Russian authorities have ordered residents of nine villages in the Belgorod region on the border with Ukraine to evacuate their homes after anti-Putin rebel groups began occupying territory on Russian soil.
The Kremlin’s order came hours after a pair of explosions rocked the city of Belgorod overnight, amid drone strikes on FSB security services buildings and Interior Ministry offices.
Regional governor Vacheslav Gladkov confirmed that government buildings were on fire as a result of aerial bombardment and urged citizens to take shelter amid insurgent attacks.
Ukraine’s military intelligence said two armed anti-Russian groups, the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps, were behind the first armed incursion into Russian territory since Putin invaded its neighbor on February 24, 2022 – hailing it as a ‘serious cause for concern’. by the Kremlin.
The attack was seemingly unexpected, with the rebels able to control several Russian cities within hours.
An anti-Kremlin volunteer fighter is pictured alongside a captured Russian armored personnel carrier
Fire engines and emergency services vehicles respond to a fire at government buildings in Belgorod after a drone strike (left), while Russian rebels command an FSB armored vehicle (right)
A line of armored vehicles operated by Russian rebel forces fighting on behalf of Ukraine
Fire engines, ambulances and police cars are seen outside government offices in Belgorod after the drone strike
The US-based Institute for the Study of War, which is monitoring the conflict, said: ‘An isolation [of Russian rebels] Two tanks, an armored personnel carrier and nine other armored vehicles crossed the international border and captured Kozinka, a settlement in the Greyvoron region of Belgorod Oblast.
‘Several Russian sources claim that the group then occupied the settlements of Glotovo and Gora Podol (3 km and 5 km from the border respectively).
‘Although the majority [Russian military commentators] Reactions with relatively diverse concern, anxiety and anger, the information space did not coalesce around a coherent response, indicating first and foremost that the attack caught Russian commentators by surprise.’
The Freedom of Russia Legion is a Ukraine-based Russian militia led by anti-Russian figure Ilya Ponomarev that says it is working inside Russia to overthrow Putin.
It said on Twitter that it had ‘completely liberated’ the border town of Kozinka and that forward units had reached the Greyvoron district center further east.
‘Moving. Russia will be free!’ wrote it.
Yesterday the group shared a video on social media in which a handful of communities vowed to liberate their homeland from Putin’s autocratic rule, while other clips showed anti-Putin rebels posing with flags in front of Russian street signs reading, ‘Kremlin Dictatorship’.
Another video purports to show a ‘Trophy Armored Personnel Carrier 82A’ from Putin’s FSB that was seized by the rebels.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak tweeted that Kiev was not involved, but confirmed that the government was ‘watching events in the Belgorod region’, before adding: ‘The Russian liberation movement could become something that will contribute to the proper end of the war in Ukraine. .’
Meanwhile, Andriy Yusov, a representative of Ukraine’s main intelligence agency, claimed that Russian authorities had ordered the immediate evacuation of the Belgorod-22 ammunition storage facility.
He speculated that the facility was home to strategic nuclear weapons, although this has not been verified.
An armed incursion into Belgorod by anti-Putin Russian volunteer units caused panic and a mass exodus of residents.
Gladkov told those who fled late at night not to return to their homes until further notice, fearing for their safety.
“The Ministry of Defense and security forces are clearing the area in Gryvoron district,” he said.
‘But I now appeal to the inhabitants of the district of Greyvoron, who, thank you very much, have temporarily left their homes.
‘Don’t turn back yet. We’ll let you know right away [when it is safe].’
Gladkov said yesterday that at least eight people were injured and an 82-year-old woman died during the evacuation.
He added that he had imposed an ‘anti-terror regime’, giving authorities greater powers to stop people’s movement and communication.
In this handout photograph taken and released by the Presidential Press-Service of Ukraine on May 23, 2023, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky (C) poses for a photo with two armed servicemen during his visit to forward positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Vugledar-Maryinka defense zone
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky (R) equips a serviceman during his visit to forward positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine
In a video posted online (pictured), fighters from the Russian Volunteer Corps said they were in Russia early Monday morning.
Photo: A still image from a video shows smoke rising in Russia’s Belgorod region on Sunday amid reports of infiltration by anti-Kremlin Russian fighters.
In a statement on Telegram, Governor Gladkov (pictured) said the Russian army and security forces were taking measures to counter the infiltration.
Pro-Russian sources have made several claims in light of the rebellion in Belgorod.
The Ryber Telegram channel – close to the Russian Defense Ministry – claimed today that the infiltration was choreographed by Britain’s SAS.
‘British experts are in charge,’ it read.
‘We wrote back in May 2022 that… operations of dispersal and sabotage in the border region with Russia were entrusted to officers of the British Special Air Service (SAS).
‘In fact, the ‘Russian Volunteer Corps’ and the ‘Freedom of Russia Legion’ were created by British advisers, designed primarily to bring division and confusion to the territory of the Russian Federation.’
Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group deployed on the Ukrainian frontline, claimed that the rebel incursion into Belgorod was another sign of the incompetence of the Russian Defense Ministry.
Prigogine has hit out at Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Army Chief Valery Gerasimov in recent weeks, accusing them of starving his mercenaries of ammunition and allowing regular Russian army troops to retreat, leaving his men in the open.
‘There is a lack of management… instead of ensuring the security of the state they are playing like fools. There is no governance, no will and no people who are ready to defend their country,’ he said in a statement.
Elsewhere in Russia, a military factory in the Bryansk region, bordering Belarus, suffered several explosions in a suspected Ukrainian attack.
Smoke was seen billowing from the Dyatkovo facility of a company called LLC NPP Alexander – a contractor for Vladimir Putin’s Ministry of Defense.
It is unclear whether the facility was hit by a drone strike, missile or sabotage.
Read Full News Here