An armed group with armored vehicles attacked the Russian region of Belgorod, close to the border with Ukraine, earlier this week.
According to Sky News, social networks have been circulating in recent days with videos believed to be the moment an armed group raided the Belgorod region, Russia with armored vehicles on May 22. Euromaidanpress news website, citing unconfirmed sources, said that the raid appeared to be supported by artillery, 2 assault units including 2 tanks, 1 armored fighting vehicle, and 9 Humvees.
This armed group later claimed to have control of several residential areas here and that they now have 7 units operating in the territory of Belgorod. Two members of the armed group said that they captured armored personnel carriers of the Russian army. Reuters later identified one of them as Ilya Bogdanov, a Russian citizen who was granted Ukrainian citizenship in 2015 when conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine.
A later scene shows what appears to be a Russian military helicopter dropping flares and billowing smoke.
Russian officials allege that a group of “reconnaissance and sabotage” from Ukraine raided Russia’s Belgorod region on May 22. The group is said to have shelled around 20 residential areas here, using multiple rocket launchers and drones to drop explosives on vehicles and residential buildings. The attack left 12 people injured, many buildings and several cars damaged. Local authorities also had to evacuate thousands of people in Belgorod to ensure their safety.
The skirmishes between Russian security forces and the armed group lasted two days.
The Russian Defense Ministry said yesterday that it had launched an “anti-terrorist operation” to wipe out “Ukrainian nationalist forces” infiltrating the Belgorod border region. During this operation, Russia eliminated more than 70 “attackers” and pushed the remaining members of this armed group towards the Ukrainian border. In addition, Moscow also destroyed 4 armored fighting vehicles, 5 pickup trucks.
The Russian Defense Ministry posted a video showing the moment Russian warplanes attacked the armed group in Belgorod.
However, spokesman for Ukraine’s General Intelligence Service, Andrey Yusov, insisted Kiev was not involved. According to him, the raid was carried out only by Russian citizens who fought alongside Ukraine, known as the Russian Freedom Army and the Russian Volunteer Army. He said the two groups wanted to create a “security zone” to protect Ukrainian civilians. These groups have claimed responsibility.
Meanwhile, defense expert Michael Clarke said that it is not possible to confirm who is behind the raid. “The big question is whether Ukraine is behind, if they’re not, will they know about this, or are both Russia and Ukraine passive,” he said.
Although Ukrainian officials have denied involvement, some say it is difficult to believe if this raid was conducted without support from Ukraine’s military intelligence service.
Sky News newspaper commented, this could be part of Ukraine’s plan to pave the way for a counter-offensive operation. With raids of this type, Kiev can distract Russia’s focus from the southern front, where Ukraine is expected to launch a counterattack.
Of course, Western allies and partners probably won’t support it if Ukraine actually tries to attack Russian territory. When supplying weapons to Kiev, the West has affirmed that Ukraine is committed not to attack outside its territory.
This is because they fear that Russia will see it as a good reason to expand its military operation in Ukraine.