Russia claims Ukrainian forces struck fuel depot in cross-border attack

Russia on Friday accused Ukraine of entering into its airspace for the first time and striking a fuel facility in the western city of Belgorod, 16 miles away from the border. But Ukrainian officials have not confirmed the attack as fierce battles continue in major population centers. And in Mariupol there was another failed attempt to evacuate civilians. Jack Hewson reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    For the first time, Russia today has reported a Ukrainian incursion on to its territory. Moscow says the target was a fuel facility in Belgorod 16 miles beyond the border. Ukrainian officials have not confirmed the attack.

    Meanwhile, fierce battles continue in major population centers. And, in Mariupol, now a symbol of Ukraine's suffering, new attempts at mass evacuations of civilians failed again. Ukraine said that 3,000 residents were able to escape today, but a Red Cross team planning to deliver aid and evacuate residents was blocked from reaching the city.

    Special correspondent Jack Hewson begins our coverage.

  • Jack Hewson:

    A massive early morning explosion, but this time inside Russia. An oil depot in the city of Belgorod went up in a fireball near the Ukrainian border. Video emerged on social media of Ukrainian helicopter gunships allegedly used in the attack. Ukraine's foreign minister wouldn't comment.

    Dmytro Kuleba, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs (through translator): I can neither confirm nor reject the claim that Ukraine was involved in this.

  • Jack Hewson:

    The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said it could still progress for a tentative peace plan.

    Dmitry Peskov, Spokesman for Vladimir Putin (through translator): Of course, this is not something that can be perceived as creating comfortable conditions to continue peace talks.

  • Jack Hewson:

    Regardless, both sides resumed talks by phone today, following up on in person negotiations in Turkey earlier in the week, but, so far, no signs of a breakthrough.

    Meanwhile, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is now under Ukrainian control, after the last remaining Russian occupiers left the facility early this morning. Yesterday, Ukraine's nuclear regulator said that Russian troops were exposed to significant levels of radiation from digging trenches around the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster.

    But today, in Vienna, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, said he had no confirmation of that and that radiation levels were under control.

  • Rafael Grossi, Director General, IAEA:

    The general radiation situation around the plant is quite normal. There was a relatively higher level of localized radiation because of the movement of heavy vehicles at the time of the occupation of the plant. And, apparently, this might have been the case again in the way out.

  • Jack Hewson:

    On the battlefield, Ukrainians continue to put up strong resistance.

  • Roman, Ukrainian Soldier (through translator):

    How to explain what war is. This is not normal. But we did not go to another's territory. I am obliged to protect my children, my land, my home.

  • Jack Hewson:

    Today, Ukraine retook two villages in the north near Chernihiv along main supply routes to Kyiv.

    U.S. defense officials tell "PBS NewsHour" 20 to 25 percent of Russian forces outside Kyiv have repositioned away from the capital, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that was always part of Moscow's plan.

  • Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian President (through translator):

    We know that they are pulling away from directions where we hit them to concentrate on other very important directions where it will be very difficult for us.

  • Jack Hewson:

    President Zelenskyy said the Russians are preparing to carry out more strikes in the southeast Donbass region and in the northeast in the direction of Kharkiv. The once bustling metropolis known for its landmark Soviet architecture is now unrecognizable, largely deserted.

    The general sense of people in Kharkiv is one of defiance, one of pride at the territorial gains that have been made, a general stoicism. But there's also anxiety about how long this was going to last for, whether the Russians are going to dig in and what's going to happen next.

    Further south, in Mariupol, residents waited for relief. Today, a perilous operation got under way to rush desperately needed humanitarian aid into the besieged city and evacuate residents trapped for weeks by the bombardment.

    Some residents managed to get out, but a large-scale Red Cross evacuation failed. Their effort has been made even more difficult by the relentless urban warfare, as Russian soldiers keep fighting for control of the city.

    Earlier this week, local residents filmed the chaos following yet another brutal strike, as the desperation mounts, so too the casualties of this 37-day-long war. In the northwestern city of Lutsk, mourners grieved for a Ukrainian serviceman killed by shelling in Mykolaiv.

    Mykola Plisak, Son of Killed Ukrainian Soldier (through translator): There cannot be any peace with Russians. I will never forgive them for the death of my father.

  • Jack Hewson:

    His dad one of many who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in his battle to preserve Ukraine's democracy.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jack Hewson in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

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