Russia says it will evacuate children from Belgorod after Ukraine shelling | Russia-Ukraine war News

The Kremlin says it aims to create a buffer zone to protect civilians against long-range strikes and cross-border raids.

Russia plans to evacuate about 9,000 children from a border region because it is being shelled continuously by Ukraine, a local official has said.

The children will be moved from the Belgorod region farther east, away from the Ukraine border, regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Tuesday.

The announcement came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Kremlin wants to create a buffer zone to help protect border regions from long-range Ukrainian strikes and cross-border raids that have occurred with more frequency in recent months.

Ukraine has used its long-range firepower to hit oil refineries and depots deep inside Russia and has sought to unsettle the Russian border regions, putting political pressure on Putin.

In addition, Ukraine-based Russian opponents of Putin and the Kremlin have launched cross-border raids.

Last week, there was an incursion in the Belgorod and Kursk regions, which the Russian Defence Ministry said that Moscow’s military and security forces thwarted, killing 30 fighters.

Putin discussed the cross-border incursions during a meeting on Tuesday with top Federal Security Service (FSB) officials.

Local residents inspect a damaged car hit by shelling in the settlement of Razumnoe in the Belgorod region of  Russia, March 19, 2024 [Stringer/Reuters]

Civilian areas of Belgorod have been struck with particular frequency in recent weeks. According to Gladkov, 16 people died, and 98 were wounded over the last week.

On Saturday, he ordered the closure of shopping malls through Monday and schools through Tuesday because of the security situation.

The planned evacuation of children is one of the biggest publicly announced in the Belgorod region since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

About 1,000 people, including children and their families, were evacuated to other Russian regions last June, and there have been other sporadic reports of evacuations over the past year.

Under the latest evacuation order, it was unclear whether adults would accompany the children. If so, the total number of evacuees could be much higher.

Gladkov said that roughly 600 people were in temporary accommodation on Monday after being evacuated from their homes.

Three people were wounded on Tuesday in an aerial attack from Ukraine on the Belgorod region, Gladkov said, including a 14-year-old who had part of a limb amputated. His mother was also seriously hurt in the attack, he said.

The previous day, four members of the same family died in an attack on the Belgorod village of Nikolskoe, according to Gladkov.

A grandmother, mother, her partner and 17-year-old son were killed after a missile struck their house, he said.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the claims.

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