The Kremlin has expressed alarm over continued Ukrainian shelling of Russian towns and villages near the border between the two countries, as the United States said it did not support attacks by Kyiv’s military on Russian territory.
Four people were injured in shelling of Russia’s Belgorod region on Wednesday, said the province’s governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov.
He said one person had been killed and two injured in shelling on Tuesday in Belgorod region, where a week earlier Russian anti-Kremlin guerrillas crossed the border from Ukraine and claimed control of at least two villages for about a day before retreating.
Mr Gladkov said hundreds of children living close to the Ukrainian frontier would be evacuated from the area.
Officials in the nearby Kursk region reported that two people were injured there by Ukrainian shelling on Wednesday, and drones hit two oil refineries in southern Russia, starting a fire at one of the sites in the latest of several such attacks on Russian energy infrastructure.
“We are concerned about this situation, the shelling of civilian facilities continues there (in the border area). The situation there is quite alarming, measures are being taken,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. “By the way, we haven’t heard a word of condemnation from any of the countries of the ‘collective West’.”
Kyiv routinely denies direct involvement in attacks on Russian territory, while welcoming the operations and claiming they are the work of growing, armed opposition inside Russia to the authoritarian rule of Vladimir Putin. its leader of 23 years.
The Kremlin accuses western states of encouraging or even enabling Ukraine to attack Russia by providing it with powerful weapons. Kyiv has told its allies that it will only use donated arms to liberate occupied territory, including the Crimean peninsula that Moscow annexed in 2014.
“We are going to continue to give them what they need to defend themselves and defend their territory, Ukrainian soil, but we don’t support attacks on Russia,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday.
“We agree that Ukrainians have the right of self-defence…What we have said is we don’t want to encourage or enable attacks inside Russia, because we don’t want to see the war escalate beyond the violence has already visited upon the Ukrainian people,” he told CNN.
“I think we can all understand that if we give Putin what he’s claiming - this is a war against the West, a war against the United States, a war against Nato - there’s going to be a whole lot more suffering across the European continent, so we don’t want to see this war escalate.”
Mr Kirby made clear that “once we provide systems to the Ukrainians…they get to decide what they’re going to do with them. They have given us assurances that they won’t use our equipment to strike inside Russia. But once it goes to them, it belongs to them.”
Analysts say the spate of attacks on Russian territory may be part of Ukraine’s preparations for a planned counteroffensive against the Kremlin’s invasion force, and the strikes have intensified criticism of Moscow’s military command from some quarters.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenary group, has repeatedly accused senior Russian officials of undermining his efforts to take the eastern city of Bakhmut, which he claimed finally to have captured this month after about 20,000 of his fighters were killed.
“Today I have sent letters to the investigative committee and the prosecutor’s office of the Russian Federation with a request to assess whether a crime was committed during the preparation and conduct (of the invasion) by a host of senior functionaries of the defence ministry,” Mr Prigozhin said on Wednesday, without revealing which officials he had in mind.