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Ukraine's first attack targeted a gasoline station in Belgorod on the 37th day of the conflict

On Friday, Russia accused Ukraine of launching its first airstrike on its territory since President Vladimir Putin dispatched troops to Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Moscow warned that the helicopter strike on a gasoline station in Belgorod, Russia would hamper discussions.


According to a mediator, Russia and Ukraine started peace negotiations via video conference on Friday. "We are having negotiations via video conference," said Moscow's lead negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, on Telegram. " Our opinions and views on Crimea and the Donbass region remain unaffected."


The helicopters attacked Rosneft's gasoline station unit in Belgorod city, around 40 kilometres from the Ukrainian border.


A fire broke out at the gasoline station as a result of an attack carried out by two Ukrainian army helicopters that crossed Russian territory at a very low height, "Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of Belgorod oblast zone, published on the Telegram messaging application.


The Kremlin quickly made apparent the consequences of the allegation.


In fact, "this cannot be seen as establishing an enabling environment for the continuation of discussions and negotiations," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters, referring to ongoing peace negotiations.


Russia's declaration came on the 37th day of Russia's military campaign in Ukraine, which has resulted in thousands of deaths and over 10 million displaced people in Europe's biggest refugee crisis since World War II.


The reported strike occurred after Moscow repeatedly claimed that it had smashed Ukraine's air force.


According to him, two employees at the gasoline station unit were hurt in the explosion.


The massive incident, which began at 6:00 a.m. (03:30 GMT), was controlled by 170 firefighters, according to the emergency ministry.


According to a video posted by the ministry, a huge fire was blazing, with black and white smoke rising overhead. The station's owner, the Russian oil company Rosneft, claimed it had evacuated its employees who used to work there.


The current negotiations take place just days after Moscow announced a slowdown in assaults on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and the city of Chernigiv. On the other hand, Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, claimed Russia was organising and planning "strong attacks" in the country's east and south, repeating Western assessments that Moscow's soldiers were consolidating.


"This is part of their strategy," Zelenskyy stated in a late-night speech.


"We understand and believe that they are diverting their attention away from such areas where we are fighting with them and also areas that are very critical and difficult for us," he said.


He also warned that the scenario in the country's south and east was "extremely severe."


"The Russian army is preparing the potential for assaults, strong attacks" in Donbas and Mariupol, he claimed.


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