BELGOROD, Russia (Reuters) - Authorities placed heaps of sandbags at bus stops in the southern Russian city of Belgorod on Friday and built walls of concrete blocks to protect them after an increase in cross-border attacks from Ukraine.
Officials said the aim was to build defensive barriers at all 556 bus stops in the city, where a missile and drone attack on Dec. 30 killed 25 civilians, including five children, in the deadliest attack on Russian territory since the start of the conflict.
Belgorod, some 40 km (25 miles) from the Ukrainian border, has felt the impact of the war more keenly than any other Russian city.
Among residents, there were divided opinions about the utility of the defences.
"I think it's the right thing to do. Shelling could be anywhere in the city. It's to protect oneself when there's shelling in the city. It's very necessary in my opinion," one woman said.
Two other women at another bus stop said they were worried that the sandbags, piled above head-height, could fall on them in the event of an attack.
Ukraine's escalation of attacks on Belgorod over the New Year period has come as Russia launched some of its most intense strikes on Ukraine since the war began almost two years ago.
Hundreds of people had to evacuate their homes in the city over the holiday period as military experts defused unexploded shells. Air raid sirens have become a frequent occurrence.
City mayor Valentin Demidov said 300 children aged 10-14 had been sent off for three weeks of school and sports programmes in Yaroslavl, northeast of Moscow, and a similar number were leaving for other parts of Russia on Friday.
"This is a difficult period, a time of hard tests, we are all going through it together. The whole country is with us," Demidov said.
Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the wider region, said shelling on Friday had knocked out power lines serving several villages.
(Reporting by Reuters, writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Hugh Lawson)