Ukraine has carried out a series of strikes on the Russian border city of Belgorod, just one day after an 18-hour aerial barrage across Ukraine.

Moscow stated that the assault on Belgorod involved the use of cluster munitions. During an emergency session at the UN Security Council, Russian envoy Vasily Nebenzya asserted that Kyiv had aimed at a sports centre, an ice rink, and a university, characterising it as a “purposeful, indiscriminate attack on a civilian target.”

Russia has vowed to respond to what it labelled a “terrorist attack” on Belgorod on Saturday that killed 24 civilians, including three children, and left 110 more injured.

Footage circulating on Russian social media portrays a city in chaos, with burning cars and black smoke emanating from damaged buildings. One particularly devastating strike reportedly hit close to a central ice rink.

Situated just over half an hour’s drive from the Ukrainian border, Belgorod holds strategic significance as a crucial point in Russian supply lines. The city has been a frequent target of extensive Ukrainian shelling and drone attacks for months.

Russian officials say their forces have shot down 32 Ukrainian drones over Moscow, Bryansk, Oryol, and Kursk regions.

The Kremlin reported that President Vladimir Putin has been briefed on the situation. President Putin has issued instructions for the health minister to travel to the affected city. The Russian defence ministry alleged that Kyiv orchestrated the attack on Belgorod, claiming that Ukrainian Olkha and Czech-made Vampire rockets, armed with cluster-munition warheads, were employed in the assault. The defence ministry noted that this act would not go unpunished, accusing the Kyiv regime of attempting to distract from defeats at the front and provoke Russia.

Ukraine, however, has not officially acknowledged launching any strikes on Saturday, maintaining its customary silence on attacks within Russian territory. Moscow has consistently accused Ukraine of orchestrating drone strikes in recent months, a claim that Kyiv seldom acknowledges.

Ukrainian media, citing law enforcement agencies, maintains that the attacks targeted only military objectives. They claim that these strikes were a response to Friday’s extensive bombardment of Ukrainian cities, characterised as Russia’s largest air attack on Ukraine to date. The Ukrainian stance suggests a cycle of retaliatory actions, each side blaming the other for initiating hostilities.

This surge in violence follows what was described as Russia’s biggest missile bombardment on Ukraine last Friday, resulting in 39 deaths and nearly 160 injuries, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Multiple cities, including the capital Kyiv, were targeted, making it the deadliest attack on the Ukrainian capital.

The attacks followed major aerial assaults by both sides. The retaliatory strikes by Moscow were in response to the Ukrainian assaults on Belgorod.