Russia continues to defend alleged Ukrainian incursion, new drone attacks reported

KYIV, Ukraine — Russian military and security forces on Tuesday continued an alleged incursion by Ukrainian saboteurs into a Russian border region that was reported the day before, a Russian official said.

Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of the Belgorod region on the Ukrainian border, said military and security forces continued to surround the town of Graivoron, where Monday’s alleged attack took place.

Gladkov called on residents of the area who were evacuated on Monday to stay put and not return to their homes yet. “We’ll let you know right away… when it’s safe,” Gladkov said. “Security agencies are taking all necessary measures. We are waiting for the end of the anti-terrorist operation.”

Kiev has denied the allegations and blamed Russian guerrilla groups that support Ukraine. Neither version of events can be independently verified.

While it’s not the first time Russia has claimed infiltration by Ukrainian saboteurs, it’s the first as the second day of the counter-infiltration operation continues, highlighting the struggles Moscow faces amid the stalled invasion of Ukraine.

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“Russia is facing an increasingly serious, multi-faceted security threat in its border regions, with the loss of warplanes, improvised explosive device attacks on railway lines and now outright guerrilla action,” the British Ministry of Defense said in a tweet on Tuesday.

According to Gladkov, an elderly woman was killed during the evacuation and two more people were wounded “in the settlements where the enemy penetrated.” This brought the number of people injured during the attack to 10.

Gladkov first reported on Monday afternoon that a saboteur group of the Ukrainian Armed Forces had penetrated Graivoron, a town about 5 kilometers from the border with Ukraine. The city also came under Ukrainian artillery fire, he said.

He later announced an anti-terror operation in the area and said authorities would introduce special checks, including checks on personal documents, and stop the work of “companies using explosives, radioactive, chemical and biologically dangerous substances”.

Ukrainian officials blamed Russian armed guerrilla groups for the incident. Andriy Cherniak, a Ukrainian intelligence official, said Russian citizens belonging to obscure groups calling themselves the Russian Volunteer Corps and the “Freedom of Russia” Legion were behind the attack.

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The Russian Volunteer Corps claimed in the telegram that it had crossed the border into Russia again, after claiming to have breached the border in early March.

The Russian Volunteer Corps describes itself as “a volunteer unit fighting on the side of Ukraine.” Little is known about the group, and it is unclear whether it has ties to the Ukrainian military. The same is true for the “Freedom of Russia” Legion.

In addition to the alleged incursion, Gladkov also reported several drone attacks on Graivoron and other settlements in the Belgorod region on Monday night. No one was injured in the attacks, but buildings were damaged and fires started. On Tuesday morning, two more drones were shot down by the region’s air defense systems.

Southwestern Russia’s Belgorod region, like the neighboring Bryansk region and many others, has seen sporadic spillovers from the 15-month war, with its border towns and villages regularly hit by gunfire and drone attacks.

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