In no Russian city does war play such a big role in everyday life as in Belgorod. Rockets have been launched from there since February, and reports of attacks on oil depots and power stations have recently increased. More and more citizens are leaving the city.
Armored vehicles drove through the Russian border town of Belgorod to Kharkiv on February 24. Since then, rockets have been fired at Ukraine from Belgorod. The supplies for the Russian troops in the Donbass also pass through the city. At the same time, the city itself is being hit by rockets, as the Russian authorities are reporting almost every day. A week ago, a state of emergency was declared in four regions around Belgorod.
For the people in the city, the Ukraine war is now part of everyday life. It is only 40 kilometers away from the Ukrainian border. Many people have already left Belgorod, says anti-war activist Ilya Kostyukov in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. In the last few months, a particularly large number of Ukrainians have come to the city, fleeing from their homeland.
“A mood of doom is slowly spreading among the people of Belgorod,” says Kostyukov. He protested against the war himself, set up an anti-war committee and was fined 20,000 rubles, reports the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. People would become war-weary, even though there is broad support for Putin’s attack in the city.
Reports of burning oil depots and power stations are piling up. The successful Ukrainian counter-offensive has further aggravated the situation. Residential buildings and shopping centers are also hit in villages close to the border. At least 11 volunteers fighting in Ukraine were killed and 15 others injured in an attack on a military base in mid-October, according to Moscow sources. The two attackers were from a former Soviet republic, the Russian Defense Ministry said, but gave no further details.
The Russian side describes the attacks as “terrorist attacks” for which the Ukrainians are responsible. There is no concrete evidence for this. Russian comedians recently tricked Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba with a fake phone call. Kuleba slipped out a confession: “If you ask me who is blowing something up in Crimea or Belgorod, I’ll tell you privately, yes, that was us.”
Since mid-October, Belgorod and five other regions close to the border and Crimea have had a “medium response level”. Putin has signed a decree that also establishes martial law in the four annexed Ukrainian regions. In Belgorod, evacuations of residents, entry and exit restrictions, additional traffic controls and more surveillance of critical infrastructure should be possible. In addition, freedom of movement within the regions can be restricted.
The police have increased traffic controls and would search cars for weapons and explosives, says Kostyukov of the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. Now the governor is asking residents to prepare their basements for emergencies. Because there are no air raid shelters in the city.