Ukraine tight-lipped on alleged attack on Russian oil depot
Civilian and military officials in Ukraine declined to either confirm or deny on Friday that their military helicopters conducted a successful cross-border raid and attacked an oil depot on the outskirts of the Russian city of Belgorod.
The non-admisson to what could be considered the first major military action by Ukrainian forces on Russian territory in more than a month of open hostilities came from both the country's foreign ministry and defense ministry.
The nighttime incident was attributed to Ukraine by Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov of the Belgorod region on Friday morning. He said two of Kiev's helicopters attacked the oil facility after flying towards the border city at low altitude. Belgorod is located some 25km from Ukraine's Kharkov region.
A pair of military helicopters, likely Mi-28s, were filmed over the city delivering a missile strike at the depot. The alleged attack set several oil tanks on fire, but did not result in any fatalities, according to the governor. A nearby print shop was reported damaged in the incident as well.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on the incident on Friday, saying it did not help efforts to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the hostilities. Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhail Podolyak dismissed the sentiment, calling Moscow an untrustworthy negotiator.
Moscow attacked its neighbor in late February, following Ukraine's failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Russia's eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.