Russian Troops Battling Incursion Inside Its Borders Near Ukraine

Two Russian partisan groups supporting Ukraine claim they carried out attacks inside Russia’s Belgorod Oblast Monday, “liberating” the settlement of Kozinka about a mile across the border and entering another one called Grayvoron about six miles inside Russia. The region’s governor acknowledged the attacks – at least the second such incursion into Russia since March – but blamed them on Ukrainian Armed Forces. He ordered that “counter-terrorism” security measures be taken as a result.

The partisan groups called Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK) “completely liberated the settlement of Kozinka, Belgorod Region,” the Freedom of Russia Legion claimed on its Telegram Channel Monday. “Advance detachments entered Grayvoron. We move on. Russia will be free!”

RDK posted a similar message on its Telegram channel.

“It looks like RDK fighters are visiting their homeland again!” the group said in a Telegram post. “The flames of the struggle flare up!”

That group also posted a short Youtube video purporting to show it inside Belgorod.

The situation “is difficult” in the Belgorod region,” the Freedom of Russia Legion told the Ukrainian Suspline news organization. “They said the Legion and ‘Russian Volunteer Corps’ are creating a demilitarized zone and they will continue to ‘move towards the liberation of all of Russia.”

The Russian SHOT news agency posted on its Telegram channel video it claims to be of the partisans patrolling the streets.’

While The War Zone cannot independently verify those claims, Belgorod Oblast Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said various elements of Russia’s security forces are engaged in fighting in that region as they defend against a cross-border incursion.

“A sabotage and reconnaissance group (DRG) of the Armed Forces of Ukraine entered the territory of the Grayvoron district,” Gladkov said Monday on his Telegram channel. “The armed forces of the Russian Federation, together with the border service, the National Guard and the FSB, are taking the necessary measures to eliminate the enemy. I will report the details.”

The governor of Belgorod Oblast in Russia acknowledged a cross-border attack Monday. (Google Earth image)

“Helicopters and armored vehicles were sent to help the Russian border guards,” the Russian Baza news agency reported on its Telegram channel Monday. “This is reported by local residents.”

In response to the incursion, Gladkov ordered an emergency counter-terrorism operation.

“In order to ensure the safety of citizens in the Belgorod Region, the legal regime of the counter-terrorist operation has been introduced today, which establishes special measures and temporary restrictions,” Gladkov announced via Telegram. “Starting from verification of documents proving their identity with individuals and ending with the suspension of the activities of hazardous industries and organizations that use explosive, radioactive, chemically and biologically hazardous substances.”

Russian President Vladimir “Putin was informed” by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov “about an attempt by Ukrainian saboteurs to break into the Belgorod region,” according to the official Russian RIA Novosti news agency’s Telegram channel. “Work is underway to squeeze out Ukrainian saboteurs from Russian territory and destroy this sabotage group, there are enough forces and means on the spot.”

The “purpose of the Ukrainian sabotage in the Belgorod region is to divert attention from the Bakhmut direction, to minimize the political effect of the loss of [Bakhmut] by the Ukrainian side,” Peskov said, according to RIA Novosti.

The Legion of Freedom and RDK are conducting an operation on the territory of the Belgorod region to create a “security strip” to protect Ukrainian civilians, GUR spokesman Andrii Yusov told the Ukrainian Suspline media outlet, according to its Telegram channel. 

“According to Yusov, the operation is carried out exclusively by citizens of Russia,” Suspline reported.

“The events in the Belgorod region and other border areas are the result of a full-scale invasion and aggressive war of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s Russia against Ukraine,” said Yusov, according to Newsweek. “I think that we can only congratulate the decisive actions of the opposition-minded citizens of Russia, who are ready for an armed struggle against the criminal regime of Putin.”

The Freedom of Russia Legion “was created in the spring of 2022 based on the desire of the Russians themselves to fight against Putin’s armed gang in the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” the group claims on its website.

It says it is an “officially recognized by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. We are fighting in full cooperation with the Armed Forces of Ukraine and under the leadership of the Ukrainian command.”

The Legion “consists of the Combat Wing, which, with weapons in hand, fights together with the Ukrainian army and the All-People’s Movement – these are people on the territory of Russia and around the world, united by the values ​​of Freedom.”

The Freedom Of Russia Legion patch. (Freedom of Russia Legion photo)

RDK, meanwhile, is also made up of Russians seeking to topple the Putin regime, according to the Ukrainian Military Center.

Suspline claims RDK is part of “a military unit of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, formed in August 2022 to protect Ukraine from Russian invasion during the Russian-Ukrainian war.”

It “is a member of the International Legion of the Ukrainian Army,” Suspline added.

The head of the organization is Denis Kapustin – who also uses the last name Nikitin and is shown in the picture below. He is the one without the flag. Kapustin is a well-known far-right, Neo-Nazi activist, according to Michael Colborne, head of the Bellingcat Monitoring Project.

Back in March, we reported that Putin accused Ukraine of carrying out an act of terrorism after an RDK incursion into Bryansk Oblast, which also borders Ukraine.

Ukrainian forces “today carried out another act of terror, committed another crime, infiltrated the border area and opened fire on civilians,” Putin said at the time, according to the official Russian TASS news agency. “They saw it was a civilian car, saw that civilians and children were inside…they opened fire on them.”

In addition to the ground incursion, Gladkov, the Belgorod Oblast governor, said that the region also came under Ukrainian artillery and mortar fire that damaged homes and wounded civilians.

Kozinka, which the partisan groups claim to have seized, “is also under mortar fire,” Gladkov wrote on his Telegram channel. “One shell hit a private residential building, causing it to catch fire. Another shell flew into another private household, as a result of which there was a significant destruction of the supporting structures and the car was damaged. In the third household the fence is damaged. Emergency and operational services are on site, proceeding to eliminate the consequences and door-to-door bypass.”

In the village of Gora-Podil, “a hay warehouse caught fire near a local peasant farm. In Grayvoron, shells hit the territory of a motor transport enterprise, there was no damage. In the village of Zamostye, the fence of a private residential household was damaged.”

And “after the shelling of the village of Glotovo, Graivoronsky district, a man and a woman with mine-explosive wounds were taken to the regional hospital,” he wrote. “The woman is in intensive care in a serious condition, the man is in a state of moderate severity. All necessary medical assistance is provided.”

The Russian “air defense system worked” against an incoming Ukrainian munition, Gladkov added. “Part of the rocket fell into the garden of a private residential household in the village of Antonovka. Vzryvotehniki and operational services on the spot, begin to neutralize.”

While details about today’s attacks and the responsible parties are still coming in, this is just the latest in a series of attacks inside Russia that seem to be ramping up as Ukraine prepares its looming counteroffensive.

Strikes inside Russia’s own borders have been a particular concern for Moscow from shortly after the invasion began and have increased in their scope and frequency over the last year or so.

Drone attacks inside Russia, especially against Belgorod, have become a near regular occurrence and have left air defenses on a hair-trigger.

The losses inside Russia aren’t just on the ground now, either. Earlier this month, four Russian aircraft went down inside Russia’s Bryansk Oblast, which is across the border from northeast Ukraine’s Chernihiv Oblast. While exactly what attacked those aircraft remains unclear, some have claimed they were due to shoulder-fired missile attacks inside Russia’s own territory by partisans and/or Ukrainian operatives. You can read more about that in our coverage here.

In February, authorities in Moscow announced they resettled nearly 4,000 residents of Belgorod Oblast due to ongoing attacks in the area. And they were considering resettling some residents of the country’s Bryansk and Kursk oblasts for the same reason.

There have also been daring helicopter raids and mysterious explosions as well.

These seem only likely to increase as Ukraine seeks to destroy Russian military targets and logistics nodes across the border, and sow confusion and discontent. We will keep an eye on future developments.

This is a breaking story. Stay with The War Zone for updates.

Update 2:20 P.M .EST:

“There is even additional information regarding evacuation measures,” Yusov, the GUR spokesman, claimed, according to the Ukrainian Pravda news organization. “In an urgent mode, [people are evacuating from] the Belgorod-22 facility – a storage facility for nuclear weapons – Ruscists are also evacuating from the area near Grayvoron.”

That location is said to be a storage site for Russian tactical nuclear munitions.

The War Zone could not immediately confirm these claims.

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Howard Altman Avatar

Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard's work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.