The fights invite themselves again on Russian soil. On Friday June 2, the pro-Ukrainian Svoboda Rossii ("Freedom of Russia") legion again claimed to be fighting Russian forces in the Belgorod region, on the border with Ukraine. This group presents itself as Russians facing Vladimir Putin, for Russia to be part of the “free world”. Moscow denounces a group of “terrorists”.
“We have active fighting on the outskirts of the village of Novaya Tavolzhanka (in the Belgorod region). Unfortunately, there are wounded legionnaires, but freedom is won by blood,” the legion said on Friday in a statement reported by Reuters. The latter specifies “not having been able to verify the situation”.
For his part, the Russian governor of the Belgorod region said that two people had been killed and two others injured in bombings on Friday. He said shells fired by Ukrainian forces had crashed on a road near the town of Chebekino, located about ten kilometers from Ukraine and frequently bombarded. He also said that more than 2,500 people from this region had already been accommodated in temporary accommodation centers.
On Telegram, Freedom of Russia accused Moscow of being behind the bombings. “Near Tavolzhanka, the enemy destroyed a Renault car with civilians, mistaking it for a car from our sabotage group. At least two civilians were killed, and this is a direct consequence of the lack of professionalism of Putin's army,” the organization said on Telegram.
The cross-border raids are aimed at expanding Russian defenses and forcing Moscow to divert troops from inside Ukraine to reinforce the border, Alexei Baranovsky, spokesman for the political wing of Freedom of the Nation, told Reuters. Russia. "One of our tactical goals is to attract Russian troops from other parts of the Ukrainian front," he said in an interview in Warsaw on Thursday.
“It's one goal, the other is to show Russians that a different country is possible, that an armed group has appeared and is ready to fight for freedom. We want people to join us,” he added. He said the unit was part of the Ukrainian Foreign Legion, which is controlled by Kiev, but the chain of command no longer applied to Russian volunteer fighters once they entered Russian territory. According to the Swiss analyst Christophe Tymowski, "Russian soldiers from Belgorod" even joined "the Russian liberation movement to fight [...] against Putin".
The Belgorod region has been targeted for several days by strikes of unprecedented intensity on Russian territory since the start of the conflict. This Thursday, the Russian army claimed to have repelled with its artillery and air force a Ukrainian attempt to "invade" Belgorod, a week after a spectacular incursion by armed men which caused a shock in Russia. kyiv has denied any involvement.
Faced with this rain of gunfire, residents of the region, particularly the town of Chebekino, which had 40,000 residents before the conflict, fled. These new attacks follow an incursion into the same region of Belgorod on May 22 and 23 when what Moscow describes as a Ukrainian “sabotage” group entered the region.