Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia/Agence France-Presse People evacuate a wounded man after a bombing in Belgorod, about 30 km from the border with Ukraine. On December 30, Russia said a Ukrainian strike killed at least 14 people and injured 108 others in the town of Belgorod.
Moscow said on Sunday it had struck “military” targets in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, with local authorities saying on the contrary that they were civilian buildings, in retaliation for the unprecedented attack which left 24 dead the day before in Belgorod, Russia.
On Saturday, Russia assured that it would not let the missile and rocket attack against this town located around thirty kilometers from the Ukrainian border go “unpunished”.
Moscow claims that kyiv is responsible, but Ukraine has so far remained silent.
These bombings killed 24 people and injured 108 others, according to a new toll announced by the governor of the region, Viatcheslav Gladkov.
He later said that another Ukrainian bombing had killed an elderly man and injured a woman in the village of Krasnoye, almost bordering Ukraine.
If Kiev regularly carries out attacks on Russian territory, notably using drones, the Belgorod strike is the deadliest for civilians in Russia since the start of the conflict in February 2022.
“In response to this terrorist act, Russian armed forces struck decision-making centers and military installations” in Kharkiv, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday.
The governor of the targeted Ukrainian region, Oleg Sinegoubov, nevertheless assured that rockets had hit a hotel, residential buildings, clinics and hospitals on Saturday evening, leaving 28 injured.
Among them, two teenagers and a Briton, who was the security advisor to a team of German journalists, according to the Ukrainian authorities.
Russia admitted to having targeted a “former hotel complex”, the Kharkiv Palace, but assured that there were members of the Ukrainian intelligence services and armed forces “involved” in the attack on Belgorod, as well as “ foreign mercenaries.”
Allegations described as “twisted delusion” by Ukrainian military intelligence, which said none of its employees were injured.
Moscow still denies targeting civilian targets in Ukraine.
For its part, the Ukrainian air force claimed that six Russian guided missiles had targeted Kharkiv.
It also said it had shot down 21 of the 49 Iranian-made Shahed drones launched by Russia towards its territory during the night and particularly targeting the south and east.
Recent days have been marked by an escalation of violence between Russia and Ukraine.
On Friday, Ukraine was devastated by a missile attack that it said was the most massive since the start of the conflict, excluding its very first days.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday afternoon that 39 people had died across the country, but other deaths have since been announced.
The governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, Serguiï Lyssak, declared on Sunday that one of the injured had died in hospital, bringing the death toll for his area to 7 deaths.
In kyiv, the State Emergency Service said it had found 23 bodies in the rubble since Friday's attack.
On Sunday, Vladimir Putin assured that his country would “never” back down during his New Year's greetings, broadcast on Russian television.
Last year, the Russian president gave a speech with a very martial tone, flanked by soldiers in uniform. This time, he proclaimed that the year 2024 would be the year of “family,” with the Kremlin in the background.
Even if he did not explicitly mention Ukraine, he made several allusions to it, paying strong tribute to the soldiers, “heroes”, or explaining that Russia had “firmly defended” its interests and security in 2023.
Volodymyr Zelensky is in turn due to speak in the evening, an expected speech at the end of a year marked by the failure of Ukraine's summer counter-offensive and the almost total freeze of the front line.
On both the Russian and Ukrainian sides, the celebrations will take place on Sunday evening under high tension, after the strikes of the last few days.
The governor of Russia's Kursk region, Roman Starovoit, urged residents to stay at home in view of the “turbulent situation.”
His counterpart in the Voronezh region, Alexander Gusev, indicated that he had canceled the “festive programs” out of “solidarity” with the inhabitants of Belgorod.