Russia announced on Monday that it was fighting a cross-border incursion by saboteurs who crossed the border from Ukraine. It is believed to be the largest attack of its kind since the war began 15 months ago.
Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, said Ukrainian “sabotage groups” had invaded Russian territory in the Greyvoron district bordering Ukraine and were being repulsed.
However, Ukrainian news agency Kromadske, citing information from the Ukrainian military intelligence service, said two Russian armed rebel groups, the Russian Freedom Corps and the Russian Volunteer Forces, both made up of Russian citizens, were responsible for the attack. said there is.
Ukraine’s presidential aide said on Twitter that the Kiev government was watching the situation with interest but had “nothing to do with it.”
The Russian militia released video footage late Monday showing fighter jets inspecting captured armored vehicles. Another video showed fighters allegedly operating an armored vehicle on a country road.
Other videos posted on Russian and Ukrainian social media channels showed photos and videos of alleged Russian soldiers and their IDs.
Reuters could not independently verify the situation.
Governor launches ‘anti-terrorism’ measures
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had been notified and that work was underway to expel the “saboteurs,” the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported.
Belgorod governor Gladkov said in a telegram that at least eight people were injured and that three residential buildings and an administrative building were damaged. In a subsequent press conference broadcasted on social media, Gladkov said most of the local population had left and imposed a “counter-terrorist operation” restricting movement and communication.
Telegram channel Baza, which has ties to the Russian security services, said there were signs of fighting in three villages along the main road leading to Russia. The ‘Open Belgorod’ telegram channel reported that electricity and water were cut off in several villages.
The Russian Freedom Corps announced on Twitter that it had “completely liberated” the border town of Kozinka. Forward forces announced they had reached the center of the Greyboron district further east.
“Go ahead. Russia will be free!”
Ukrainian social media users regularly referred to what they called the “Belgorod People’s Republic.” This pays tribute to an event in eastern Ukraine in 2014 when Russian-backed militias claiming to be rebels against the Kiev government declared a “people’s republic” in the eastern provinces of Ukraine. of Donetsk and Luhansk. Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year.
Battle of Bahumut intensifies
The Kremlin said the invasion was intended to divert attention from the eastern Ukraine city of Bakhmut, which Russian forces claimed to have completely overrun after more than nine months of fighting.
The Moscow government says seizing Bakhmut will pave the way for further development of the eastern industrial zone known as Donbass, which borders Russia. Ukraine would make more sense to march on the Russian flank than to withdraw into Bakhmut, and Russia would need to weaken the front elsewhere to send reinforcements to hold the shattered city. claims.
In a statement Monday night, the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff said there had been 25 clashes in key areas of the front line, with the epicenter of the fighting remaining in Bakhmut and further south in Marinka.
The statement said Russian forces continued offensive operations, including airstrikes on Bakhmut and the village of Ivanifske on its western edge. At least 12 towns and villages in the region were hit by shelling, including the villages of Bakhmut and Ivanifske, the newspaper said.
Separately from Bakhmut, spokesman for the Eastern Group of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Serhiy Cherevati told Ukrainian television: These advances are gradual, but it would be better if such advances were well planned. “
Reuters was unable to independently verify the reports.
Meanwhile, the United Nations on Monday expressed concern that no ships had been in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Pivdeny (Yuzhnyy) since May 2, under a deal allowing the safe export of wartime grain and fertilizers.
by Pavel Polichuk