Russia announces the liquidation of an armed group that infiltrated its lands from the Belgorod region
Russia announced on Tuesday that its armed forces had “crushed” the group that attacked the Russian border region of Belgorod on Monday, in the most serious incursion into Russian territory since the start of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
On Monday, fighters entered Russia from Ukraine and attacked several towns in the Belgorod region, which were also subjected to artillery shelling and drone attacks, prompting residents to flee.
The Kremlin expressed “deep concern” after this incursion, calling for “more efforts” to prevent these incursions, which have increased in the past months and raised questions about the solidity of Russian defenses at a time when Kiev says it’s preparing for a large-scale attack.
“During the anti-terrorist operation, thanks to air and artillery strikes and the movement of the border defense units of the Western Military District, the (Ukrainian) nationalist organizations were repelled and crushed,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The statement added, “The rest of the nationalists were repelled and forced to retreat to the territory of Ukraine, where the strikes continued until they were completely liquidated”.
The statement confirmed killing more than 70 “Ukrainian terrorists”; however, this information couldn’t be immediately verified by an independent source.
Russia accused Kiev of being behind this attack, but the Ukrainian authorities denied any involvement in it.
“The situation in the Belgorod region is an internal Russian crisis… We’re not fighting wars on foreign lands,” said Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Gana Malyar.
The “Russian Freedom Corps” group, made up of Russians fighting on the side of Ukraine, claimed responsibility for the attack via Telegram.
This group, which Russia classifies as “terrorist”, claimed incursions into this region.
Another similar group called the “Russian Volunteer Corps” may have participated in the operation.
“What happened yesterday causes deep concern and once again shows that Ukrainian militants continue their activities against our country,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Peskov added, “This requires us to make more efforts, and these efforts are continuing, and the special military operation is continuing so that this doesn’t happen anymore”.
The governor of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said that several towns, including Grivoron, the largest city in the region of the same name, were subjected to artillery shelling, rocket launchers and drones.
Gladkov said that civilians were evacuated from nine towns, noting that 12 civilians were wounded.
In response to this incursion, Russia has included the Belgorod region on the border with Ukraine in the “legal system of an area of anti-terror operations,” according to what the region’s governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, announced on Monday, which gives special powers to the security services and allows the imposition of measures that include strengthening security and monitoring communications.
A similar regime was imposed in Chechnya between 1999 and 2009 when the Russian authorities fought rebels during Moscow’s second military campaign in this mountainous region.
On the other hand, the Russian Investigative Committee in charge of the most prominent investigations in the country announced, on Tuesday, the opening of an investigation into a “terrorist act”.
Although other attacks took place in the past weeks in this border area, it is the first time that it took such a scale and showed the ability to penetrate the Russian borders.
This attack on the Russian region comes before a large-scale attack expected to be launched by Ukrainian forces soon, although Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that his country isn’t ready yet.
President Vladimir Putin didn’t address the issue of the incursion, and contented himself during an award ceremony in the Kremlin on Tuesday by speaking generally about the conflict in Ukraine.
“Yes, Russia is facing difficult times, but today is a special moment to deepen our patriotism,” the Russian president said, reiterating that Moscow is defending the Russian people in Ukraine’s Donbas.
On Monday, the Kremlin accused Kiev of being behind the incursion with the aim of “diverting attention” from the control of Russian forces over the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.
Russian authorities announced at the end of the week that they had taken control of the entire destroyed city, which witnessed the longest and fiercest battles during the conflict, in which both sides suffered heavy losses.
However, Kiev denied losing Bakhmut, stressing on Tuesday morning “the battles for control of the city of Bakhmut continue”.
On the other hand, on Tuesday, the Ukrainian President visited the front line in the Donetsk region, in the east of the country, where he met military personnel.