‘A cause for deep concern’ The latest on the armed incursion into Russia’s Belgorod region
On May 23, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported “the defeat of Ukrainian terrorist formations,” which it said “invaded” the Belgorod Region a day before.
Yesterday, the Belgorod authorities reported that a “Ukrainian military sabotage and intelligence group” had entered the village of Grayvoron. Fighting was reported in the settlements of Glotovo, Kozinka, and Gora-Podol. The Freedom of Russia legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps, groups which fight for Ukraine, took responsibility for the actions.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said at a May 23 briefing that the invading units “were blocked and defeated” with the help of aviation, artillery, and detachments covering the border of the Western Military District. “The remnants of the nationalists were driven back into Ukrainian territory, where we continued to fire at them until they were completely liquidated,” Konashenkov said.
According to Konashenkov, more than 70 “Ukrainian terrorists” were killed, and four military armored vehicles and five pickup trucks were destroyed. He added that Ukrainian authorities decided to invade the Belgorod region “having been defeated in Artemovsk.”
Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said that 12 civilian residents of the region were killed during the attack. Another woman died on a bus “during evacuation measures.” In the evening of May 22, Gladkov announced region-wide counterterrorism restrictions. The restrictions were lifted the following day.
Later on May 23, Gladkov reported that one civilian had been killed in the region “at the hands of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Around midday on May 23, Gladkov announced that “clearing the territory of the consequences of the sabotage and reconnaissance group’s incursion continues.” He said that over the course of a day, the residents of nine villages — Grayvoron, Novostroyevka, Gorkovskoye, Bezymeno, Mokraya Orlovka, Glotovo, Gora-Podol, Zamostye, and Spodaryushino — were “essentially relocated.”
Gladkov added that villages in the Grayvoron district continued to take “heavy mortar and artillery fire” since the morning of May 23.
“Rocket launchers aimed at civilian homes and civilian residents, explosive devices were dropped from drones. As a result, 12 civilians were injured and there are damages recorded to 29 private homes and three cars. The lights are currently out in 14 settlements, and we’ll start restoration work when the situation allows,” the governor posted on Telegram. He also reported ongoing shelling in the Belgorodsky, Borisovsky, Valuysky, and Shebekinsky districts.
Gladkov also denied reports that a new “sabotage and reconnaissance group” had entered the region’s Borisovsky district. “A few Telegram channels are trying to sow panic among people. There was no incursion. The FSB, emergency services, and the Defense Ministry have not confirmed that information,” he wrote.
Following the attack on the Belgorod region, Russia’s Investigative Committee opened a criminal case based on six articles of Russia’s criminal code: terrorism; an attempt on the lives of law enforcement officers; attempted murder; intentional destruction or damage to property; and the illegal trafficking of weapons and explosives.
Novaya Gazeta Europe, citing a source in Russia’s Armed Forces, writes that following “the invasion of the Ukrainian military sabotage and reconnaissance group,” the Russian authorities assembled forces of motorized riflemen (around 3,200 fighters and 20 pieces of equipment) and army special forces (around 1,000 people and 40 pieces of equipment). They also sent members of the Alpha and Vympel Groups from the FSB’s Special Purpose Center.
Russian state broadcaster RBC, citing sources in the regional Internal Affairs department and the territorial police, writes that “10 units of armored vehicles and an unknown number of infantry from Ukraine’s Armed Forces” took part in the invasion of the Belgorod region. RBC and Kommersant also posted hour-by-hour chronologies of the incursion.
According to the publications’ sources, the attack started at 6 a.m. Moscow time on May 22.
The Freedom of Russia Legion, which Russia has designated a terrorist organization, said on May 23 that it was “continuing to liberate the Belgorod region” along with the Russian Volunteer Corps.
“The army of the Russian Federation could not stand up to a group of patriotic volunteers who took up arms and were not afraid to openly go against the Moscow regime for the free future of Russia. Once again, the myth that citizens of the Russian Federation are safe and that Russia is strong has been destroyed. In fact, for years, the authorities have plundered the budget and lied about everything being fine. Russia has no reserves to respond to a military crisis — all servicemen are either dead, wounded, or in Ukraine. The Russian Federation is absolutely not protected. The Belgorod region is in a panic, there’s a partially organized evacuation, but mostly there’s just been spontaneous flight,” says Freedom of Russia’s Telegram channel.
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The pro-Kremlin Telegram channel Mash reports that Ukrainian detachments have fortified themselves at the Grayvoron border checkpoint and presumably still control that area.
The Ukrainian authorities said yesterday that they were “observing the events in Russia’s Belgorod region with interest, but that they had no direct relation to events there.” On May 23, Ukraine made no official comments about the situation.
Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said at a press briefing that events in the Belgorod region are a cause for “deep concern.” “This once again confirms that Ukrainian fighters are continuing their activities against our country. This requires a great effort from us. Our efforts continue, as does the special military operation, so that we can prevent such incursions in the future,” the Kremlin spokesperson said.
On May 23, the Defense Ministry’s television channel, Zvezda, aired video footage allegedly showing wrecked armored vehicles and a burnt out pickup “from the site of the destruction of the Ukrainian military sabotage and reconnaissance group.”