Russia and Ukraine have engaged in rhetoric as they engage in a new phase of war focused on tit-for-tat air raids across the Russia-Ukraine border.
Russia pledged on Tuesday that its military will do everything in its power to tackle an increase in Ukrainian shelling of Belgorod, which sits close to the border. Ukraine, meanwhile, warned it’s running short of anti-aircraft missiles, part of an ongoing effort to push Western partners to raise support amid signs of fatigue.
With the war on the front line in eastern Ukraine bogged down in trenches, Russia has reverted to a tactic developed last winter, when it used air raids to target infrastructure, leaving many Ukrainians short of heat and other essentials.
This winter it has said it is targeting military targets, but many civilian areas have been hit. In retaliation, Ukraine has begun firing back at targets inside Russia, as well as in occupied regions in the east.
Moscow noted that renewed attacks on Belgorod had injured three people on Tuesday. The city has become a regular target of missile and drone attacks in recent weeks, prompting officials to evacuate hundreds and close schools.
“Of course, our military will continue to do everything in order to minimise the danger at first and then eliminate it entirely,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Since invading its neighbour in February, the Kremlin has sought to maintain a semblance of normalcy on the home front. However, the attacks on Belgorod have brought the Ukraine conflict closer to home.
“Now there are three people in intensive care, all of them have undergone surgeries. Doctors assess their condition as stable and severe,” the head of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said on the Telegram messaging app.
Russia had launched another barrage of missiles against Ukrainian targets in eastern Ukraine on Monday, killing four civilians and injuring 30, according to Ukrainian officials.
The Kremlin spokesperson declined, however, to comment on US and Ukrainian assertions that Moscow has been using North Korean missiles to target Ukraine.
Last week, the White House said Russia had used short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) sourced from North Korea to conduct multiple attacks, citing newly declassified intelligence. A senior Ukrainian official later corroborated the assertion.
Peskov instead accused Ukraine of firing on civilian targets in the centre of Belgorod, an urban hub of some 340,000 people, with weapons supplied by Western countries including “Germany, France, Italy, the United States, and others”.
Ukraine, meanwhile, continues to urge allies to raise supplies of weapons.
Amid the growing focus on air raids, Ukraine’s Air Force spokesperson, Yuriy Ihnat, declared on Tuesday that the country was running out of anti-aircraft guided missiles.
Ukraine has relied heavily on military and financial aid from Western allies, but political wrangling has delayed the disbursement of major aid packages for this year.
Ihnat told Ukrainian television that Ukraine had used a “considerable reserve” of missiles defending itself against recent attacks, and added, “It is clear that there is a deficit of anti-aircraft guided missiles.”
“We have more and more Western equipment today and, accordingly, it needs maintenance, repair, updating, replenishment, and corresponding ammunition,” he said.
Yehor Chernev, a lawmaker, told Ukrainian television that the government would discuss how to strengthen its air defences at a meeting with its NATO allies this week.
Ukrainian officials have warned that Russia was stockpiling missiles for more attacks during the critical cold months, hoping to inflict more damage on the energy grid after air attacks caused frequent power cuts last winter.