Wagner Ready To Defend Russia's Border Region After Whole Towns Evacuated 

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, Jun 03, 2023 - 11:00 PM

The war from across the border has impacted citizens in the Belgorod region of Russia to the point that many towns and villages have been evacuated, with some looking like ghost towns--this after armed groups mounted multiple raids since the war's start--as well as increased shelling and rocket fire. Just two days ago the anti-Moscow "Russian Volunteer Corps" said they launched another attack out of Ukraine, after a bigger one nearly two weeks ago left multiple casualties and many saboteurs killed. 

The New York Times wrote on Saturday that "Shebekino, a town of 40,000 six miles from the border, has effectively become a new part of the front line as Ukraine has intensified attacks inside Russia, including on residential areas near its own borders." This is all upending the lives of residents in the border region, akin to what already happened long ago on the Ukrainian side of the border. "The spate of assaults, most recently by militia groups aligned against Moscow, has sparked the largest military evacuation effort in Russia in decades," the report underscored. The past days have witnessed area residents move into temporary shelters, including the large Belgorod arena in the oblast capital.

Line outside a temporary shelter set up at the Belgorod Arena in the regional capital of Belgorod on Friday, AFP

On Saturday the controversial founder and leader of Russia's Wagner mercenary group has offered in a message to the public that he stands ready to send his fighters to protect the border region. 

But as part of the ongoing public spat with the regular military chain of command, Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin blamed the army for failing in its duties, given all the latest Ukrainian attacks on Belgorod. 

"If the defense ministry, in the near future, does not stop what is happening in the Belgorod region.. then of course we will come to defend Russian land," Prigozhin said on Telegram. 

"The civilian population is dying in Belgorod," he added, and warned that he would not wait for an "invitation" to deploy his forces there. Earlier in the week Prigozhin went so far as to say some top Russian military commanders should be investigated for crimes related to failure of duty.

Already the Russian military has been active in the region, particularly after the May 21-22 ground incursion by a militia group sent from Ukraine, which saw armed groups take over multiple villages for a short period of time. 

On Saturday two more civilians were killed in cross-border fire from Ukraine. This brings the overall death toll from the area to seven killed just this week. "Since this morning, the district of Shebekino has been under shelling of the Ukrainian armed forces," Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a statement. One victim was described as an elderly woman, while another woman died from her wounds in the village of Bezlyudovka. 

A couple of others were wounded in the shelling. Prigozhin's message of potentially sending his fighters to defend the area comes amid rising frustration over the ramped-up attacks. Governor Gladkov has as of the end of this week counted 500 total attacks throughout the conflict, which has included instances of rocket and mortar fire.