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The responses by Russian officials and military bloggers to the recent raid in Belgorod Oblast reveal rising anxiety within the Russian information space about the war, the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest update on June 1.
The incursion into Belgorod Oblast was organized on June 1 by Russian-born militants claiming to be fighting on Ukraine's side. It caused caused evacuations from the attacked region, with Belgorod Oblast Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov reportedly preparing the evacuation of 1,200 residents.
Gladkov also announced that 200 out of the planned 800 children have been evacuated.
According to the Kremlin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin awarded the Order of Courage to Vladimir Zhdanov, the head of the Shebekino district, where most of the hostilities took place.
This indicates that the Kremlin is trying to frame these minor incursions as an "existential" threat to mobilize domestic support for the war, the ISW assessed.
Military bloggers and pro-war hardliners like Igor Girkin used the incursion to criticize the Russian leadership.
Girkin claims that any response by Moscow will come too late, as it wasted its reserves in 2022, failed to transition to the war economy, and did not institute martial law.
Other bloggers argued that the raids are a Ukrainian effort to divert Russian forces from important sectors in Ukraine just before the counteroffensive.