Kremlin Accuses Ukraine of Attacking Russian Oil Depot Amid Reports of Russian Troops Refusing to Obey Orders
Friday's missile attack was the first airstrike on Russian soil since troops invaded Ukraine, the Kremlin said.
Two low-flying Ukrainian helicopters fired missiles into an oil depot Friday, the first airstrike on Russian soil since the country's troops invaded the neighboring nation, the Kremlin said. The attack came amid reports that Russian troops are demoralized and refusing to obey orders.
The assault occurred in Belgorod, a city of 400,000, about 20 miles from the Ukrainian border. The area has been a staging ground for Russian troops entering eastern Ukraine, which was invaded on Feb. 24 by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
News video and photos showed billowing black clouds and orange flames shooting from the depot.
The airstrike followed reports from Britain's spy chief that Russian troops were demoralized and were refusing to carry out orders in Ukraine, sabotaging their own equipment and had accidentally shot down their own aircraft.
Jeremy Fleming, who heads the GCHQ electronic spy agency, made the statements during a speech Thursday in the Australian capital Canberra.
“We’ve seen Russian soldiers, short of weapons and morale, refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft,” Fleming said.
Putin, he said, "misjudged the resistance of the Ukrainian people. He underestimated the strength of the coalition his actions would galvanize. He underplayed the economic consequences of the sanctions regime, and he overestimated the abilities of his military to secure a rapid victory."
Fleming praised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for his “information operation” to counter Russia's massive propaganda and disinformation campaign about the invasion.
Reports also surfaced that Russian troops were abandoning the highly contaminated Chernobyl nuclear plant after soldiers got “significant doses” of radiation from digging trenches there, according to Energoatom, Ukraine’s state power company.
As fighting raged on several fronts, including the outskirts of Urkraine capital Kyiv, Russian soldiers were leaving the closed plant, which is the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster.
The troops “panicked at the first sign of illness,” which “showed up very quickly,” and began preparing to leave," Energoatom said. The plant's massive radiation leak occurred in 1986.
The International Atomic Energy Agency says the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant is now back in Ukrainian hands, but hasn't confirmed reports that Russian troops left because they were experiencing radiation sickness
The United Nations nuclear watchdog's top official said Friday that he would lead a mission to Chernobyl "as soon as possible," to investigate radiation levels and the integrity of the plant, which still houses and processes nuclear waste.
"It will be the first in a series of such nuclear safety and security missions to #Ukraine," Rafael Grossi said Friday on Twitter.
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