OAN’s Brooke Mallory
11:34 AM – Sunday, May 21, 2023
A Ukrainian “sabotage group” has reportedly infiltrated Russian territory in the adjacent Ukrainian district of Graivoron, according to the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, who made the claim on Monday.
However, the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC) and the Liberty of Russia Legion, two armed Russian opposition groups made up entirely of Russian citizens, were accused by the Ukrainian publication Hromadske of having carried out the assault.
Aerial film allegedly showing a Ukrainian armored vehicle approaching the Graivoron border checkpoint was shared by the Telegram account Baza, which is connected to Russia’s security agencies.
According to Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, action to remove the “saboteurs” had already begun after Russian President Vladimir Putin was informed. The Russian army, border guards, presidential guards, and the FSB security service were all participating in the operation, according to Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov, who said so on Telegram. He claimed that three homes, an administrative building, and at least six other people had also suffered much damage.
According to Baza, three communities along the main road leading into Russia showed signs of combat. The “Open Belgorod” Telegram channel claimed that some settlements have also lost water and electricity.
The Liberty of Russia Legion, a Russian militia operating in Ukraine and led by Ilya Ponomarev, a prominent member of the Russian opposition, claimed on Twitter that it had “completely liberated” the border town of Kozinka. Further east, in the district center of Graivoron, it was reported that forward units had arrived.
“Moving on. Russia will be free!” they wrote.
The organization also produced a short video that they later released of five combatants who were well-armed.
“We are Russians, like you. We are people like you. We want our children to grow up in peace,” one said, to the camera. “It is time to put an end to the dictatorship of the Kremlin.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, a presidential advisor for Ukraine, tweeted, “Ukraine is watching the events in the Belgorod region of Russia with interest and studying the situation, but has nothing to do with it.”
“As you know, tanks are sold at any Russian military store, and underground guerrilla groups are composed of Russian citizens.”
Andriy Yusov, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military intelligence, was quoted by Hromadske as claiming that the operation would establish a “security zone” to defend Ukrainians from ongoing Russian threats.
The invasion, according to the Kremlin, was intended to draw attention away from Bakhmut, a town in eastern Ukraine that Russian soldiers claim to have completely taken after more than nine months of attritional combat.
“We understand perfectly well the goal of such a diversion—to divert attention from the Bakhmut direction and minimize the political effect of Bakhmut’s loss for the Ukrainian side,” Peskov said.
The FSB had reported a Ukrainian incursion into the Bryansk area of Russia at the beginning of March.
Armed men claiming to be members of the RVC claimed to have crossed the border to oppose what they called “the bloody Putinite and Kremlin regime” in videos that were becoming viral online.
Denis Kapustin, a Russian nationalist resident in Ukraine, created the RVC in August of last year. On May 17th, the RVC announced on its Telegram channel that they were joining forces with the Liberty of Russia Legion, which also goes by the name Freedom of Russia Legion in English.
The RVC has fought with Ukrainian forces on a number of fronts in Ukraine, and it claims to have entered the Bryansk region at least three times since March.
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