukraine, such as attacks on Russian territory, only fuels such feelings.”

Yet such strikes, she added, also challenge the Kremlin’s national narrative that what is happening in Ukraine is a “special operation” – fast and fast – and not a war.

The attacks are more likely to serve as messages to Russian leaders than efforts to turn the general public against the fighting, said Andrei Kolesnikov, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“People can perceive it as warning shots. But so far the warning shots are more for the Kremlin,” he said. “Ukraine’s substantial military capabilities are becoming evident, and the nature of warfare in the border regions may even change.”

Zhuravlyovka, the village where the aid convoy was targeted on Wednesday, has faced repeated incidents. At least two residents were injured in nighttime shelling on Monday, according to Gladkov, who wrote on social network VKontakte that he wanted to evacuate the area “to a safer place” but some residents refused.

Village chief Anzhelika Samoilova recounted how she and other residents, many of them elderly people, spent the night in a basement for safety reasons.

“These are horrible emotions. Nobody expected this. Nobody was prepared for this. When I saw this with my own eyes, I was shocked,” Samoilova said in a video posted on the VKontakte profile of the governor which showed a modest house with part of its roof blown off “It was scary to get out.”