Ukrainian Air Force helicopters have attacked an oil depot near the Russian city of Belgorod, claim Russian officials.
A fire at the depot started in the early hours of April 1, 2022, according to state oil company Rosneft. Later, the governor of Belgorod Oblast said the fire was a result of an attack carried out by two helicopters from the Ukrainian armed forces.
According to the authorities, two workers were injured in the attack, eight fuel tanks were set alight, and there was a danger that the fire could spread to adjacent fuel tanks.
Unconfirmed footage of the event surfaced online, some of which show what appear to be Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters firing salvos of unguided rockets at the depot. Both Ukrainian and Russian air forces operate large numbers of Mi-24s and its derivatives.
Очевидцы сняли пролет на предельно малой высоте вертолетов ВС Украины, которые разбомбили нефтебазу в Белгороде pic.twitter.com/UYTKpjRmr5
— НТВ (@ntvru) April 1, 2022
Later in the day, the official Twitter account of Ukrainian Armed Forces retweeted one of the videos, seemingly taking responsibility for the attack.
“Belgorod. Ukrainian aviation is working! Glory to Ukraine!” the account tweeted.
Бєлґород працює українська авіація!
Слава Україні! pic.twitter.com/kTrYwjj5ME
— Armed Forces (@ArmedForcesUkr) April 1, 2022
The Belgorod fuel depot is approximately 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the Ukrainian border. On March 29, a large explosion occurred at a military base near the city. Later, unconfirmed claims suggested that the explosion was a result of a Ukrainian missile strike.
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there have been multiple reports of Ukrainian missiles striking military targets in Russia. For example, on February 24, the first day of the war, Ukrainian Tochka-U tactical ballistic missiles allegedly caused heavy damage to Milerovo airbase in the Rostov region.
So far, there have been no confirmed reports of the Ukrainian Air Force conducting attacks within Russian territory.
On February 24, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that it had disabled Ukrainian military aviation with “high precision weapons”. Later, Russian authorities claimed on multiple occasions that the entire Ukrainian Air Force has been destroyed and “practically ceased to exist”.
UPDATE 04-01-2022, 15:10 (UTC +3): Later in the day Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba told Reuters he can neither confirm nor deny Ukrainian involvement in the strike, while the Ukrainian Defense Ministry issued no comment on the matter.