A guerrilla group invaded the Russian border region of Belgorod on Monday. After hours of inaction, the Russian authorities instituted an anti-terrorist regime and ordered an evacuation. What is known about the operation so far.
A guerrilla group brought the war to Russia on Monday with an attack on the Russian border region of Belgorod. At 10:40 a.m. local time, the first reports of incursions into Russian territory by unknown troops began to appear on several Russian and Ukrainian telegram channels. First shots of the burning Graiworon border crossing followed. Videos showed a small column of tanks and military vehicles advancing. Eyewitnesses filmed the helicopter attack.
A short time later, representatives of the Russian Volunteer Corps and the “Freedom of Russia” Legion assumed responsibility for the operation. This is a group of Russians fighting on the Ukrainian side who have already claimed responsibility for earlier attacks in the Belgorod region. “It’s time to end the Kremlin’s dictatorship,” a spokesman for the group said in a video statement. “Be brave. Don’t be afraid. Because we’re going back home,” was his message to the Russian population. “Russia will be free.”
Attack catches the Kremlin unprepared
Soon the fighter groups reported taking several settlements in the border region. Between 80 and 100 men are said to be involved in the operation. The attack caught the Kremlin completely unprepared. The first reactions of state propaganda revealed this. Propagandist Olga Skabeeva began her afternoon show “60 Minutes” with “a highly alarming message”. “A huge number of reports and videos are appearing on Telegram, which testify to the horror that is taking place in the Belgorod border region at this moment,” she began with a stony face. A bitter battle is raging with a Ukrainian sabotage group, and military technology is being used on both sides.
Russian authorities initially denied the attack. However, when alarm sirens sounded in Belgorod, the governor of the region Vyacheslav Gladkov had to admit that an enemy sabotage group entered the territory of the Graivoronovsky district.
The Ministry of Defence, the Russian domestic secret service FSB and the border officials informed President Vladimir Putin about the incident, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in the afternoon. Work is underway to expel and eliminate this “sabotage group from Russian territory”.
Anti-terror regime and evacuation in Belgorod
Hours passed before the Russian forces acted. After Governor Gladkow reported that several civilians had been injured and houses had been destroyed, an evacuation began. Video footage shows residents of settlements near the border being taken by bus to the capital of the Belgorod region.
Finally, at 6 p.m. local time, an anti-terrorist regime was introduced in the Belgorod region. It is the first measure of its kind since the Russian attack on Ukraine began in February 2022. The anti-terrorist regime imposes various measures and restrictions on people in the region, ranging from checking documents and restricting communications to stop the activities of dangerous industries, .
Fighting continues on Tuesday
Fighting between Russian forces and the guerrilla group continued on Tuesday. “The law enforcement officers are doing everything necessary,” Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said in the online service Telegram. He called on the evacuated residents of the Graivoron commune not to return to their homes for the time being. “We will announce immediately (…) when there is no more danger,” wrote Gladkow.
There were several drone attacks during the night, he reported. The drones hit two houses and an administration building, but resulted in no casualties or deaths, Gladkow said. The district town of Graivoron and the village of Borisovka in the western Russian region were affected. An 81-year-old woman died during the evacuation.
Divers capture tanks
Meanwhile, more photos from the border region have appeared on social networks. Several videos show the guerrilla group taking possession of a captured Russian BTR 82A wheeled infantry fighting vehicle.
Other shots show the destroyed border post. “Greetings from Bachmut,” wrote the divers on its walls.
Governor Gladkov blamed a sabotage group of the Ukrainian military for the attack on his region. The government in Kiev, however, denied its involvement in the action. Ukraine is watching events in Russia’s Belgorod region “with interest” and is investigating the situation, but has “nothing to do with it,” said Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhail Podoliak.
Meanwhile, the “Legion of Freedom of Russia” announced on Ukrainian television that it wanted to create a “demilitarized zone along the border”. This information could not be independently verified. The units called on the population not to resist. “We are not your enemies.” Freedom is near, according to Telegram.
The representative of the Main Directorate for Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine Andriy Yuzov said that an operation to create a “security zone” in the Belgorod region is underway. This is the first such statement.
“The events in the Belgorod region and other border areas are the result of the invasion and war of aggression by Putin’s Russia against Ukraine,” Yusov said. “Yes, citizens of the Russian Federation, namely the forces of the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Freedom of Russia Legion, have taken responsibility for these events. I think we can all blame the opposition citizens of Russia who are engaged in armed struggle against the criminal regime of Putin ready to offer only congratulations on their determined actions.”
So far, Putin has remained silent about the fighting raging in his Russia.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.