Russia Battles Cross-Border Raid From Ukraine

An attack on Russia’s western Belgorod region, initially launched on May 22 from neighboring Ukraine, has been decisively routed, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

“As a result of air strikes, artillery fire, and action by units of the Western Military District … the nationalist formations have been blocked and destroyed,” the ministry said in its daily briefing for May 23.

“Remaining nationalists were pushed back into Ukraine, where they continued to be hit until they have been completely eliminated,” it added, claiming that 70 “Ukrainian nationalists” had been killed during the course of the operation.

The Epoch Times was unable to verify the ministry’s claims.

Russian authorities say the Ukrainian military carried out the cross-border attack in conjunction with “Ukrainian saboteurs.”

Kyiv, for its part, says the attack was staged by “Russian nationalists” opposed to the government of President Vladimir Putin.

One of Russia’s westernmost regions, Belgorod shares a roughly 540-mile-long border with Ukraine.

In April of last year, Moscow accused Ukraine of staging a cross-border helicopter attack in Belgorod that destroyed a large fuel depot—an allegation denied by Kyiv.

Governor: Operations Concluded

The raid began midday on May 22 with attacks—by both drones and artillery—on several districts of Belgorod, according to regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov.

Russian forces responded by launching a large-scale counter-terrorism operation, which the governor said was concluded on the evening of May 23.

Speaking on Telegram, Gladkov claimed that 12 local residents had been injured in the attack, which also caused widespread damage to civilian infrastructure.

Residents from nine of the region’s affected districts have since been evacuated to adjacent areas, he added.

According to a Kremlin spokesman, the attack was aimed at “diverting attention” from Ukraine’s recent loss of Bakhmut, a key transport hub in the eastern Donetsk region.

On May 21, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed that its forces were now in control of all of Bakhmut (Artyomovsk in Russian) following nine months of intense ground fighting.

Kyiv, meanwhile, insists that its forces still maintain a tenuous foothold in the beleaguered city.

‘Nationalists’ Claim Responsibility

Kyiv has also denied involvement in the recent cross-border attack on Belgorod.

According to Ukrainian officials, the attack was conducted by two armed Russian “nationalist” groups: the so-called Liberty of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC).

Hromadske, a Kyiv-based news outlet, quoted a Ukrainian military intelligence spokesman as saying that the two groups were behind the recent cross-border attack.

“Responsibility for these events was taken by citizens of [Russia],” Andriy Yusov was quoted as saying.

“We can only welcome the decisive actions of opposition-minded Russian citizens, who are ready for an armed struggle against the criminal regime of Vladimir Putin,” he added.

Both groups claimed responsibility for the attacks on their respective Telegram accounts.

Russia Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Russian Transport Minister Vitaly Savelyev during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, on March 25, 2023. (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

“It looks like RVC fighters are visiting their homeland again!” the RVC said on its Telegram channel on May 22, shortly after the attack began.

“RVC fighters are back in Russia!” the group declared. “News from Belgorod … is not long in coming!”

Established in August of last year, the RVC is reportedly composed of ethnic Russians fighting alongside Ukraine against Putin’s Russia.

The group first gained notoriety in March when it claimed responsibility for a similar cross-border raid into Russia’s western Bryansk region.

Like Belgorod, Bryansk shares a lengthy border with Ukraine.

According to Russian media reports, one person was killed in the Bryansk raid, which was swiftly turned back by Russian security forces.

Based in Ukraine, the RVC claims to be a “Russian nationalist” paramilitary organization.

Founded by Moscow-born Denis Kapustin (a.k.a. Denis Nikitin), the group has been described in the Western media as “far-right” and “neo-Nazi.”

The RVC purportedly seeks the fragmentation of the Russian Federation into small ethnic states, including a Russian state dominated by ethnic Slavs.

Fragmenting Russia

On May 19, Putin claimed that Russia’s enemies sought to “stage provocations within ethnic communities and establish socio-political associations, allegedly on behalf of Russian peoples.”

Addressing Russia’s Council for Interethnic Relations, he added: “They say Russia must be divided into dozens of small states … so as to bend these states to their will, exploit them, and use them for their own mercenary purposes.”

When asked by reporters about the Belgorod raid, U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that Washington had “made very clear” to Kyiv “that we don’t enable or encourage attacks outside Ukraine’s borders.”

“But I do think it’s important to take a step back and remind everyone … that it is Russia that launched this war,” Miller said at a May 22 press briefing.

“So it is up to Ukraine to decide how they want to conduct their military operations,” he added.

Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February of last year. Kyiv and its Western allies decry the move as an unprovoked war of aggression.

Moscow, for its part, says its “special military operation” aims to protect Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine and halt the eastward expansion of NATO.

Reuters contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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