Russia said it was evacuating hundreds of children from villages because of intensifying shelling in the border region of Belgorod, where the situation was deemed alarming by the Kremlin.
More than a year into its invasion of Ukraine, Russia is now seeing stepped-up attacks on its soil, including an unprecedented incursion last week in the southern region of Belgorod and a drone attack on Moscow on Tuesday.
Authorities began evacuating children from the border districts of Shebekino and Graivoron, regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram.
Gladkov said the first 300 evacuated children will be taken to Voronezh, a city about 250 kilometers further into Russia. And more than 1,000 more children will be moved to other provinces over the coming days, he added.
A correspondent for state-run agency RIA Novosti near Voronezh said buses had arrived with around 150 people on board.
Gladkov said the situation was growing worse in the village of Shebekino, where he reported more shelling during the day that injured four people but didn’t cause any deaths.
On Tuesday, one person was killed and two others were wounded in a strike on a center for displaced people in the region. Several oil depots have also been hit in recent weeks.
The attacks have come as Kyiv says it is preparing for a major offensive against Moscow’s forces.
“The situation is quite alarming,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said about shelling in the region.
“We have not heard a single word of condemnation from the West so far,” Peskov said.
The Kremlin has accused Ukraine — and its Western backers — of being behind the increasing number of reported attacks.
On Tuesday, the foreign ministry said the West was “pushing the Ukrainian leadership towards increasingly reckless acts” after a drone attack on residential areas in Moscow.
The Russian defense ministry said that eight drones were used in the attack, adding that five of them were downed and three disabled.
At least three buildings were lightly damaged, including two high-rise residential buildings in Moscow’s affluent southwest.
Ukraine, which has seen almost nightly attacks on its capital, denied any “direct involvement.”
The United States said it did not support any attack inside Russia, instead providing Kyiv with equipment and training to reclaim its territory.
AFP journalists went to the regional capital city, which is also called Belgorod, over the weekend.
Residents confessed to a certain amount of worry, but a sense of fatalism prevailed.
“What can we do? We just shout ‘Oh! and ‘Ah!’ What will that change?” said retired teacher, 84-year-old Rimma Malieva.
Most people AFP spoke to said they trusted the authorities to fix the weaknesses laid bare by the latest raid.
Evgeny Sheikin, a 41-year-old builder, still said “it should not have happened.”