Saboteurs Mount Large Attack On Russia's Belgorod, Leaving At Least 8 Wounded
Russian officials are reporting another attack in the Belgorod region near the Ukraine border, including fresh clashes there which have resulted in multiple casualties.
President Vladimir Putin was reportedly briefed after the attack on Grayvoronsky district by the border. "Ukraine denies responsibility and said Russian citizens from two paramilitary groups were behind the attack," BBC reports.
Despite the conflicting allegations and lack of confirmed details, this is widely being reported as the largest armed attack in the border region since the Ukraine war began. The oblast's governor said that at least eight Russians have been hurt, including two taken to the hospital.
As a result of the fighting, the population living in area villages have been evacuated. "The situation remains extremely tense. A sabotage and reconnaissance group, the Ministry of Defense and all law enforcement agencies have entered the territory to carry out combat missions to protect our country,” Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a televised address.
He confirmed that local Russian authorities are "completing a house tour of the border villages" to assess casualties and to ensure protection of the local population. There are emerging reports that some or many of the attackers have been killed.
A Russian man looks out of his window in Grayvoron in the Belgorod region, Russia.— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) May 22, 2023
He jumps back from the window in fear when he realizes that the soldiers in front of his home are from the Freedom for Russia Legion and are allied with the Ukrainian Army pic.twitter.com/ctCszx3ZUJ
Kremlin sources are describing it as a cross-border attack originating from Ukraine, with TASS publishing the following of what is known from the Russian side:
- The infiltration by Ukrainian saboteurs was reported by Gladkov. He said the Russian military, border guards and the servicemen of the National Guard and the Federal Security Service are taking "necessary measures to eliminate the enemy."
- Before that, the governor said two people were injured in a shelling of the village of Glotovo of the Grayvoron District. He said one of the casualties, a woman, who suffered wounds from a mine explosion, had been taken to a hospital in serious condition. The other person, a man, was in a condition of medium gravity.
- The Kremlin later confirmed that a Ukrainian sabotage group had tried to force its way into the Belgorod Region, and the group is now being driven away from the Russian territory and eliminated.
- Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there are sufficient forces and equipment on the scene to combat the saboteurs. He said Putin had been briefed about the incident.
Russia says “sabotage and reconnaissance group” entered the territory of Grayvoron, Belgorod region. pic.twitter.com/pZK3ktCANv— Maria Avdeeva (@maria_avdv) May 22, 2023
But again, Ukraine is denying involvement, instead pointing to a group of anti-Putin Russian nationals who appear to be claiming responsibility. However, the group clearly works with Kiev. According to a CNN description:
Aleksey Baranovsky, a representative of the Kyiv-based Russian Armed Opposition Political Centre – the political wing of the Freedom of Russia Legion – told CNN that the operation had started Sunday night and fighting was “ongoing.”
He would not specify the number of fighters who had crossed the border into Russia.
Baranovsky said the group wanted to “liberate our motherland from the tyranny of Putin.”
In a Telegram post, the groups said they had “fully liberated the settlement of Kozinka of Belgorod region. [The] first groups have entered Grayvoron.”
In a Telegram post, groups calling themselves the “Freedom of Russia Legion” and “Russian Volunteer Corps” said they had “liberated” a settlement in the Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials have insisted that the group acted independently of the government in Kiev. Media statements from the group asserted that they had "liberated" a Russian village.
weirdness in Russia's Belgorod region today. Per regional governor, a Ukrainian Armed Forces "sabotage and reconnaissance group" purportedly entered the region. Gunfights reported, low-flying helicopters. https://t.co/W11FUHiaWq pic.twitter.com/m52AbQQJG4— Mike Eckel (@Mike_Eckel) May 22, 2023
Putin's office is meanwhile calling this a desperate attempt to distract from Russia's successful capture and control of Bakhmut this weekend.
Lines of cars could be seen exiting Belgorod as civilians fled the fight that engulfed multiple villages on Monday...
Traffic jams forming as more and more Russians are fleeing the city of Belgorod, following the incursion of the Free Russia Legion (allied with the Ukrainian Army) into the region, taking control of 4 settlements near the city.pic.twitter.com/OVk6l3MZr2— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) May 22, 2023
"We perfectly understand the purpose of such sabotage - to divert attention from the Bakhmut direction, to minimize the political effect of the loss of Artemovsk [Bakhmut] by the Ukrainian side," presidential spokesman Dimitry Peskov said.
⚡️Another video they put out in which they claimed to have captured a Russian BTR-82 in Belgorod, Russia. https://t.co/p2rUNE2I4t pic.twitter.com/BxEDHMUg8p— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) May 22, 2023
The timing is indeed interesting, as it seems these types of cross-border incidents have increased while Russian forces have slowly pushed forward with control of Donetsk, Luhansk and areas south.