KYIV, UKRAINE (AP) – Russian military and security forces on Tuesday called off a cross-border strike from Ukraine that killed more than 70 attackers in a skirmish that lasted nearly 24 hours, a senior Moscow official said.
It has not been able to independently confirm allegations of an armed incursion into Russian territory that began on Monday. Nor was it possible to say with certainty who was behind the attacks or what their motives were.
Disinformation was he one of the weapons of the nearly 15-month war.
The Russian government blamed Ukrainian military saboteurs for the raid. The KYiv government described the incident as an uprising by Russian partisans against the Kremlin, but the two interpretations were not immediately reconciled.
The fighting took place in the Belgorod region, about 80 kilometers north of the city of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed the armed raiders were routed by local forces, airstrikes and artillery fire.
He said four armored fighting vehicles and five pickup trucks used by the attackers were destroyed. Local officials said drones and artillery were also used in the attack.
Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said the attacks were concentrated in rural areas around the town of Greyvoron, about five kilometers (three miles) from the border. He said 12 civilians were injured in the attack and an elderly woman died during the evacuation.
It’s not the first time Russia has claimed an invasion by Ukrainian saboteurs, but it’s the first time the two-day counter-attack operation has faced Russia amid a stalled Ukraine invasion and the Kremlin. I highlighted the problem I’m having. It’s embarassing.
Drones, explosions and train derailments also occurred on Russian territory and in Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine, although Kiev officials have denied the rigged allegations. Ukraine said Russian citizens belonging to the Russian militia and an opaque group calling itself the Freedom of Russia Corps were behind the attack.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hannah Mariar said on Tuesday that the attack was instigated by Russian dissidents dissatisfied with the policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said it was “highly likely” that Russian security forces were fighting partisans in at least three locations in Belgorod.
Russia’s top law enforcement agency, the Investigative Commission, said it would launch an investigation into suspicion of terrorism and attempted murder in connection with the incident. Belgorod authorities announced earlier this year that they had spent nearly 10 billion rubles ($125 million) to build a fortress to protect the region from aggression during the war.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the attack caused “deep concern” and that “further efforts” were needed to prevent such attacks in the future.
Russian militias announced they had breached the border in early March. The dubious group calls itself the “Volunteer Corps Fighting on the Side of Ukraine”. It is not clear if he has ties to the Ukrainian military. The same applies to the “Russian Freedom” Corps. The Belgorod region of southwestern Russia, like the neighboring Bryansk region and several others, experienced sporadic effects of the war, with border towns and villages regularly subjected to artillery and drone attacks.