Blast in Belgorod: Russians flee huge fire at arms depot near Ukrainian border

Residents of two Russian villages in the Belgorod region near the border with Ukraine were forced to flee after a huge fire engulfed a nearby ammunition dump late Thursday, officials said.

No casualties were reported in the fire, Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Belgorod, said.

Residents of the two southern Russian villages of Timxonovo and Soloti, only 15 km away, were taken to a safe distance by the district head, the governor said in a telegram message.

Emergency services are on site and the cause of the fire is being investigated, the regional governor said.

Preliminary images of the ammunition depot showed thick plumes of white smoke billowing from the depot after the explosion.

Several fire engines were also seen parked near the blast site, video showed.

Kyiv did not immediately release a statement on the blast, which followed a series of explosions at a Crimean ammunition depot on Tuesday.

More than 3,000 people have been evacuated after a second suspected Ukrainian attack on the Russian-controlled peninsula.

Russian officials blamed an “act of sabotage” for the series of explosions, but did not blame Ukraine directly.

Officials in Kyiv have not publicly claimed responsibility for any of the blasts, including the massive blast at Crimea’s airbase last week that destroyed nine Russian planes.

Moscow later said the explosion was caused by an accident.

However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pointed out the attacks behind enemy lines in a video speech on Tuesday evening and thanked people “who oppose the occupiers behind them”.

The President also warned people not to go near Russian military installations and storage sites for ammunition and equipment in the same video address.

Almost six months after invading Ukraine, Russia has been unable to make any meaningful advances in the country, although it has made sizeable gains in the east of the country since last month.

Warfronts have been static for weeks.

Officials in Kyiv said they were preparing for a counteroffensive to seize regions in the southern territory that are beyond their control.

On the diplomatic front, Mr Zelensky met Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN chief Antonio Guterres on February 24 during a first high-level visit by a senior Turkey official following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The talks, aimed at de-escalation and bringing both countries to the negotiating table, have reported no immediate progress. Turkey has offered to be a “mediator and mediator” between the two countries. Blast in Belgorod: Russians flee huge fire at arms depot near Ukrainian border

Dais Johnston

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