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Russia to evacuate 9,000 kids from region targeted from Ukrainian side

Authorities said Tuesday that the children are to be moved to areas farther east, away from Russia's border with Ukraine.
Russia to evacuate 9,000 kids from region targeted from Ukrainian side
Posted at 12:18 PM, Mar 19, 2024

Russia plans to evacuate about 9,000 children from a border region because it is being shelled continuously by Ukraine, an official said Tuesday, reflecting Kyiv's increasing focus on striking targets behind a front line that has barely shifted in recent months.

The children will be moved from the Belgorod region farther east, away from the Ukraine border, said the region's governor, Vyacheslev Gladkov.

The announcement came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Kremlin wants to create a buffer zone to help protect border regions from long-range Ukrainian strikes and cross-border raids more than two years into the war.

Ukraine has increasingly used its long-range firepower to hit oil refineries and depots deep inside Russia and has sought to unsettle the Russian border regions, putting political pressure on Putin.

In addition, Ukraine-based Russian opponents of Putin and the Kremlin have launched cross-border raids. Putin discussed the cross-border incursions during a meeting Tuesday with top officials of the Federal Security Service, the FSB.

Civilian areas of Belgorod have been battered in the fighting. According to Gladkov, 16 people died and 98 were injured over the last week alone. On Saturday, he ordered the closure of shopping malls through Monday and schools through Tuesday because of the security situation.

The planned evacuation of children is one of the biggest publicly announced in the Belgorod region since the war began in February 2022. About 1,000 people, including children and their families, were evacuated to other Russian regions last June, and there have been other sporadic reports of evacuations over the past year.

It was unclear whether adults would be accompanying the children under the latest evacuation order. If so, the total number of evacuees could be much higher.

Roughly 600 people were in temporary accommodation Monday after being evacuated from their homes, Gladkov said.

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Three people were wounded Tuesday in an aerial attack from Ukraine on the Belgorod region, Gladkov said, including a 14-year-old who had part of a limb amputated. His mother was also seriously hurt in the attack, he said.

The previous day, four members of the same family died in an attack on the Belgorod village of Nikolskoe, according to Gladkov. A grandmother, mother, her partner and 17-year-old son were killed after a missile struck their house, he said.

It has not been possible to independently verify either side's battlefield claims.

Two Ukrainian drones were shot down over Belgorod and another over the neighboring Voronezh region overnight, the Russian defense ministry said. It gave no details of any damage or injuries.

Meanwhile, Russia used S-300 missiles to attack the city of Selydove in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine overnight. Four people were wounded and houses and cars were damaged, the regional prosecutor's office said.

On Monday, Russian attacks in the Donetsk region killed one person and wounded another, according to Vadym Filashkin, the regional governor.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Ukraine's Western partners on Tuesday to quickly supply more air defense systems and illustrated the scale of the challenge Kyiv's forces face. He said so far this month, Russia has used 130 missiles of various types, more than 320 Shahed drones and nearly 900 guided air bombs to target various regions of Ukraine.

Ukraine has ramped up its defense production and plans to reach levels unseen since the country gained independence during the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, according to Zelenskyy. But it still relies heavily on Western support, which has waned in recent months.

Meanwhile Tuesday, Adm. Alexander Moiseyev was presented as the new acting head of the Russian navy during a ceremony at a naval base in Kronstadt, in the Gulf of Finland. Russian media reported last week that the previous navy chief, Adm. Nikolai Yevmenov, had been fired and replaced with Moiseyev, the commander of the navy's northern fleet.

Yevmenov's replacement followed a series of successful attacks by Ukrainian drones and missiles on the Russian Black Sea fleet that have forced Moscow to limit its naval operations in the region.

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