Russian troops and security forces fought for a second day Tuesday against what Moscow alleges is a cross-border raid in Belgorod by Ukrainian military saboteurs, a charge Kyiv has denied.
Belgorod’s regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said Russian forces were sweeping a rural town called Graivoron following shelling Monday that he said killed 12 civilians.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov blamed “Ukrainian militants,” though he refused to say how many attackers were involved nor would he comment on why efforts to put down the attackers were taking so long.
Ukraine has asserted that it was Russians, not Ukrainians, who undertook the attack in Belgorod. “We can confirm that this operation was carried out by Russian citizens,” Andriy Yusov, a representative of Ukraine’s defense intelligence agency, told CNN.
On Tuesday, Anton Gerashchenko, advisor to Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs, tweeted video initially published on Telegram that he said was of a group calling itself the “Freedom of Russia Legion.”
“We are Russians like you,” the subtitles of the lead man in the video, dressed in camouflage, says. “We want our children to grow up in peace and be free people….But that has no place in Putin’s Russia.”
It goes on to thank those who support their cause, the “final goal” of which the lead man says is “on Red Square.”
Gerashchenko provided the video’s subtitles.
It followed tweeted video posted by Gerashchenko on Monday that he said was of an organization calling itself the “Russian Volunteer Corps” (RVC), “showing the organization’s members by different village signs in Bryansk and Belgorod regions of Russia.”
The fighting in Belgorod is not the first time Russia has claimed an incursion by Ukrainian saboteurs, but it is the first time such alleged fighting has dragged into a second day in Russian territory amid Russia’s 15-month long invasion of its sovereign neighbor.
Belgorod officials earlier this year said they had spent nearly 10 billion rubles, or $125 million, on fortifications to protect the region from an incursion.
Peskov said this week’s raid “elicits deep concerns” and a “bigger effort” is required to prevent such incidents in the future.
PHOTO: Alleged “Freedom of Russia Legion” video, per @Gerashchenko_en