THE Russian military said Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2023, it shot down 12 Ukrainian missiles over Russia’s southern Belgorod region bordering Ukraine, as Kyiv’s forces seek to embarrass Russian President Vladimir Putin and puncture his argument that life in Russia is going on as normal despite the 22-month war.
Belgorod Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said the situation in the regional capital, also called Belgorod, “remains tense.” The city came under two rounds of shelling Wednesday morning, Gladkov wrote on Telegram.
“Air defense systems worked,” he said, promising more details about possible damage after inspecting the area later in the day. Wednesday was a national holiday in Russia.
The Russian side of the border with Ukraine has come under frequent attack in recent days. During the war, Russian border villages have sporadically been targeted by Ukrainian artillery fire, rockets, mortar shells and drones launched from thick forests where they are hard to detect.
Lately, as missiles and drones have fallen on Ukrainian cities, Kyiv’s troops have aimed at the Belgorod regional capital, which lies roughly 100 kilometers north of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.
Belgorod, which has a population of around 340,000 people, is the biggest Russian city close to the Ukrainian border. It can be reached by relatively simple and movable weapons such as multiple rocket launchers.
On Saturday, shelling of Belgorod killed more than two dozen people. The attack was one of the deadliest on Russian soil since Moscow’s full-scale invasion. Russian officials said the death toll reached 26, including five children, after a new salvo of rockets Tuesday.
Disrupting city life
Hitting Belgorod and disrupting city life is a dramatic way for Ukraine to show it can strike back against Russia, which in military terms outnumbers and outguns Kyiv’s forces.
Putin on Monday lashed out against the Belgorod attacks. “They want to intimidate us and create uncertainty within our country,” he said, promising to step up retaliatory strikes.
The Russian government has tried to counter the successful strikes by describing the Ukrainians as “terrorists” who are indiscriminately targeting residential areas while insisting the Russian military only aims at depots, arms factories and other military facilities.
Ukrainian officials never acknowledge responsibility for strikes on Russian territory.