Russia Hunts for Pro-Ukraine Group After Raid on Border Town


The Kremlin has launched a “counter-terrorist operation” in Russia’s Belgorod region after a pro-Ukrainian group claimed to have stormed and “completely liberated” the border town of Kozinka.

Eight people have been injured and several buildings have been destroyed in the clashes, according to local Russian governor Vyacheslav Gladkov, who said the situation on the ground was “extremely tense” as authorities continue to hunt for the alleged saboteurs.

On Monday, the Liberty of Russia Legion claimed on Telegram claimed responsibility for the incident, adding that its forward units had even pushed further east into the town of Graivoron

The Kremlin claimed the saboteurs entered Russian territory through its borders with Ukraine, which has denied any involvement in the incident.

“We are Russians, like you,” the group said in a video. “We are people like you. We want our children to grow up in peace. It is time to put an end to the dictatorship of the Kremlin.”

Ukraine’s military confirmed the incursion into Belgorod. Defense Ministry spokesman Andrii Yusov said that the Russian partisans had acted to help establish a “security zone in the border regions of Russia bordering Ukraine.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin had been briefed on the situation, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed.

“Work is underway to squeeze them out of Russian territory and destroy this sabotage group,” Peskov said, adding that he believed that the operation was intended as a distraction for Ukraine’s alleged loss of Bakhmut, a city with Russia claimed to control over the weekend after months of heavy fighting.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said that the government wasn’t behind the attack, but was keeping abreast of developments.

“Ukraine is watching the events in the Belgorod region of Russia with interest and is studying the situation, but is not directly related to it,” Podolyak said. “Underground guerrilla groups are composed of Russian citizens.

The attack is not the first time Russia’s war in Ukraine has appeared to trickle into Russia proper. Explosions rang out at Russia’s Engels air base and Dyagilevo base in the Ryazan region in December. The series of incidents raised alarm among some Russian officials that Ukrainians were growing more emboldened go on the offense inside Russian territory.

Ukraine’s chief military intelligence official, Kyrylo Budanov warned at the time that Russia could expect “deeper and deeper” strikes inside Russia.

But the latest attack could signal growing dissent among Russians who are willing to take action against Putin’s flailing war effort. Aleksey Baranovsky, a representative of the Kyiv-based Russian Armed Opposition Political Centre, told CNN the plan is to “liberate our motherland from the tyranny of Putin.”

Three people were wounded by shrapnel following the shelling, the head of the region, Gladkov, said. A man and woman with wounds went to the hospital, he said earlier. The deputy head of the Grayvoron administration and two employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations were injured, according to a Baza Telegram post.

The attack also reportedly hit a kindergarten, an administrative building, and some houses, according to Meduza.

The government, for now, is establishing special measures and temporary restrictions in order to determine responsibility for the attacks, including monitoring telephone conversations, mail searches, and verification of documents proving people’s identities, Gladkov announced Monday.

The restrictions include a “temporary resettlement of individuals residing within certain territories,” the restriction of movement on roads, and searches. The new measures also include a restriction or ban on the sale of weapons, ammunition, explosives, and alcohol, according to the post.

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