The governor of the Russian region of Belgorod has promised to help relocate civilians worried by a recent spate of deadly Ukrainian attacks, a rare admission of the dangers posed by a once distant war that has overwhelmingly impacted Ukrainians.
Belgorod – which adjoins northern Ukraine – has seen waves of Ukrainian strikes. Last Saturday, at least 25 people were killed by an attack on the city of Belgorod itself.
Ukraine has consistently targeted Russian regions near the border, but the December 30 attack on Belgorod is thought to be one of the single deadliest incidents reported. It followed the largest Russian aerial assault of the conflict killed at least 47 people in Ukraine.
“People realized there really is a war going on and it’s come now to Belgorod, maybe not for the first time but the most grave and frightening,” one local told Reuters in the wake of the strike on Belgorod.
Directly addressing Belgorod residents, Gladkov said: “I see several requests on social networks where you write: ‘We are scared, help us go to a safe place.’”
“Of course we will help! Several families have already been transported. We do everything that depends on us,” Gladkov added.
The governor said his office had previously relocated people whose homes in the region’s Shebekinsky district were damaged by shelling. In this instance a small group of residents were provided shelter whilst their homes were repaired.
Friday is the first time the top Belgorod official has offered publicly to relocate large groups of the local population impacted by the war. Residents looking to be relocated will also be expected to travel much longer distances, this time up to 87 miles.
In his video message, Gladkov instructed concerned residents to get in touch with the city administration to let it know they are “ready to leave.”
The governor said “comfortable buses” were on standby on Friday to transport residents to the cities of Stary Oskol and Gubkin where they would be lodged in “warm and safe rooms.”
Stary Oskol is roughly 87 miles from Belgorod while Gubkin is 74 miles from Belgorod.
“You will be there for as long as necessary. If there are not enough places in our temporary accommodation centers in our region, I will turn to my colleagues, governors of other regions, so that they can help us,” Gladkov told civilians.
The governor said he had received “dozens of calls” from his colleagues in neighboring regions offering to “help all of you, dear residents of the Belgorod region.”
One Belgorod local, a business owner, told Reuters how his business had dried up as a result of the fighting. “I come to work, wait for customers but there is no one. I sit for three or four hours and close.”
In another development, Ukraine’s intelligence agency said that it had destroyed a Russian military stronghold in Belgorod Friday after successfully making an incursion.
During the incursion, the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine claimed to have destroyed one of the Russian strongholds and mined the road used by Russians in Grayvoronsky district.