Russia says it shot down drones after raid from Ukraine territory

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Kyiv, May 25: Russian forces shot down “a large number” of drones in Russia’s southern Belgorod region, a local official said Wednesday, a day after Moscow announced that its forces crushed a cross-border raid in the area from Ukraine.

The drones were intercepted overnight over the province, Belgorod Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a Telegram post. He said that no one had been hurt, but unspecified administrative buildings, residential buildings and cars were damaged.

Ukrainian officials made no immediate comment. Russia said the previous day that it beat back one of war’s most serious cross-border attacks, with the Defence Ministry saying that more than 70 attackers were killed in a battle in Belgorod that lasted around 24 hours. It made no mention of any Russian casualties.

Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that local troops, airstrikes and artillery routed the attackers. Twelve local civilians were wounded in the attack, officials said, and an older woman died during an evacuation.

Details of the incident in the rural region, lying about 80 kilometres (45 miles) north of the city of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine and far from the front lines of the almost 15-month war, are unclear.

Moscow blamed the incursion that began Monday on Ukrainian military saboteurs. Kyiv described it as an uprising against the Kremlin by Russian partisans. It was impossible to reconcile the two versions, to say with certainty who was behind the attack or to ascertain its aims.

The region is a Russian military hub holding fuel and ammunition depots. Moscow officials declined to say how many attackers were involved in the assault or comment on why efforts to put down the attackers took so long.

The Belgorod region, like the neighbouring Bryansk region and other border areas, has witnessed sporadic spillover from the war, which Russia started by invading Ukraine in February 2022.

Elsewhere, the Ukrainian General Staff said Wednesday that “heavy fighting" is continuing inside Bakhmut, days after Russia said that it completely captured the devastated city.

Bakhmut lies in Donetsk province, one of four provinces Russia illegally annexed last fall. The nine-month battle for Bakhmut has killed tens of thousands of people as Ukraine pursues its strategy of grinding down the Kremlin's invasion forces.

The head of Ukraine’s ground forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, said that Kyiv’s forces “are continuing their defensive operation” in Bakhmut, and have attained unspecified “successes” on the city’s outskirts. He gave no further details.

Ukrainian officials have insisted the battle for Bakhmut isn't over. Similarly, Like the blue and yellow flags that popped up around the U.S. when Russia invaded Ukraine 15 months ago, U.S. popular support for Washington's backing of Ukraine has faded a little but remains widespread, a survey by the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy and NORC shows.

It found that half of the people in the U.S. support the Pentagon's ongoing supply of weapons to Ukraine for its defence against Russian forces. That level is nearly unchanged in the past year, while about a quarter are opposed to sustaining the military lifeline that has now topped $37 billion. (AP)

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