KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian troops and security forces fought for a second day Tuesday against an alleged cross-border incursion that Moscow blamed on Ukrainian military saboteurs but that Kiev described as an anti-Kremlin uprising by Russian partisans.
Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the Belgorod region on the Ukrainian border, said forces continued to sweep the rural area around the town of Graivoron. where the alleged attack on Monday took place. Twelve civilians were injured in the attack, she said, and an elderly woman was killed during the evacuation.
Gladkov urged residents of the evacuated area to stay put and not return to their homes yet. “We’ll let you know right away… when it’s safe,” Gladkov said. “The security agencies are taking all the necessary actions. We are waiting for the anti-terrorist operation to end.”
It was impossible to independently verify who was behind the attack or what its targets were. Disinformation has been one of the weapons of war of almost 15 months.
While it is not the first time Russia has alleged a raid by Ukrainian saboteurs, it is the first time the operation to counter the raid has continued for a second day, highlighting the struggles Moscow faces amid its bogged down invasion of Ukraine. and shameful the Kremlin. Russian territory and Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine have also been hit by drones and explosions that have derailed trains, though Kiev officials dismiss accusations of orchestrating them.
Ukraine said Russian citizens belonging to shady groups calling themselves the Russian Volunteer Corps and the “Freedom of Russia” Legion were behind the assault.
Russian dissidents unhappy with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policies were behind the attack, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on Tuesday.
“These are Russian patriots, as we understand it. People who really rebelled against the Putin regime, ”he said.
The “Freedom of Russia” Legion on its Telegram channel claimed on Tuesday that both groups were still operating in the Belgorod area and aimed to “liberate” the region.
Belgorod officials said earlier this year that they had spent nearly 10 billion rubles ($125 million; 116 million euros) on fortifications to protect the region from a wartime incursion.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the raid “causes deep concern” and that “greater efforts” are required to prevent such raids in the future.
Peskov declined to say how many attackers were involved in the assault or why efforts to quell the attackers are taking so long. In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, he redirected those questions to the Defense Ministry and Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB.
The UK Defense Ministry said Russian security forces were “most likely” fighting partisans in at least three locations in Belgorod.
“Russia faces an escalating multi-domain security threat in its border regions, with combat aircraft losses, IED attacks on rail lines, and now direct partisan action,” he said in a tweet on Tuesday.
Russia’s Investigative Committee, the country’s top law enforcement agency, announced an investigation into alleged terrorism and attempted murder in connection with the incident.
In addition to the alleged raid, Gladkov reported multiple drone strikes in Graivoron and other settlements in the Belgorod region on Monday night. The attacks caused no casualties, but damaged buildings and started a fire. On Tuesday morning, the region’s air defense systems shot down two more drones.
Gladkov first reported Monday afternoon that a group of Ukrainian Armed Forces saboteurs entered Graivoron, a town about five kilometers (three miles) from the Ukrainian border. The city was also attacked by Ukrainian artillery, he said.
He later announced an anti-terrorism operation in the area, saying authorities were imposing special controls, including checking personal documents, and halting the work of companies that use “explosive, radioactive, chemical and biologically dangerous substances.”
The Russian Volunteer Corps stated They crossed the border at the beginning of March. The shadow group describes itself as “a formation of volunteers fighting on the side of Ukraine.” Little is known about the group and it is unclear if it has any links to the Ukrainian military. The same is true for the “Freedom of Russia” Legion.
The Belgorod region in southwestern Russia, like its neighboring Bryansk region and several other areas, has seen sporadic spillovers from the war, with its border towns and villages coming under shelling and drone strikes.
Elsewhere, Ukrainian forces have made minor gains against Russian forces on the outskirts of Bakhmut, the eastern Ukrainian city that Moscow claims to have capturedaccording to Maliar, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister.
She said on Tuesday that Ukrainian troops still control the city’s southwestern outskirts and fighting continues in the suburbs on Russia’s flanks.
Ukrainian military leaders say the fighting in Bakhmut is not over.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine