Authorities in Russia reported on Sunday that gunmen killed 11 people at a Russian military training camp near the Ukrainian border, as combat continued in eastern and southern Ukraine.
According to the defense ministry and the Russian news agency RIA, two gunmen opened fire on a group of people who had volunteered to fight in Ukraine on Saturday during a firearms training exercise. It claimed that the “terrorists” themselves had been killed.
The incident is the latest setback to President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, and comes only a week after an explosion destroyed a bridge connecting mainland Russia to Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Without going into further detail, the Russian defense ministry stated that the assailants were from a former Soviet republic. Oleksiy Arestovych, a senior Ukrainian official, said that the two men were from Tajikistan, a predominantly Muslim region in Central Asia, and that they had opened fire on the others following a dispute over religion.
“As a result of the incident at a shooting range in Belgorod region, 11 people died from gunshot wounds and another 15 were injured,” Russia’s Investigative Committee said, announcing the criminal investigation. It gave no other details.
The number of fatalities was allegedly greater than the official estimates, according to several independent media outlets in Russia.
Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of the Belgorod region, said there were no local among the killed or wounded.
Later, two witnesses who saw Russian air defense systems deterring air strikes near Belgorod told Reuters about their observations. According to early reports, Gladkov said that two persons had suffered injuries as a result of the shelling.
In a contentious mobilization that has seen hundreds of thousands of men called up to fight in Ukraine and many depart the country, Putin claimed on Friday that Russia should be finished calling up reservists in two weeks.
Strong Putin friend Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus said last week that his country’s military will deploy alongside Russian forces close to the Ukrainian border, citing dangers from the West and Ukraine, among other things.
As part of a “regional grouping” of forces to guard its borders, the Belarusian defense ministry in Minsk said on Sunday that less than 9,000 Russian soldiers will be stationed there.
ATTACKS AND COUNTER-ATTACKS
According to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Russian forces launched up to 60 rocket attacks, 23 airstrikes, and five missile attacks against more than 30 cities and villages around Ukraine before Sunday morning.
In retaliation, the Ukrainian air force unleashed 32 strikes that successfully struck 24 Russian targets.
The eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as the strategically significant Kherson region in the south—three of the four provinces Putin recognized as being a part of Russia last month—have seen particularly intense fighting this weekend.
The head of the Donetsk region’s Russian-backed government stated on Sunday that the administrative building in the city of Donetsk, the region’s capital, had been destroyed by Ukrainian forces’ shelling.