Three Russian cities close to Ukraine report drone hits on same day

VORONEZH/BELGOROD, Russia (Reuters) -A drone struck an apartment building in the southern Russian city of Voronezh on Friday in what investigators called a “terrorist act” on behalf of Ukraine, prompting the regional governor to order a state of emergency.

Drones also fell on an office building in Belgorod and near an oil depot in Kursk, officials in those cities said. Though they caused no serious damage, they underlined the increasing frequency of such attacks in areas of Russia close to the border with Ukraine.

Russia’s state Investigative Committee said it had opened a criminal case in connection with the incident in Voronezh, 180 km (110 miles) from the border, against “persons acting in the interests of the military-political leadership of Ukraine”.

There was no official reaction from Ukraine, which does not comment on alleged military operations inside Russian territory.

“There was a violent explosion. I screamed. And (the plumber) who was fixing my drain, he saw it; he shouted that it was a drone,” a woman who witnessed the Voronezh incident said.

Investigators said there was structural damage to the apartment block, whose facade was partly smashed in and scorched.

Three people were slightly hurt by broken glass but did not need hospital treatment, regional governor Alexander Gusev said. The Kremlin said Russian intelligence services were investigating.

In Belgorod, some 35 km (22 miles) from the Ukraine border, the boom of anti-air defences shooting down incoming targets has become a daily occurrence and people interviewed on the street by Reuters said they were used to it.

“Our guys are stars, the air defence is working well. It’s very unpleasant,” said Alexei Fedyunin, a 43-year-old driver.

Olga Maskayeva, 71, who lives with her 99-year-old father, said: “Where are we supposed to go? If it happens, it happens.”

Drone attacks – including, since last month, in Moscow – have added to a sense among ordinary Russians that what President Vladimir Putin calls his “special military operation” in Ukraine is coming close to home.

Russia accused Ukraine on May 3 of launching two drones at the Kremlin in what it said was an attempt to kill Putin. Kyiv denied involvement in that incident.

On May 30, Russia said it had shot down or diverted eight Ukrainian drones in an attack on several districts of Moscow. A Ukrainian presidential aide denied Kyiv was directly involved but said it was “pleased to watch events” and forecast more such strikes.

(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan, Tatiana Gomozova and Felix Light; Editing by Kevin Liffey)