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At least two people killed in Ukrainian missile attack, says Russia

At least two people killed in Ukrainian missile attack, says Russia

Ukraine fired at least eight missiles at Russia’s Belgorod border region, killing two people and wounding 12, local officials said on Thursday.

Russia also said it repelled cross-border incursions by Ukrainian forces in the same area and neighbouring Kursk.

Moscow claims its troops killed 195 Ukrainian soldiers, destroyed five tanks and four armoured infantry vehicles - just two days after saying it killed 234 Ukrainian troops in another border assault.

It is not possible to independently verify these claims.

Cross-border attacks in the area have occurred sporadically since the war began and have been the subject of claims and counterclaims, as well as disinformation and propaganda.

The attacks come as Kyiv attempts to rattle the Kremlin ahead of Russia’s presidential elections.

Vladimir Putin is all but guaranteed to win the vote, amid a ruthless crackdown on dissent in the country.

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking at a news conference following a meeting of the State Council at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia on Dec. 22, 2022
FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking at a news conference following a meeting of the State Council at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia on Dec. 22, 2022 - Sergey Guneyev/Sputnik

Putin has sought to persuade Russians to keep him in power against a backdrop of what he says are foreign threats to Russia, with the Ukraine war stretching into its third year.

In a video address, he said participation in the polls was a “manifestation of patriotic feeling” and that the polls were “a step into the future”.

Analysts say the Kremlin fears low turnout during the three days of voting that finish Sunday. It needs citizens to participate to give legitimacy to Putin.

The country’s exiled opposition is calling on Russians to protest against the election by gathering at polling stations at noon on Sunday in a signal that they do not support Putin.

But Putin is almost certain to win another six-year term which will see him remain in office until 2030.

Since coming to power almost 25 years ago, he has eliminated nearly all independent media and opposition voices in Russia, particularly since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

While the war did not go well for Russia initially, the country’s economy has been surprisingly resilient despite wide-ranging Western sanctions.

And as Western aid to Kyiv peters out, Moscow has significantly expanded its weapons production, which analysts warn does not bode well for Ukraine.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday warned that delays in arms and ammunition deliveries to Ukraine are costing lives.

“The Ukrainians are not running out of courage, they are running out of ammunition,” he told reporters in Brussels.

Experts say Russia is gaining momentum in the war and that the coming months will be critical to the outcome of the conflict.