Russian Border Incursion Fight Raged On Into Second Day

Moscow claims it stopped the cross-border incursion but there are indications the fight inside Russia isn’t over yet.

byHoward Altman|
Russia claims it destroyed the partisans, but there are indications the fight isn't over yet.
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The fog of war was thick in Russia's Belgorod Oblast Tuesday as Russian officials, media, military bloggers, and those carrying out the attacks presented differing explanations of what has emerged in the aftermath of Monday's daring cross-border incursion by "pro-Ukrainian Russian partisan groups."

We have to make clear that there is a very hot information war being fought on all sides. Because of the fluid nature of the situation we can only convey the state of play as proclaimed by those involved and their surrogates and via open source information.

Russia’s Defense Ministry (MoD) on Tuesday claimed it “destroyed” a “Ukrainian nationalist formation” that staged the incursion several miles across the border, killing more than 70 fighters in the process.

However, that region’s governor on Tuesday warned some residents living near the border not to return to their homes while the “cleanup” operation was ongoing and shelling from Ukraine continued. But he also canceled a counter-terrorism emergency action order (CTO) he issued on Monday after the incursion, an indication that at least the main part of the battle was over.

Pro-Russian milblogger Alexander Sladkov on Tuesday said that the battle was still underway, but that it appears the partisans were doomed.

"The [sabotage and reconnaissance group] DRG is blocked," he wrote on his Telegram channel. "More and more of our forces are arriving in the region, fighting is going on. There are two more Ukrainian groups on the territory of Ukraine, with the task of coming to the aid of the first group. There is no such possibility."

And the Russian Mash media site also appeared to contradict the Russian MoD, claiming on Tuesday that the partisans were still holding territory in Russia.

"According to our information, the saboteurs fortified in the area of the Grayvoron checkpoint from the Ukrainian side - presumably, they still control their positions there," Mash claimed on its Telegram channel Tuesday.

Parts of Grayvoron, about five miles from the border with Ukraine, were still controlled by pro-Ukrainian forces, the Mash media outlet reported Tuesday. (Google Earth image)

"The line of fortifications passes in front of the city of Grayvoron and behind the villages of Kozinka, Glotovo and Gora-Podil," Mash wrote. "Due to the fact that there were local residents, the military could not start working with might and main on the DRG. After the introduction of the [counterterrorism action order] CTO regime in the region and the evacuation of people, the situation eased..."

Mash also reported that, "according to our information, the situation is complicated by the fact that artillery is working on the positions of the Russian Armed Forces from the Ukrainian side. Earlier we wrote that yesterday the Armed Forces of Ukraine helped saboteurs to break into the territory of the Belgorod region with the help of massive shelling. Then they fired up to 60 rockets from the Uragan [multiple launch rocket systems] MLRS and about the same number of 120-mm mortar mines."

Meanwhile, the Telegram channel of one of the two pro-Ukrainian Russian partisan groups that took credit for the incursion - the Freedom For Russia Legion - claimed it, and the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK) “continue to liberate the Belgorod region!”

And the Rybar Telegram channel, which is aligned with the Kremlin, said incursion attempts are continuing.

But the Russian MoD insisted the fight is over.

“In the course of the counter-terrorist operation, as a result of air strikes, artillery fire and active action by the units of the Western Military District that covered the state border, the nationalist formations have been blocked and destroyed,” the Russian MoD stated on its Telegram channel, without mentioning that two pro-Ukrainian Russian partisan groups claimed credit for the attacks.

“The remaining nationalists were pushed back into Ukraine, where they continued to be hit until they were completely eliminated. The enemy losses were over 70 Ukrainian terrorists, four armored fighting vehicles, and five pickups.”

The Russian Volunteer Corps, however, denied any of its members were killed.

"We do not know what columns of equipment [Russian MoD spokesman] Mr. Konashenkov destroyed in his reports, but the Russian Volunteer Corps has no losses," the group said on its Telegram channel Tuesday. "P.S. Regarding the photos of the killed "saboteurs" walking around the net, our fighters wear cartoons, not a pixel. This is a note."

The incursion began Monday after “intense shelling of Kozinka international checkpoint, as well as a number of other civilian facilities in Grayvoron district of Belgorod region,” according to the Russian MoD.

Ukrainian officials, like presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak, claimed Kyiv had no role in the incursion.

The two partisan groups claimed they captured a couple of Russian villages Monday as well as at least one infantry fighting vehicle and that they are battling to end the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Belgorod Oblast Gov. Vachyslav Gladkov on Tuesday said that one person died and several people were injured as a result of the incursion and that Russian border villages in his region were still being hit by Ukrainian artillery, mortars and drones.

He also urged residents of Grayvoron district to stay away from their homes as Russian forces continue to clear settlements.

“The cleaning of the territory by the Ministry of Defense together with law enforcement agencies continues,” he wrote. “But to return to their homes for the time being, I now appeal to the residents of the Grayvoron district, who, thanks to them, temporarily left their homes, is not worth it yet. We will immediately inform, and I will inform on my social networks, and the heads of local government will bring the information when it is safe.”

Meanwhile, Gladkov made several claims Tuesday on his Telegram channel:

  • In addition to the incursion, Ukrainian Armed Forces shelled several villages in the Borisovsky district, but there were no injuries.
  • “Some telegram channels are starting to interpret this information as a [sabotage and reconnaissance group] DRG entry and trying to panic people. There was no entry. The FSB, the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Ministry of Defense do not confirm this information. The military is working. As the situation changes, I will keep you updated.”
  • Evacuations in the region have been ongoing since Monday evening (though the numbers he offered seem questionable considering how many villages were threatened).
  • “In total, about 100 people have been taken out at the moment, among them there are bedridden and children. Now we are working in the liberated settlements.”
  • As a result of the incursion, residents of the villages of Grayvoron, Novostroevka, Gorky, Bezymeno, Wet Orlovka, Glotovo, Gora-Podil, Zamostye and Spodaryushino were resettled.
  • After a previous day of Ukrainian shelling at several towns in Belgorod, “the settlements of the Grayvoron urban district Golovchino, Antonovka, Kozinka, Spodaryushino, Gora-Podol, Glotovo, Zamostye, Bezymeno, Zarechye, Grayvoron, Wet Orlovka, Novostroevka were under numerous mortar and artillery fire” on Tuesday. 
  • Multiple launch rocket systems “worked on residential buildings and civilians, and explosive devices were dropped from quadrocopters. As a result, there are 12 injured civilians, damage was recorded in 29 private houses and three cars. There is currently no electricity in 14 settlements, we will start restoration work when the operational situation allows.”
  • The Shebekinsky city district “was fired upon 25 times, of which eight mortar shells were fired at the village of Terezovka, there were no casualties or damage.”
  • “Artillery worked twice along Novaya Tavolzhanka, facades and fences were cut in two private residential buildings, there were no casualties.”
  • And in Tavolzhanka, “an explosive device was dropped from a drone - there were no casualties or damage.”
Several locations in Belgorod Oblast near the border with Ukraine were hit with artillery, mortar and drone attacks, the governor there claimed. (Google Earth image)
  • A mortar shell was fired in the village of Balki, but there were no casualties or damage. 
  • In Shebekino, two mortar shells were fired at a border checkpoint and an explosive device was dropped from a UAV at a road junction, but there were no casualties or damage. 
  • The village of Sereda was hit by 10 artillery shells which damaged the facades in three private households.
  • In addition, “UAVs were shot down by the air defense system over Belgorod and the Belgorod region. According to preliminary data, no victims. The consequences on the ground are being clarified by operational services.”

Two Russian partisan groups claimed victory of sorts.

“The Legion and the RDK continue to liberate the Belgorod region!” the Freedom For Russia Legion wrote on its Telegram channel Tuesday.

“The army of the Russian Federation could not oppose anything to a group of patriotic volunteers who took up arms and were not afraid to openly go against the Moscow regime for the free future of Russia. Once again, the myth that the citizens of the Russian Federation are safe and the Russian Federation is strong has been destroyed, in fact, for years the authorities simply plundered the budget and lied that everything was fine.”

The Russian Federation “has no reserves to respond to military crises - all servicemen are dead, wounded or in Ukraine,” the Freedom For Russia Legion wrote. The Russian Federation “is absolutely not protected. There is panic in the Belgorod region, partly there is an organized evacuation, but for the most part there is a spontaneous flight.”

The Russian Volunteer Corps posted a cryptic message on its Telegram channel Tuesday accompanied by two videos of its troops apparently riding around Belgorod on the infantry fighting vehicle it captured.

“The situation on a small, but already our own, piece of the Motherland is still disturbing, and it won’t hurt to tidy up,” RDK wrote. “We took brooms with us, but there are still enough scoops in Rus'.”

While it seems this chapter may be over, the incursion attempts continue, the pro-Russian Rybar Telegram channel reported Tuesday.

"Russian [security forces] continue to carry out the counter-terrorist operation on the territory of the Belgorod region,” Rybar reported.

Pro-Ukrainian forces are still attempting incursions into Russia, the pro-Russian Rybar Telegram channel reports., (Rybar image)

“According to preliminary data, Kozinka and the border crossing "Grayvoron" were taken under the control of Russian troops. Activities to search for and clean up the surviving militants continue.”

“Since up to 500 members of Ukrainian formations are observed in Velyka Pisarevka on the other side of the border, there are fears that another attempt will be made to break through the border," Rybar reported, adding that attempts were still being made to cross the border with small forces.

“Russian border guards repelled attacks near Shchetinovka and Gorkovsky,” Rybar reported. “A small enemy recon group of five people tried to cross the state border near Tsapovka. Having fired at the Russian positions, the group fled back to the territory of Ukraine under return fire.”

Russian border guards “closely control the approaches to Shebekino: from the direction of Volchansk, there is an increased accumulation of equipment and personnel.”

“Despite the general completion of the main stage of the counter-terrorist operation, there is still a possibility of attempts to break through the state border from the enemy's recon groups in other areas,” Rybar reported.

Aside from the incursions, there are continued artillery, mortar, and drone attacks on Russia, which have been ongoing for months.

Alexander Bogomaz, governor of Bryansk Oblast, complained Tuesday of Ukrainian attacks on his region.

"This morning, the Armed Forces of Ukraine shelled the village of Kurkovichi in the Starodubsky municipal district," he wrote on his Telegram channel. "There were no casualties. As a result of the shelling, two households caught fire, and an outbuilding was damaged. Operational services are on site."

Regardless of the military success of attacks and incursions into Russia, one possible objective may be to divert Russia's attention ahead of a looming Ukrainian counteroffensive. Whether that is actually the case remains to be seen.

We will continue to monitor this tense situation and report any updates.

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