Key Russian railway bridge destroyed in Belgorod near the border with Ukraine | Ukraine

A major Russian railway bridge has been damaged in the border region with Ukraine in a potential act of sabotage – as Russia relies on its railways to relocate its attacking forces in preparation for a massive attack on eastern Ukraine.

Photographs from the bridge in Russia’s Belgorod region showed that a section of the railway had been forced upwards, possibly due to an explosion. The photographs, as well as news of the incident, were first released on Tuesday by the local Russian governor and local media.

“There are no casualties,” Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote in an online statement. “Only the railway track is destroyed … I will inform you of the reasons later.”

The incident comes as Russia has begun militarizing its border regions near Ukraine by raising threat alarms, setting up military checkpoints and mobilizing local townspeople in a sign that Russia’s war effort is moving towards eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine has not confirmed whether it is behind the attack on the railway bridge, which commentators said would make sense as a cross-border raid intended to slow down Russia’s relocation of heavy artillery and other military vehicles needed to prepare for an attack in Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Russia is heavily dependent on railways to relocate its military equipment. The bridge is located just four miles from the border on a railway line that goes south into Ukraine and lies on a supply line between Russia and the territory it has close to the city of Izyum near the Donbas.

Ukrainian intelligence has warned that Russia may be preparing “false flag” attacks that could justify a new offensive in the coming weeks.

Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that the war would continue “until its full end and we reach our goal”, and blamed the West for forcing Russia to attack Ukraine. He also denied evidence that Russian soldiers committed war crimes in the Ukrainian city of Bucha.

Ukrainian officials said Russia could seek to pursue public opinion in support of the war by staging attacks, which could then be blamed on Ukraine.

“Russian intelligence services are planning a series of terrorist attacks bombing and compromising residential buildings, hospitals and schools in Russian settlements,” Major General Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukraine’s military intelligence service, said in a statement.

He added that Belgorod, along with cities in the Crimea, could be among the cities targeted. “Trenches are being actively dug in the Belgorod and Kursk regions, and there is panic over an imaginary attack by Ukrainian volunteer battalions and diversionary groups,” he said.

Russia previously claimed that Ukraine had targeted a fuel dump in a helicopter attack earlier this month. Ukraine denied responsibility for the attack, and a senior official said, “whatever happens on Russia’s territory is Russia’s responsibility.”

As Russia moves its military eastward, there are signs that the military is increasing control in its border regions.

Six Russian regions on the border with Ukraine raised their terror threat levels on Monday, citing fears of “provocations”. Photographs showed that new vehicle checkpoints had been erected in the Kursk and Belgorod regions, where police stopped drivers and carried out car searches.

In Belgorod, a Russian city just 18 miles from the border, the mayor on Tuesday urged locals to join neighborhood watch groups. “Duties… include patrolling the streets in the evening and at night, as well as helping the police ensure law and order,” the order said, according to state media.

The Belgorod region has also banned the use of fireworks and fireworks “so as not to intimidate people with unnecessarily loud noises”, reports say.

Russia’s railways appear particularly vulnerable during construction.

So-called “railway rebels” in Belarus carried out more than a dozen acts of sabotage during the first weeks of the war in an attempt to interrupt supply trains traveling from Belarus to Russian units stationed in northern Ukraine.

The attacks on relay contacts and other infrastructure had briefly closed major routes, including the line from Minsk to the besieged Ukrainian city of Chernihiv.

In January, Belarusian cyber-partisans who opposed Alexander Lukashenko told the Guardian that they had hacked the country’s railway system in an attempt to disrupt the Russian military build-up that preceded its invasion of Ukraine.

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