Tensions were rising in Russian villages bordering the Kharkiv region on Thursday as the roar of Ukrainian army firepower closed in on the border.
The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region said people were injured when Ukrainian shells hit a border village, and private homes, farm buildings and power lines in another were partially destroyed. Vyacheslav Gladkov also ordered the evacuation of several villages.
Ukraine took over thousands of miles and more than 300 villages and towns this month. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Russian troops fleeing Ukraine’s advance are massing at the Belgorod border, where other Russian troops are preventing them from crossing.
“They have no communication with the command,” the ministry said in a statement. “There are no food and ammunition supplies.”
The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, reporting from Belgorod in recent days, found locals expressing fear and concern. A teacher said she told students who heard missiles that the noise was just thunder.
Some residents fled to Belgorod from Ukrainian villages after working for Russian administrations – only for Russians to abandon Ukrainian towns. They now fear being punished by the Ukrainian authorities who consider them traitors.
TURNING POINT IN THE UKRAINE WAR:As Russia admits defeat in Kharkiv, Ukraine regains ground and confidence
Putin launches war by meeting China’s Xi
Russian leader Vladimir Putin launched his war and lambasted the West during a Thursday meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Uzbekistan. Russia has dramatically increased its energy sales to China in recent months as European purchases have fallen due to sanctions.
The two leaders met in Uzbekistan on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a security alliance created to counterbalance American influence. The alliance also includes India, Pakistan and four former Soviet countries in Central Asia.
Putin said he understood China’s “questions and concerns” about the war.
“We highly appreciate the balanced position of our Chinese friends in the context of the Ukrainian crisis,” Putin said.
Contributor: The Associated Press