Russian troops and security forces put down an alleged cross-border raid from Ukraine on Tuesday, claiming to have killed more than 70 attackers in a battle that lasted about 24 hours, a senior Moscow official said.

It was not possible to independently confirm the claims about the armed incursion into Russian territory that began on Monday. It was also not possible to say with certainty who was behind the attack or what their targets were.

Disinformation has been one of the weapons of the war for almost 15 months.

Moscow blamed the attack on Ukrainian military saboteurs. kyiv described the incident as an uprising against the Kremlin by Russian partisans. It was not immediately possible to reconcile the two versions.

The battle took place in the Belgorod region, about 45 miles north of the city of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian tankers drive along the highway towards their positions near Bakhmut on May 23, 2023.Efrem Lukatski / AP

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the armed attackers were defeated by local troop units, airstrikes and artillery fire.

“The remnants of the nationalists were driven back to the territory of Ukraine, where they continued to be hit by fire until they were completely eliminated,” Konashenkov said, without providing evidence. He did not mention any Russian casualties.

Four armored fighting vehicles and five pickup trucks used by the attackers were destroyed, it said. Local authorities claimed that drones and artillery were also used in the assault.

Belgorod Region Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said the raid targeted the rural area around the town of Graivoron, a town about 3 miles from the border. Twelve civilians were injured in the attack, he said, and an elderly woman was killed during the evacuation.

Early Tuesday, Gladkov urged residents who had evacuated to stay put and not return to their homes until they received official instructions to do so. He said an «anti-terrorist operation» was underway.

While it wasn’t the first time Russia had alleged a raid by Ukrainian saboteurs, it was the first time the operation to counter the raid had continued for a second day, highlighting the struggles facing Moscow amid its bogged-down invasion of Ukraine and embarrassing the Kremlin. .

Russian territory and Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine have also been hit by drones and explosions that have derailed trains, though Kiev officials dismiss accusations of orchestrating them.

Ukraine said Russian citizens belonging to shady groups calling themselves the Russian Volunteer Corps and the «Freedom of Russia» Legion were behind the assault.

Russia Keeps Fighting Pro-Ukrainian Incursion, Reports More Drone Strikes
Ukrainian soldiers prepare to fire an RPG towards Russian frontline positions near Bakhmut on May 22, 2023. Libkos/AP

Russian dissidents unhappy with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policies instigated the assault, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on Tuesday.

“These are Russian patriots, as we understand it. People who really rebelled against the Putin regime, ”he said.

The “Freedom of Russia” Legion said on its Telegram channel that the goal was to “liberate” the region.

The Russian Volunteer Corps hinted in a Telegram post that the attack was over, adding: «One day, we will come to stay.» The post was released around the same time as the Russian Defense Ministry’s comment on the strike being called off.

The UK Defense Ministry said it was «highly likely» that Russian security forces were fighting partisans in at least three locations in Belgorod.

«Russia faces an escalating multi-domain security threat in its border regions, with combat aircraft losses, IED attacks on rail lines, and now direct partisan action,» he said in a tweet on Tuesday.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, its main law enforcement body, announced an investigation into alleged acts of terrorism and attempted murder in connection with the incident.

Belgorod officials said earlier this year that they had spent nearly 10 billion rubles ($125 million) on fortifications to protect the region from a wartime incursion.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the raid «causes deep concern» and that «greater efforts» were required to prevent such attacks in the future.

Peskov declined to say how many attackers were involved in the assault, nor did he comment why efforts to quell the attackers were taking so long. In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, he redirected those questions to Russia’s Defense Ministry and the Federal Security Service, or FSB.

Gladkov, the regional governor, said the authorities imposed special checks, including checks on personal documents, and stopped the work of companies using «explosive, radioactive, chemical and biologically dangerous substances.»

The Russian Volunteer Corps claimed to have crossed the border in early March. The shadow group describes itself as «a formation of volunteers fighting on the side of Ukraine.» It is not clear if he has any links to the Ukrainian military. The same is true for the “Freedom of Russia” Legion.

The Belgorod region of southwestern Russia, like the neighboring Bryansk region and several other areas, has seen sporadic spillovers from the war, with its border towns and villages regularly subjected to bombing and drone strikes. manned.

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