Reports of an armed attack across the Ukrainian border to Russia are still causing confusion. Pro-Ukrainian fighters claim they captured a town with a tank.
After two days of fighting, Russia claims that more than 70 attackers were killed in the Belgorod area and that the remnants from their units have been pushed into Ukrainian territory.
Moscow blamed “Ukrainian terrorists”, but Kyiv described the alleged incursions as an uprising of Russian partisans, and claimed it had nothing whatsoever to do with them.
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What happened in Belgorod?
The Russian security forces and troops fought a second battle against the reported incursion by Ukraine that has been centered around the town Graivoron.
Vyacheslav gladkov, the regional governor of Belgorod, reported on Monday afternoon that a group saboteurs, from the Ukrainian military, had entered the town. The town is situated about three miles outside the Russian border.
He said that Graivoron was also attacked by drones and Ukrainian artillery.
The Freedom of Russia Legion (a Russian volunteer militia) claimed that it was involved in an assault in Belgorod.
On Twitter, it said that forward units reached the district center of Graivoron and had “completely liberated the town of Kozinka”.
The Russian defence ministry announced on Tuesday that the remnants from the units they blamed for the incursion were forced back onto Ukrainian territory.
Sky News was unable to confirm the Belgorod reports.
Who is behind the alleged attack
The picture is complicated. Russia has accused the Ukrainian military of the reported border incursion, but Kyiv denies any involvement.
Mykhailo Zelenskyy’s adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, tweeted that Ukraine was watching and studying events in Belgorod, Russia, with interest. However, Ukraine has no involvement.
He added, “As you are aware, tanks can be purchased at any Russian military shop, and underground guerrillas are made up of Russian citizens.”
Professor Michael Clarke is a defence expert who said that it was unclear who carried out the attack and who knew of it.
He told Sky News that the big question was whether Ukraine was behind it. If they weren’t, did they even know?
“Or did it surprise them just as much as it surprised the Kremlin?”
He added, “I don’t think that the Zelenskyy Government is clever enough to do something like this.”
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Who is the Russian partisan group accused of raiding Belgorod?
Two groups, the Russian Volunteer Corps and Freedom of Russia Legion, have taken responsibility.
The Freedom of Russia Legion claims to have been formed in spring of 2022, “out of the desire of Russians” to fight alongside the Ukrainian armed forces against Putin’s armed group.
It claims to be working with Ukrainian forces and under Ukrainian command.
On Monday, the spokesperson for Ukraine’s military intelligence agency said that only Russian citizens were involved in the Belgorod attacks and that this was done to create a “security area” that would protect Ukrainian civilians. He did not confirm nor deny the fact that these forces are Ukrainian.
The RVC posted a video on Monday showing two men who claimed to have captured an armoured personnel vehicle from Russia.
The Reuters news agency reported that it had been able to identify Ilya Bogdanov as a Russian citizen who was granted Ukrainian citizenship in 2015. He received this after fighting in Ukraine’s eastern region against Russian-backed forces.
How important is the alleged attack?
Professor Clarke believes that the reported Russian incursion is not significant for the war as a whole, but could have propaganda value.
He said that in a way, it was similar to the attack on Moscow. “It’s humiliating”.
“On the contrary, they get the benefit by saying that this is the way we are being attacked by the Ukrainians who want to destroy Russia.”