Elite high-rise in Russian border town goes up in flames

Ukraine: Freedom of Russia Legion fight in Belgorod

Residents of the elite high-rise building were forced to evacuate after it went up in flames last night. The apartment block, which also houses Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations, is situated in Belgorod. The Russian border town has recently been the centre of intense fighting and violence following incursions by two anti-Putin Russian rebel groups.

Footage of the fire last night showed smoke billowing into the sky as emergency vehicles arrive on the scene.

The intense fire could be seen from across Belgorod, which lies just miles from the Ukrainian border.

Regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov confirmed that all residents in the apartment building were evacuated.

He added that there were no injuries or fatalities from the incident.

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It remains unclear what caused the fire in the centre of Belgorod.

The building is an elite residential complex situated on Svyato-Troitsky Boulevard

This comes amid rising tensions in the border region, which has seen Ukrainian strikes and at least two armed incursions by anti-Kremlin Russian groups over the past month.

In response, Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov has ordered his troops to protect Belgorod.

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Mr Kadyrov, a strong ally of President Putin, posted on his Telegram channel that fighters from the Zapad-Akhmat battalion had been deployed this week to defend the Russian border province.

His men have been tasked with fighting against “Ukrainian sabotage groups” to prevent their incursions into Belgorod.

He claimed that the residents could rest assured about their protection.

The think-tank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said that the Chechen leader’s move was likely part of a “continued effort to align himself with the Russian Ministry of Defense”.

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This could differentiate Mr Kadyrov from Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group, who has often picked furious fights with the Russian Defense Ministry.

The ISW said: “Kadyrov likely aims to posture himself and Chechen forces as cooperating with the MoD, directly contrasting with Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, who previously threatened to deploy Wagner forces to Belgorod Oblast without permission from the Russian MoD or the Russian military command.”

In early June, the two Russian rebel fighter groups – the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC) – engaged in street skirmishes with Russian troops in the city.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, mixed messages have emerged about the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Russia claims the counteroffensive has failed while Kyiv says it has retaken several villages and about 100 square kilometres of territory so far.

President Volodymyr Zelensky used his Friday night address to reiterate that every metre of Ukrainian territory recaptured from Russian occupying forces was “of the utmost importance”.

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