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Presidential Office denies Kyiv's responsibility for alleged fighting in Russia's Belgorod Oblast
The Ukrainian leadership has "nothing to do" with a May 22 combat operation in Russia's Belgorod Oblast reportedly carried out by Russian anti-government groups, according to Mykhailo Podoliak, an advisor to the head of Ukraine's Presidential Office.
"As you know, tanks are sold at any Russian military store, and underground guerrilla groups are composed of Russian citizens," Podoliak tweeted, adding that armed partisans are "the only driving political force" in Russia.
Earlier the same day, the Russian Volunteer Corps, allegedly fighting in the ranks of Ukraine's International Legion, claimed its members conducted combat operations in the Belgorod region bordering Ukraine. The group published a video on May 22 purporting to show their group's activities in the region, as well as in Russia's Bryansk Oblast.
The Freedom of Russia Legion claimed on Telegram that it was "returning home" to Russia and urged Russian citizens not to resist their arrival. Later, the group reported capturing the settlements of Kozinka and Gora-Podol and starting an assault on Grayvoron town in the Belgorod region.
Andrii Yusov, a spokesperson for Ukraine's military intelligence, confirmed the operation to Ukrainian news outlet Suspilne, emphasizing that it is conducted by Russian citizens. Yusov then told CNN that the units that had crossed the border were "part of defense and security forces" in Ukraine, but "in Russia, they are acting as independent entities."
Belgorod Oblast Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov reported attacks on several settlements in his region, later saying that a Ukrainian sabotage-reconnaissance group had purportedly entered the Grayvoron district.
The Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, as cited by Russian state-owned news agency TASS that Russia's dictator Vladimir Putin had already been informed of the incident.