Russia offers to relocate border city residents after Ukrainian shelling
The Kremlin has tried to maintain a semblance of normalcy on the home front, but the recent strikes on Belgorod have brought the Ukraine conflict closer to home for Russians.
Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov's assurance that scared civilians can relocate represents the furthest-reaching measure taken by any major Russian city since Moscow ordered the invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago.
"I see several appeals on social media where people write: we are scared, help us get to a safe place," Gladkov said in a video message.
"Of course we will! We have already moved several families," he added.
His offer came a day after overnight shelling wounded at least two people and knocked out glass from high-rise buildings, prompting widespread concern from residents.
The bout of shelling prompted city officials earlier on Friday to urge residents to secure their windows with tape to prevent shattering from blast waves – a measure widespread across Ukraine.
Ukrainian shelling in Belgorod less than a week ago killed 25 people – the worst attack on Russian civilians since the conflict began.
Relocate 'as long as necessary'
Gladkov said residents would be transported to the towns of Stary Oskol and Gubkin, further from the border, where they would be housed in "comfortable conditions".
"You will stay there for as long as necessary," he added, warning there would not be enough temporary accommodation to house everybody.
His announcement came hours after Kyiv said it could not confirm that Russia had fired North Korean missiles into Ukraine after Washington accused Moscow of using weapons provided by Pyongyang.
The White House said late Thursday that Russia was using North Korean weapons and was also seeking missiles from its ally Iran, as it burns through stockpiles of key munitions.
US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby described the deliveries as a "significant and concerning escalation" but Ukraine said it had no independent evidence.
"So far, we have no information that such missiles have been used," Ukraine's air force spokesman Yuriy Ignat told state media.
He said "experts will study the wreckage, and then we can say whether this is a fact or not. I can't confirm it yet".
In the grinding war of attrition, Kyiv and Moscow have struggled to refill stockpiles of artillery shells, drones and long-range missiles.
The Pyongyang-supplied missiles with a range of around 900 kilometres (550 miles) were fired by Russia in two attacks within the past week, Kirby said.
He said at least one of the North Korean-supplied missiles had landed in an open field in the Zaporizhzhia region on 30 December.
It is one of four regions that the Kremlin claimed to have annexed in September 2022 but still does not control entirely.
Moscow's forces then fired "multiple" ballistic missiles into Ukraine as part of a mass aerial attack on Tuesday, he added.
Russia rained down missiles on Ukraine's two largest cities, Kyiv and Kharkiv, on that date. Ukraine hit back at the Russian border city of Belgorod, forcing schools to close.
Ukraine drone barrage
Ukraine also released images on Friday of what it said was a Russian Kinzhal ballistic missile, which it claimed earlier in the week to have downed using the US Patriot anti-aircraft system.
Ukraine's state emergency service published photographs on its Telegram channel showing a crane extracting the remains of a missile from the ground, which AFP was not immediately able to verify.
Ukraine had said on Tuesday it had shot down 10 Kinzhal missiles Russia fired at the country.
Kinzhal missiles make up part of an arsenal of weapons that Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed were indestructible because of the speed at which they travel, up to 10 times the speed of sound.
According to the British defence ministry, Moscow reserves these warheads for what it considers to be "high-value and well-defended" targets.
Meanwhile Ukraine's air force said Friday that Russia had launched nearly 30 Iranian-designed attack drones overnight, but that 21 had been downed.
Russia's defence ministry said its forces had earlier Friday repelled a Ukrainian attack over Crimea, shooting down 36 drones over the peninsula annexed in 2014.
On Saturday it said its forces "foiled" another Ukrainian attack targeting the peninsula, and destroyed four aircraft-guided missiles shortly after midnight (21:00 GMT).