Russia said Saturday that it would cancel Orthodox Christmas midnight masses in the city of Belgorod near the Ukraine border, a day after officials offered to evacuate worried residents amid increasing attacks.

Belgorod has been hit with near daily Ukrainian attacks in recent days, the deadliest of which killed 25 people on December 30.

Russia celebrates Orthodox Christmas on January 7 and midnight masses are held on the night of January 6.

The mayor of Belgorod, Valentin Demidov, said on social media he agreed with local church leaders that "night masses in Belgorod would be cancelled in connection to the operational situation".

On Friday, local officials made an unprecedented announcement to offer evacuations, almost two years into Moscow's offensive in which Russia has tried to maintain a sense of normalcy at home.


Both sides have escalated attacks in recent days as the conflict approaches its second anniversary.

Russian occupational authorities in eastern Ukraine said Ukrainian shelling killed two people Saturday.

"Two people were killed in Makiivka and Gorlovka," the Moscow-installed head of the Donetsk region, Denis Pushilin, said on Telegram, referring to two occupied eastern industrial towns.

Moscow had earlier announced that its forces shot down four Ukrainian missiles over Moscow-annexed Crimea overnight.

The attack came a day after Russia said it repelled a Ukrainian drone attack on Crimea, downing 36 of them over the peninsula.

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"Air defence on duty intercepted and destroyed four Ukrainian missiles over the Crimea peninsula," the Russian defence ministry said.

Kyiv said it had hit the Saki airbase in western Crimea.

"Saki airfield! All targets have been shot!" Mykola Oleshchuk, Ukraine's air force commander, said on social media.

Ukraine has targeted Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, since the start of Moscow's full-scale offensive in February 2022.

Kyiv said Friday that it had targeted a command post near Sevastopol on Thursday.

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