Russian border region closes malls and schools as Ukrainian attacks escalate



CNN

Following the escalation of attacks in Ukraine, the regional governor has announced that all schools and colleges in the Russian region of Belgorod will be closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Shopping malls will be closed on Sundays and Mondays, Vyacheslav Kladkov added in a statement on Telegram. The affected districts are located along the border with Ukraine. The city of Belgorod itself is under lockdown.

Frequent attacks have brought the war in Ukraine to the Russians, who are largely isolated from the conflict.

Ukraine's intelligence chief, Kyrillo Budanov, said on Saturday that Russians were among the sabotage groups attacking the Russian regions of Belgorod and Kursk, which border Ukraine.

“This is a story about how Russians solve this internal problem. Some of them we like more, others less. But, both are Russian,” Budanov said.

During a broadcast, he added that the attacks would continue.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the attacks on Belgorod and Kursk regions were largely unsuccessful and that Russian President Vladimir Putin was being regularly updated on the situation.

“The situation in the city and Belgorod district is very difficult,” Kladkov, governor of Belgorod, said in his earlier statement. Naturally, the issue of safety is of utmost importance to all of us.

“It's clear that teachers, nannies and technical staff are all concerned,” she said.

Schools and colleges in the affected districts were effectively closed from Tuesday evening last week, with Kladkov announcing that students would undertake what he called “self-learning days” until Friday. At the time of the announcement, he said he hoped schools would be able to resume normal operations on Monday.

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Ukraine has been attacking the Belgorod region since the first half of 2023, but stepped up shelling and attacks a week ago.

Like the rest of Russia, people in Belgorod are voting in a referendum widely expected to see Vladimir Putin return to power as president.

Voting continued for a second day on Saturday, with authorities arresting several Russians for acts of civil disobedience.

On Saturday, Kladkov said two people were killed in the early morning attacks, including a truck driver whose vehicle was hit by a shell.

Russia's Defense Ministry said in a post on its own Telegram channel on Saturday that Russian forces had repulsed attempts by Ukrainian militants to infiltrate into Russia at several locations and had launched a “complex fire attack on concentrations of enemy manpower and equipment”.

On Saturday, Ukraine's Security Service (SBU) carried out drone strikes on three oil refineries in Russia's Samara region, a Ukrainian source told CNN.

The three refineries – all owned by the Rosneft oil company – are located in Novokuybyshevsk, Samara and Chisron along the Volga River and 1,000 km from Ukrainian control.

Local residents in Belgorod have been posting videos on regional social media sites of explosions and fires burning outside residential buildings in the city where the Ukrainian strikes took place.

In one video, a woman is heard telling her mother that she is afraid to leave her apartment.

Earlier in the week, groups of Ukrainian Russian militants launched a cross-border attack in the city of Belgorod on Tuesday, while the city of Belgorod came under intense drone strikes and shelling.

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According to CNN, at least five people have been killed and dozens injured in the past week.

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