Two Russian villages evacuated after fire in ammunition dumps

KIEV, Ukraine — A fire at a munitions depot near the Russian village of Timonovo has prompted the evacuation of two villages in Russia’s Belgorod region on Ukraine’s northeastern border, an official said on Friday. The fire was the latest in a series of destructive incidents on Russian-held territory in Ukraine or within Russia itself.

Around 1,100 people live in the villages of Timonovo and Soloti, around 24 kilometers from the Ukrainian border. There were no casualties in the fire late Thursday, Belgorod regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said.

The fire came days after another ammunition depot blew up in the Crimean Peninsula, a Russian-held territory on the Black Sea annexed by Moscow in 2014.

Last week, nine Russian warplanes were destroyed at an airbase in Crimea, demonstrating both Russian vulnerability and Ukrainian ability to strike deep behind enemy lines. The Ukrainian authorities have stopped publicly acknowledging responsibility.

A worker cleans up after an early morning rocket attack hit the Kramatorsk College of Technologies and Design in Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Friday August 19, 2022.
A worker cleans up after an early morning rocket attack hit the Kramatorsk College of Technologies and Design in Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Friday August 19, 2022.

But President Volodymyr Zelenskyy alluded to Ukrainian attacks behind enemy lines after the blasts in Crimea, which Russia accuses of “sabotage”.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in a televised address on Friday that comments by Ukrainian officials about strikes at Crimean facilities “mark an escalation of the conflict openly encouraged by the United States and its NATO allies.”

Ryabkov said Russian officials had warned the US about such actions in phone calls with senior members of the Biden administration, adding that “deep and open US involvement” in the war in Ukraine “effectively marginalizes the US, becoming a party to conflict.”

“We don’t want any escalation,” Ryabkov said. “We would like to avoid a situation where the US becomes a party to the conflict, but so far we have not seen their willingness to consider these warnings thoroughly and seriously.”

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres waves as he visits the Odessa seaport in Odessa, Ukraine, Friday, August 19, 2022.
The Turkish President made remarks about Russia to a group of Turkish journalists after returning from a visit to Zelenskyy and Antonio Guterres (here in Odessa).

Meanwhile, Kyiv and Moscow continued to blame each other for shelling Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, fueling international fears of a catastrophe on the continent.

Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, on Friday accused the US of encouraging Ukrainian attacks on the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine. The facility has been controlled by Russian forces since shortly after the invasion began on February 24.

“In the event of a technological catastrophe, its consequences will be felt in every corner of the world,” Patrushev said. “Washington, London and their accomplices bear full responsibility for this.”

Ukraine has accused Russia of storing troops and weapons at the Zaporizhia plant and using its premises for strikes against Ukrainian-controlled territory. Ukrainian officials and military analysts say Moscow’s forces cynically used the facility as a shield, knowing Ukrainians would be reluctant to fire back.

Russia has denied the allegations, in return accusing Ukrainian forces of repeatedly shelling the plant.

After a visit to Ukraine on Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Zelenskyi had asked him to ensure Russia removed the weapons stored at the plant as an “important step for world peace”.

“Selensky specifically asked us: that Russia remove all mines and similar (weapons) there, and that the topic quickly cease to be frightening. Because it’s a threat,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan, whose country has close ties with both Ukraine and Russia, said he would discuss the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that “Russia has to do its part in this regard.”

The Turkish President was speaking to a group of Turkish journalists after returning from visiting Zelenskyy and UN Secretary-General António Guterres in Ukraine late Thursday. His comments were reported by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency and other media outlets on Friday.

At that meeting in the western city of Lviv, far from the front lines, leaders discussed expanding POW exchanges and organizing UN nuclear energy experts to visit the nuclear power plant and help secure it.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, left, listens to Ukraine's Infrastructure Minister Alexander Kubrakov as he visits the Odessa Seaport in Odessa, Ukraine, Friday August 19, 2022.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (left) listens to Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Alexander Kubrakov as he visits the seaport in Odessa, Ukraine.

Yevgeny Balitsky, the Moscow-backed head of the temporary administration for the Russian-controlled part of the Zaporizhia region, said Friday an International Atomic Energy Agency mission could approach the plant from Ukrainian territory, meaning a shift in the position Moscow had previously suggested that the IAEA mission should travel to the plant from Crimea.

“I think they could also come from the Ukraine side,” Balitsky said in a televised address. “We can get them safely into the plant and show where the fire is coming from and who’s shooting.”

Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s envoy to international organizations in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, said he believed a visit by the agency in early September could be realistic. Two Russian villages evacuated after fire in ammunition dumps


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