Ukraine Situation Report: Conflicting Claims Over ‘Raid’ Inside Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused Ukraine of carrying out an act of terrorism in a small Russian community just north of the Ukrainian border.

Ukrainian forces “today carried out another act of terror, committed another crime, infiltrated the border area and opened fire on civilians,” Putin said, 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.”

Putin’s comments came after Alexander Bogomaz, the governor of Bryansk Oblast, claimed on his Telegram channel that a Ukrainian sabotage group crossed the border, killed two people, and wounded two others. He offered no proof of those claims.

The Russian border town of Liubechane in Bryansk Oblast became the scene of unconfirmed reports of a border incursion. (Google Earth image)

There were other unconfirmed reports of hostages taken in a nearby town and of dozens of “saboteurs” entering the Bryansk region, according to the Ukrainian Meduza news outlet.

Sergei Markov, a former Putin advisor, took to his Telegram channel to say this incident requires a full-scale mobilization in response.

“In response to a strike on the Bryansk region, no retaliation strikes are needed,” Markov wrote. “This is a weakness, a secondary. We need to take the initiative into our own hands and move from the [special military operation] to a full-fledged war against the terrorist regime that has occupied Ukraine. Military mobilization of the economy, society and the state is necessary.”

Ukrainian officials quickly dismissed accusations – made without any corroborating evidence like images or video of the attack or its aftermath – that its forces entered Russia.

The Ukrainian General Staff denied involvement in any incident in Bryansk.

“Everything that happens in Russia is the local populationʼs opposition to Putinʼs terrorist regime, non-observance of fire safety measures or other reasons beyond the control of the Armed Forces. In particular, reports on the internet about the events in Bryansk region are an audacious Moscow provocation,” they said, according to the Ukrainian Babel news agency.

“The story about [a Ukrainian] sabotage group in [Russia] is a classic deliberate provocation,” Ukrainian presidential advisor Mikhail Podolyak wrote on Twitter Thursday. The Russian Federation “wants to scare its people to justify the attack on another country & the growing poverty after the year of war. The partisan movement in [Russia] is getting stronger & more aggressive. Fear your partisans.”

Andrii Yusov, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR) also cited the work of Russian partisans, saying Russia is full of internal strife.

“The so-called Russian Federation is an absolutely unstable entity with a colossal number of internal conflicts: international, social, political,” he told the Ukrainian Suspline news organization. “And indeed, there are such things, in particular, that speak of a confrontation in the middle of the Russian Federation itself between the citizens of the Russian Federation itself.” 

Yusov told the publication that there was already evidence of the presence of one of those partisan groups – the Russian Volunteers Corps (RVC) – in the region.

“This shows that the people of Russia are probably starting to wake up against Putin’s bloody dictatorship,” Yusov said.

That group, he added, is “not fighting against the civilian population, but exclusively against the Putin regime and those who serve him.”

That organization is made up of Russians seeking to topple the Putin regime, according to the Ukrainian Military Center.

Suspline claims the Russians are 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.

We’ve reached out to the GUR for more details and will update this story with any information provided.

The RVC on Thursday claimed that it had infiltrated the Russian border, but said Bogomaz’s claims about an attack that killed civilians and took hostages were false.

“Right now, on all internet resources, you can see news about ‘Ukrainian DRGs’ who killed children, took hostages, but, at the same time, hurriedly left, and so on,” the group wrote on its Telegram channel. “All this is a lie of the Kremlin propagandists.”

The partisan group said its actions north of the border were to send a message to Moscow.

“So friends this has finally happened,” said one of two members in a video they claim was shot in front of a post office in Russia. “The Russian Volunteer Corps has crossed the official border of the Russian Federation. Here is the proof right behind my back. We don’t fight against civilians, we don’t kill the unarmed, keep that in mind.”

In another video, in which the sounds of gunfire could be heard, the group claimed it came to Russia as “a liberating army.”

The War Zone could not independently verify any of the claims about what, if anything, took place in Bryansk Oblast on Thursday.

“So seeing the press reports in terms of Ukrainian operations, I refer you to them to talk about their operations,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the top Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Thursday afternoon. “I cannot corroborate those reports in terms of what we’ve seen in the press.”

Whether there was a real incursion, a Russian false flag operation to give Putin further pretext to mobilize more troops, a rouge operation by pro-Ukrainian partisans or nothing at all, Moscow is clearly concerned about cross-border attacks.

On Feb. 26, BYPOL, a group of Belarusian dissidents, claimed an attack on a Russian A-50 Mainstay airborne early warning aircraft stationed in Belarus, which you can read more about here.

And the Russians on Feb. 28 claimed a Ukrainian UJ22 drone came within 70 miles of Moscow, which you can read more about here.

Speaking of attacks inside Russia, the Russian Baza news agency reported on its Telegram channel that there was “an explosion in the suburbs of Kolomna,” about 70 miles southeast of Moscow and more than 275 miles from the Ukrainian border. “What exactly happened is still unknown, but the explosion was heard in almost all parts of the city.”

“According to preliminary data, the explosion occurred in one of the neighboring villages around [9:30 p.m. local time.] Rescuers are on the scene now.”

While it is unclear what happened, this incident comes on the heels of the aforementioned Ukrainian drone Russian officials said was found relatively close to Moscow as well.

Kolomna is about 70 miles southeast of Moscow and more than 275 miles from Ukraine. (Google Earth image).

Though it is unclear what happened in Kolomna, Ukraine has conducted long-range strikes before, there have been other suspected Ukrainian attacks deep inside Russia, like drone attacks on Russia’s Engels Air Base in the Saratov region in December. You can read more about those attacks here.

And in Crimea as well. Like the August attack on the Russian Saki air base there that damaged several aircraft. Ukraine may have attempted another attack on that base. An image emerged Thursday on social media of a fully intact downed Ukrainian drone with unusual markings in the Saki district. You can read our full report on this drone, which matches a well-established ‘sold on Alibaba’ type, here.

Crimea has been a frequent target of Ukrainian strikes.

But the strikes inside Russia’s own borders have been a particular concern for Moscow. Last month, authorities in Moscow announced they have 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.

Russia has felt the sting of the war inside its own borders for a while now, something you can read more about here.

There have been daring helicopter raids, mysterious explosions and partisan attacks as well.

Before we head into the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up on our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

Russian forces continue to storm the Donetsk Oblast coal mining city of Bakhmut, according to the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff.

Meanwhile, the Wagner mercenary group posted a video it claimed shows its forces waving their flag on top of a building in the eastern part of that besieged city.

Bakhmut has been no cakewalk for Russians though, as this video of a Ukrainian T-64 tank destroying Russian infantry fighting vehicles shows.

Another aid package for Ukraine, worth roughly $400 million and comprised mainly of ammunition, will be announced Friday, according to Reuters, citing two officials and a person familiar with the package.

The package, the sources told Reuters, “is expected to contain more Guided Multiple Launch Rockets (GMLRS) for HIMARS launchers, ammunition for the Bradley Fighting Vehicles, as well as armored vehicle launched bridges.”

Video and images of Russian equipment heading to the front emerged on social media, including a rare KVD track laying system that makes its own roads.

Once again, Iranian ammunition appeared on the battlefield in use by Ukrainian troops. This time it was M48 120mm high explosive mortars, according to the Ukraine Weapons Tracker OSINT group.

More Iranian weapons could be on the way to Ukraine if the U.S. opts to send Kyiv thousands of assault rifles, 1.6 million rounds of small arms ammo, and more seized from smugglers. The story was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. We’ve asked the Pentagon for more details and will update this report with any information provided.

And it’s possible there may be even more seized weapons available.

“Coordinated efforts among U.S. and UK maritime forces led to Royal Navy frigate HMS Lancaster confiscating anti-tank guided missiles and missile components from a small boat that originated from Iran,” the Pentagon reported Thursday. “UK forces discovered packages that included Iranian versions of Russian 9M133 Kornet anti-tank guided missiles, known in Iran as “Dehlavieh,” and medium-range ballistic missile components.”

Anti-tank guided missiles and medium-range ballistic missile components seized by the United Kingdom Royal Navy. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Murphy)

An American military veteran, who told Russian state-run media that he defected to Moscow after fighting with Ukraine’s International Legion, served very briefly with the U.S. Army, a service spokesperson told our colleagues at Task & Purpose.

John David McIntyre “served in the regular Army as an Indirect Fire Infantryman (11C) from June 2015 to August 2017,” an Army spokesperson told Task & Purpose on Thursday. “He has no deployments. He held the rank of private first class at the end of service.”

Slovakia is considering giving Ukraine 10 of its 11 Soviet-made MiG-29 planes — with the 11th reserved for a Slovakian museum, Defense Minister Nad told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Amid all the talk of combat aircraft being sent to Ukraine and the training of its pilots outside the country, Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, issued a threat against any nation that supplies or repairs those aircraft. Such an action would mean the direct entry of that nation into the war, he said.

The Kerch Bridge, Vladimir Putin’s prized $4 billion span linking the occupied Crimean peninsula with Russia, could be one step closer to being fully operational. Images emerged on social media appearing to show the recent removal of a span of the railway bridge to Crimea being removed, presumably to carry out repairs. The bridge was badly damaged in an Oct. 8 attack.

ICMP, the TV production house of the U.K. newspaper The Independent, took a deep dive into Russian war crimes.

“It was a month into Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Russian forces had withdrawn from around Kyiv and in their wake Bel Trew and her team stumbled on a body by an abandoned Russian camp,” ICMP reported. “His hands were tied. He had been burned and shot in the back. Soldiers said he was a teenager. As Bel tried to find out who he was and what had happened, she uncovered a nightmare world: a nation struggling to find thousands of its missing and to identify its dead. The Body in the Woods by Bel Trew is streaming now on Independent TV and on your smart TV.”

The Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia was struck by Russian missiles Thursday and one resident posted photos on social media claiming she spent five hours under the rubble with her three cats, two of which were still missing.

In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed that justice will be served.

“Today’s brutal Russian missile attack on Zaporizhzhia will face our military and legal response,” he said. “The occupier will inevitably feel our strength. The strength of justice in every sense of the word.”

And finally, Ukraine’s kept its troll game strong.

That’s it for now. We will update this story when there is more to report.

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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.