Raid on Russian fuel depot 'will hamper stretched invaders'

2 April 2022, 00:37 | Updated: 2 April 2022, 00:45

The MoD expects the fuel depot fire will affect Russian forces
The MoD expects the fuel depot fire will affect Russian forces. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

An apparent air raid on a fuel depot 25 miles within Russian territory will cause "strain" to Vladimir Putin's invaders.

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The fuel facility in Belgorod went up in flames as the local governor claimed Ukrainian helicopters swooped in to destroy it.

Kyiv has not confirmed if it was responsible for the attack, which would represent the first time its forces are known to have struck inside nuclear-armed Russia’s own borders.

It came as Ukraine emphasised the need to win the war in the air to prevail in the conflict – and now it has been reported a British anti-aircraft missile has destroyed a Russian helicopter.

A fresh assessment by the UK’' Ministry of Defence [MoD] late on Friday said that the Belgorod strike, combined with an explosion at an ammo depot nearby on 30 March, would hinder the invading forces, particularly those attempting to capture the strategically important second city of Ukraine, Kharkhiv.

"A fire has destroyed several oil tanks at a depot in the Russian city of Belgorod, close to the Ukrainian border," the MoD said.

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"On 30 March, explosions were also reported at an ammunition depot in the vicinity of the city.

"The probable loss of fuel and ammunition supplies from these depots will likely add additional short-term strain to Russia's already stretched logistic chains.

"Supplies to Russian forces encircling Kharkhiv (60 km from Belgorod) may be particularly affected."

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Pesko said: "Of course, this is not something that can be perceived as creating comfortable conditions for the continuation of negotiations."

And Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said: "I can neither confirm nor reject the claim that Ukraine was involved in this simply because I do not possess all the military information."

Any enforced stalling would represent yet another set back for Putin's forces, which appear to have endured serious logistical issues from the beginning of the invasion, heavily impacting how much progress they could make.

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They have faced heavy Ukrainian resistance all over the country, and Kyiv has even begun to launch small-scale counter attacks, backed by Western supplied weapons like the NLAW anti-tank missile launcher.

In more bad news for Moscow, The Times reported on Friday that the British-supplied Starstreak missile system is believed to have downed a Russian helicopter in Ukraine.

The newspaper said it appeared to break the tail of a Mi-28N, one of Russia's more modern attack helicopters.

Russia has said it is withdrawing forces from its push to Kyiv, the capital, where it failed in what Western observers believed was a bid to force out the democratically-elected government of Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Peace talks between Ukraine and Russia have continued.