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At UN Security Council meeting, Russia accuses Kyiv of ‘terrorist’ attack on Belgorod civilians

UNITED NATIONS: Russia accused Ukraine on Saturday of conducting a “terrorist attack” on civilians in Belgorod and using widely prohibited cluster munitions, making the claim during an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council requested by Moscow.

Shelling in the center of the Russian border city of Belgorod Saturday killed 21 people, including three children, local officials reported. A further 110 people were wounded in the strike, said regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov, making it one of the deadliest attacks on Russian soil since the start of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine 22 months ago.

Russian authorities accused Kyiv of carrying out the attack, which took place the day after an 18-hour aerial bombardment across Ukraine killed at least 41 civilians. Fresh strikes Saturday caused more casualties in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, Ukrainian officials said.

Images of Belgorod on social media showed burning cars and plumes of black smoke rising among damaged buildings as air raid sirens sounded. One strike hit close to a public ice rink in the very heart of the city, which lies 40 kilometers north of the Ukrainian border and 670 kilometers south of Moscow. While previous attacks have hit the city, they have rarely taken place in daylight and have claimed fewer lives.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said it identified the ammunition used in the strike as Czech-made Vampire rockets and Olkha missiles fitted with cluster-munition warheads. It provided no additional information, and The Associated Press was unable to verify its claims.

“This crime will not go unpunished,” the ministry said in a statement on social media.

The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin had been briefed on the situation, and that the country’s health minister, Mikhail Murashko, was ordered to join a delegation of medical personnel and rescue workers traveling to Belgorod from Moscow.

As Russia’s emergency situations ministry issued a statement updating the Belgorod toll, a UN Security Council meeting called by Moscow to discuss the attacks got underway in New York.

It was “a terrorist attack by the Kyiv regime against a civilian city,” Russia’s ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya said.

“In order to increase the number of casualties of the terrorist attack they used cluster munitions,” Nebenzya continued, claiming that Kyiv targeted a sports center, an ice rink and a university.

“(It was a) deliberate, indiscriminate attack against a civilian target.”

“UN Security Council members have an opportunity to do their duty and assess the damage done to a Russian city, Belgorod,” Nebenzya added, holding up a QR code linking to what he said was video of the attack’s aftermath.
Ukrainian allies quickly retorted, saying Russia had started the war.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN Serhii Dvornyk said that “as long as this war, unleashed by the Kremlin dictator, endures the toll of death and suffering will continue to grow.”

“As Ukraine is still recovering from yesterday’s horrendous strikes, new raids of Russian terror persist. Just hours ago… Russia again terrorized Kharkiv with its S-300 missiles hitting a residential area.”

The US representative John Kelly also put the blame squarely on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“This is (Putin’s) war, it is his choice,” he said.

“Russia could end this war today… We call for the protection of all civilians on all sides of every conflict.”

The British envoy Thomas Pipps said London “deeply” regrets any civilian losses, but also called out Moscow for having started the war with an invasion two years ago.

“There are hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers in Ukraine. There is not a single Ukrainian soldier in Russia,” he said.

“If Russia wants someone to blame for the deaths of Russians in this war, it should start with President Putin.”

Phipps likewise said that Russia was the side to blame for targeting non-combatants, saying: “After having failed to to defeat Ukraine militarily, Russia has now turned to indiscriminate attacks on civilians.”

The French envoy Nicolas de Riviere said Ukraine was simply defending itself under UN laws, while Moscow was “trampling” over the UN Charter.

Ukraine, which has been resisting a Russian invasion for nearly two years and earlier this week came under a huge Russian missile and drone assault, has not officially commented on the strike against Belgorod.

“As the war continues we will see more Ukrainian and Russian civilians killed,” said UN assistant secretary-general Mohamed Khiari, warning there were “very real dangers of escalation and spillover of this war.”

West to blame

Speaking to Russia’s state news agency, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Britain and the United States were guilty of encouraging Kyiv to carry out what she described as a “terrorist attack.”

She also placed blame on EU countries who had supplied Ukraine with weapons.

“Silence in response to the unbridled barbarity of Ukraine’s Nazis and their puppeteers and accomplices from ‘civilized democracies’ will be akin to complicity in their bloody deeds,” the ministry said in a statement.

Earlier Saturday, Moscow officials reported shooting down 32 Ukrainian drones over the country’s Moscow, Bryansk, Oryol, and Kursk regions.

They also reported that cross-border shelling had killed two other people in Russia. A man died and four other people were wounded when a missile struck a private home in the Belgorod region late Friday evening and a 9-year-old was killed in a separate incident in the Bryansk region.

Cities across western Russia have come under regular attack from drones since May, with Russian officials blaming Kyiv. Ukrainian officials never acknowledge responsibility for attacks on Russian territory or the Crimean Peninsula. However, larger aerial strikes against Russia have previously followed heavy assaults on Ukrainian cities.

Russian drone strikes against Ukraine continued Saturday, with the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces reporting that 10 Iranian-made Shahed drones had been shot down across the Kherson, Khmelnytskyi, and Mykolaiv regions.

Local officials reported that three people had been killed by Russian missiles: a 55-year-old man in the Kherson region, a 43-year-old man in Stepnohirsk, a town in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, and a 32-year-old in the Chernihiv region.

On Friday, Moscow’s forces launched 122 missiles and dozens of drones across Ukraine, an onslaught described by one air force official as the biggest aerial barrage of the war.

As well as the 39 deaths, at least 160 people were wounded and an unknown number were buried under rubble in the assault, which damaged a maternity hospital, apartment blocks, and schools.

Western officials and analysts recently warned that Russia limited its cruise missile strikes for months in an apparent effort to build up stockpiles for massive strikes during the winter, hoping to break the Ukrainians’ spirit.

Fighting along the front line is largely bogged down by winter weather after Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive failed to make a significant breakthrough along the roughly 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) line of contact.

Russia’s ongoing aerial attacks have also sparked concern for Ukraine’s neighbors.

Poland’s defense forces said Friday that an unknown object had entered the country’s airspace before vanishing off radars, and that all indications pointed to it being a Russian missile.

Speaking to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, Russia’s charge d’affaires in Poland, Andrei Ordash, said Saturday that Moscow would not comment on the event until Warsaw had given the Kremlin evidence of an airspace violation.

“We will not give any explanations until we are presented with concrete evidence because these accusations are unsubstantiated,” he said.

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