The region of Belgorod has been increasingly drawn into Russia’s war on Ukraine, with an increasingly emboldened Kyiv launching cross-border strikes on its cities and towns in an effort to dent domestic support for Moscow’s invasion.
Earlier this month, Russia was forced to evacuate residents from the region after a series of retaliatory strikes from Ukraine.
At least 25 people died in late December in Ukrainian strikes on the region, which followed a major aerial bombardment from Moscow on Ukrainian cities.
“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,” a Belgorod resident told Reuters in the wake of the December 30 strike.
Perhaps the most dramatic instance came in May 2023, when the Freedom of Russia Legion – a group of anti-Putin Russian nationals who are aligned with the Ukrainian army – mounted a surprise attack on the region, temporarily taking control of a border post and giving the world dramatic images of Russians taking up arms against the Kremlin.