At least 24 people, including three children, were killed and 108 others wounded in a Ukrainian attack on the Russian border city of Belgorod on Saturday, Russian authorities said, vowing to retaliate.
The latest toll was given by Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov, who blamed “massive shelling” by Ukraine’s armed forces.
“This crime will not go unpunished,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
“The Kiev regime … is trying to divert attention from the defeats on the front lines and to provoke us into taking similar actions.”
Ukrainian attacks on Russian regions near the border have continued almost daily for over a year, sometimes resulting in civilian casualties, but this would be one of the single deadliest incidents yet reported. CNN cannot independently confirm the death toll.
The attack also comes soon after Russia launched its largest aerial assault on Ukraine of the conflict, which simmered for years before Russia launched its full-scale invasion in 2022.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was briefed about the attack in Belgorod, the Kremlin said, ordering a health ministry team and emergencies ministry rescuers to be sent to the city to help those affected.
A fresh wave of Russian strikes targeting locations across Ukraine overnight on Saturday left three people dead and 28 injured in the Kharkiv region.
The head of the regional military administration said in a post on Telegram that rescuers had retrieved the bodies of two men and a woman from a house damaged by Russian attacks on the village of Borova.
After calling for a last minute emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council over the attack on Belgorod, Russia faced backlash from several council members.
Russia’s ambassador Vasily Nebenzya described the attack as “a deliberate act of terrorism planned against civilians” and claimed that a sports complex where children were present and an ice ring with kids were hit.
Ukraine was quick to respond as its representative, Serhii Dvornyk, told the Council that “the only way to stop human suffering” is “to stop the war itself” – calling on Russia to cease its aggression and withdraw its troops.
His comments were echoed by Ukraine’s western allies who put the blame squarely on Russia and its leader.
“Putin should be honest with his own people about the true and mounting cost of this war,” John Kelley, who represented the United States at the Council, said and added “we are here again today because the Kremlin refuses to halt its illegal invasion.”
The Security Council meeting took place hours after a Russian missile attack in Kharkiv in which at least 26 people were injured, according to Ukrainian officials.
Russian authorities said Belgorod was also shelled Friday night with one civilian killed, the region’s governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said. Four others, including a child, were injured, he added.
On Saturday, a child also died as a result of Ukrainian shelling in Russia’s Bryansk region, the region’s Governor Aleksandr Bogomaz said.
Ukraine has not publicly commented on the incidents and rarely claims responsibility for attacks on its neighbor.
Rescuers comb through Kyiv rubble
The toll from the Russian strikes overnight Thursday into Friday on Ukraine – which saw an unprecedented number of drones and missiles fired at targets across the country – meanwhile continued to mount.
At least 45 people are now confirmed dead. Kyiv authorities said they recovered two more bodies killed by Russia’s missile strikes, bringing the city’s death toll from the attack to 19.
Schools, a maternity hospital, shopping arcades and blocks of flats were among the buildings hit in Friday’s barrage, prompting widespread international condemnation and renewing calls for more military aid.
“The attack on the capital city on December 29 was the largest in terms of civilian casualties” since the start of the full-scale invasion, Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko said.
During the wave of strikes, Poland’s military authorities claimed that an “unidentified airbourne object” briefly entered its airspace.
Russia said it would not give any any explanation “until concrete evidence is presented.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wrote on X that NATO remained vigilant over the incident.
CNN’s Victoria Butenko, Svitlana Vlasova and Christian Edwards contributed to this report.