Moscow (Times Of Ocean)- A Russian oil storage depot is on fire near Ukraine after what the local governor believes was an attack by two Ukrainian helicopters.
A video went on viral on Twitter indicates a blaze near apartment blocks in Belgorod, some 40km (25 miles) from the border.
The oil depot appears to have been hit by rockets in some clips.
Ukraine’s aircraft, however, have yet to strike Russian targets. Ukrainian officials have not confirmed Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov’s claim, yet.
Belgorod, home to 370,000 people, lies just north of Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv, which has been heavily shelled by Russian artillery and remains surrounded by Russian forces.
Governor Gladkov said in a Telegram message “there was a fire at the oil depot because of an air strike carried out by two Ukrainian army helicopters, which entered Russian territory at low altitude”. “Nobody was killed,” he added.
Emergency workers were working to contain the fire as quickly as possible, and residents were not at risk. A video of the blaze was posted on Telegram by the ministry.
The Interfax news agency reported that residents near the depot were evacuated and two people were injured. There were eight fuel tanks on fire and nearly 200 firefighters were on the scene.
Several explosions were reported at an ammunition depot near Belgorod on 29 March.
Although Ukraine hasn’t claimed responsibility for this attack, if it is confirmed, this would be the first time Ukrainian aircraft have flown into Russian airspace to hit a target. The war has come home to Russia.
Ukrainian helicopter pilots have plenty of experience flying low and fast in order to avoid being detected by radars and air defence systems. For years, they have been doing exactly that in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian military pilots exhibited extraordinary skills in 2018 when they flew barely metres above the tree line and telegraph poles.
However, if these unconfirmed reports are accurate – flying at night, into Russian territory, to attack an enemy fuel depot would have required extraordinary courage – as well as finely honed flying skills.
Short-range air defence systems remain a threat to low-flying helicopters. Night flying would have decreased that risk, but heightened the risk of hitting an object near the ground.
Mi-24s, or Hind helicopters, are known as “flying tanks”. Its rockets would have been used to target the oil depot in Belgorod, Russia.
The alleged attack alone will not have a significant impact on the battle. It could show that Ukraine has kept its air force operational, giving the Ukrainian military’s morale a huge boost.