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Ukraine's military intelligence confirms operation by Russian anti-government groups in Belgorod region

by The Kyiv Independent news desk May 22, 2023 4:13 PM 2 min read
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Armed Russian anti-government groups allegedly fighting on Ukraine's side have started a combat operation in Russia's Belgorod Oblast, spokesperson for Ukraine's military intelligence Andrii Yusov told Suspilne news outlet on May 22.

The operation conducted by the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps aims "to liberate these territories from Putin's regime and push back the enemy to create a certain security zone for protecting Ukrainian civilians," said Yusov.

Russian shelling of Ukrainian border oblasts from the Belgorod region has recently increased, causing "significant damage to civilian infrastructure and casualties among civilians," the intelligence official explained to another Ukrainian media outlet Hromadske.

Earlier the same day, the Russian Volunteer Corps claimed its members conducted combat operations in Russia's Belgorod Oblast, 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.

Belgorod Oblast Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov claimed attacks on several settlements in his region, later saying that a Ukrainian sabotage-reconnaissance group had allegedly entered the Grayvoron district.

The Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, as cited by Russian state-owned news agency TASS that Russia's Vladimir Putin had already been informed of the incident.

Peskov added that the alleged Ukrainian sabotage aimed "to divert attention from the situation in the Bakhmut area."

The Russian Volunteer Corps previously claimed to have conducted attacks on Bryansk Oblast on March 4, claiming the Ukrainian military's support. Kyiv has denied any connection to the group's operations.

The Freedom of Russia Legion was founded by a unit of Russian soldiers who claimed to have switched sides shortly before the start of the full-scale invasion in February 2022.

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