Ukraine strikes inside Russia for first time, Moscow furious

“Certainly, this is not something that can be perceived as creating comfortable conditions for the continuation of the talks,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

By Associated Press

Emergency relief and evacuation convoys for the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol remained in doubt Friday following reports of Russian interference, while Russian officials accused Ukraine of flying helicopter gunships across a border between the two countries and striking an oil depot.

The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region said the alleged airstrike caused multiple fires and two people were injured. A Kremlin spokesman said the incident on Russia’s territory could undermine negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian representatives that resumed by video link Friday.

“Certainly, this is not something that can be perceived as creating comfortable conditions for the continuation of the talks,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov replied when asked if the strike could be viewed as an escalation of the war in Ukraine.

It was not immediately possible to verify the claim that Ukrainian helicopters targeted the oil depot or several nearby businesses in Belgorod also reported hit. Russia has reported shelling from Ukraine before, including an incident last week that killed a military chaplain, but not an incursion of its airspace.

The negotiations follow a meeting of Russian and Ukrainian delegations in Turkey on Tuesday where Ukraine reiterated its willingness to abandon a bid to join NATO and offered proposals to have its neutral military status guaranteed by a range of foreign countries.

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The head of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Medinsky, wrote on social media that Moscow’s positions on retaining control of the Crimean Peninsula and expanding the territory in eastern Ukraine held by Russia-backed separatists “are unchanged.”

The International Committee for the Red Cross said complex logistics were still being worked out for the operation to get emergency aid into Mariupol and civilians out of the city, which has suffered weeks of heavy fighting with dwindling water, food and medical supplies.

“We are running out of adjectives to describe the horrors that residents in Mariupol have suffered,” ICRC spokesperson Ewan Watson said Friday during a U.N. briefing in Geneva. “The situation is horrendous and deteriorating, and it’s now a humanitarian imperative that people be allowed to leave and aid supplies be allowed in.”

He said the group sent three vehicles toward Mariupol and a frontline between Ukrainian and Russian forces but two trucks carrying supplies were not accompanying them. Dozens of buses organized by Ukrainian authorities to bring people out of the city had not started approaching the dividing line, Watson said.

On Thursday, Russian forces blocked a 45-bus convoy attempting to evacuate people from Mariupol after the Russian military agreed to a limited ceasefire in the area, and only 631 people were able to leave in private cars, the Ukrainian government said.

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Russian forces also seized 14 tons of food and medical supplies trying to make it to Mariupol, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.