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IRPIN, (Ukraine): Russian firefighters battled a blaze at one of Russia’s main logistics hubs for its Ukraine war effort on Friday, after what Moscow described as a cross-border air raid by Ukrainian helicopters, the first of its kind in the five week war.

Ukraine denied responsibility for the huge fire at the fuel depot in Belgorod, a Russian city near the border.

Security camera footage of the depot, from a location verified by Reuters, showed a flash from what appears to be a missile fired from low altitude in the sky, followed by an explosion on the ground. The defence ministry said two Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopters had been involved in the raid.

Inside Ukraine, Ukrainian forces were moving into territory abandoned by withdrawing Russian troops in the north as peace talks resumed on Friday. But in the southeast, which Russia now says is the focus of its operation, the Red Cross said it had been barred from bringing aid to the besieged city of Mariupol.

A Russian threat to cut off gas supplies to Europe unless buyers paid with roubles by Friday was averted for now, with Moscow saying it would not halt supplies until new payments are due later in April.

Unprotected Russian soldiers disturbed radioactive dust in Chernobyl's 'Red Forest', workers say

Hours after the reported attack on the oil depot, an eyewitness reached by telephone in Belgorod, who asked not to be identified, said aircraft were flying overhead and there were continuous explosions from the direction of the border.

“Something is happening. There are planes and constant explosions in the distance.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said authorities were doing everything possible to reorganise the fuel supply chain and avoid disruption of energy supplies in Belgorod. The incident did not create comfortable conditions for the peace talks, he said.

Ukraine’s top security official said the Russian allegations it was behind the attack were not correct. Earlier the defence ministry declined to confirm or deny Ukrainian involvement.

“Ukraine is currently conducting a defensive operation against Russian aggression on the territory of Ukraine, and this does not mean that Ukraine is responsible for every catastrophe on Russia’s territory,” said ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk.

COLLECTING THE DEAD

After failing to capture a single major city in five weeks of war, Russia says it is pulling back from northern Ukraine and shifting its focus to the southeast.

Russia has painted its draw-down in the north as a goodwill gesture for peace talks, but Ukraine and its allies say Russian forces have been forced to regroup after suffering heavy losses due to poor logistics and determined Ukrainian resistance.

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