Russia accused Ukraine of sending attack helicopters across the border tostrike an oil storage facility in Belgorod in what would be the first raid on Russian soil since the outbreak of the war.
In a statement, Russia's Ministry of Defense said that the helicopters "entered the airspace of the Russian Federation at extremely low altitude," at 5 a.m. Moscow time and "launched a missile attack on a civilian oil storage facility located on the outskirts of Belgorod."
As a result, "individual tanks were damaged and caught fire," spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said, adding that the depot "has nothing to do with Russian armed forces."
Videos posted on social media show two Mi-24 "Hind" helicopters flying at a low altitude (in an attempt to evade detection) and firing rockets at the oil depot before it erupts in flames.
Geolocation of the attacks confirmed that the helicopters flew towards Ukraine following the attack, as pointed out by journalist Thomas Eydoux on Twitter:
Ukraine Neither Confirms Nor Denies Attack
Ukraine has neither confirmed nor denied the attack. "I would like to emphasize that Ukraine is performing a defensive operation against Russian aggression on the territory of Ukraine," Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, spokesman for Ukraine's defense ministry, said in a televised statement Friday.
"That doesn't mean Ukraine has to be responsible for every miscalculation or event or catastrophe that occurred on the territory of the Russian Federation. This is not the first time we are witnessing such accusations. Therefore, I will neither confirm nor deny this information."
Ukraine Targeting Russian Fuel Supplies for Vehicles on the Frontlines?
It's not clear what impact the destruction of the oil depot will have on the Russian war effort. NATO officials have previously indicated that the Kremlin's forces have had trouble maintaining a steady supply of fuel for vehicles on the front lines, and reported drone strikes have previously targeted fuel trains and other logistics assets.
The Belgorod region -- which is on the road from Moscow to Ukraine's second largest city, Kharkiv -- has been a hub of fuel supplies that have powered Russia's invasion of of Ukraine.
The ensuing fire "engulfed fuel reservoirs" at the facility, Russian state media outlet TASS reported, citing the ministry of emergency situations.
About 16,000 cubic meters (3.52 million gallons) of fuel were on fire, encompassing eight tanks with 2,000 cubic meters of fuel each, Russian state media outlet Ria Novosti reported, citing emergency services, and there was the possibility that the fire could spread to another eight tanks.