Explosions Hit Russia's Belgorod as Governor Says 'Air Defenses Triggered'

At least three people were killed and dozens of homes were damaged by explosions in the Russian city of Belgorod near the Ukraine border, according to Russian authorities.

Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov reported a number of blasts in the city, which is some 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the border with Ukraine.

Three people were dead and several others were hurt, including a 10-year-old child and a man who was hospitalized in a serious condition, Gladkov wrote in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

At least 11 apartment buildings and 39 houses sustained damaged, including five that were destroyed, he said.

Gladkov said that the cause of the blasts is under investigation and that air defenses "was supposedly triggered."

Several videos of the purported air strike emerged on social media overnight, including one posted by Igor Girkin, a former Russian military commander. Another, shared by reporter Kyle Glen, appeared to show a residential building on fire.

Russian lawmaker Andrei Klishas accused Ukraine of shelling Belgorod and called for a "severe" response.

"The death of civilians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure in Belgorod are a direct act of aggression on the part of Ukraine and require the most severe, including a military, response," Klishas wrote on Telegram.

Moscow has accused Kyiv of several attacks on Belgorod and other regions bordering Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion of the neighboring country on February 24.

The Russian accounts could not be independently verified and Ukraine has not claimed responsibility.

But Ukraine has described the incidents as payback and "karma" for Russia's actions, according to Reuters.

The General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces said its air force had flown some 15 sorties "in virtually all directions of hostilities."

Olexander Scherba, a Ukrainian diplomat, said the incidents in Belgorod were "well deserved."

Belgorod and Kharkiv, across the border in Ukraine, "used to be good neighbors (but not anymore)," Scherba wrote on Twitter alongside a clip of a blast. "For 4 months, Belgorod enthusiastically shelled Kharkiv every night. Now someone targets Belgorod. Whoever does it—it's well deserved."

Several pro-Ukraine Telegram channels and independent Russian media outlets also claimed the air strike was a provocation by the Russian forces, citing photos purportedly showing remains of a missile from the Russian-made Pantsir artillery system. Newsweek could not immediately verify the claims.

Taras Mishchenko, the founder of a Ukrainian technology website, said photos of the damaged buildings that were shared on Telegram by Gladkov had been edited.

"Russians are using Photoshop on photos of residential buildings in Belgorod to fabricate their destruction," he wrote alongside one of the images.

A general view shows Belgorod
A general view shows the Russian city of Belgorod on April 11, 2019, Vasily Maximov/AFP via Getty Images