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Chaos in Shebekino What we know about the latest raid into Russia’s Belgorod region by pro-Ukrainian militias
The Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK) and the Freedom of Russia Legion announced Thursday morning that they were conducting a new raid into Russia’s Belgorod region. The two pro-Ukrainian militia groups have carried out multiple armed incursions into Russia from Ukraine in recent months. In videos posted to Telegram, the RDK said its fighters were at the border and were approaching the “outskirts of Shebekino,” a town in the Belgorod region, while the Freedom of Russian Legion said they were also at the border and would soon enter Russian territory “to bring freedom, peace, and calm.”
The Russian Telegram channel Baza reported that “saboteurs” carried out an attack on the Shebekino border checkpoint on Thursday morning “with tank support” but that the attack was repelled by Russian border forces.
The Belgorod region's operational headquarters denied that there had been any “breakthrough by the Ukrainian military” near Shebekino but said in the same statement that there was “shelling” in the area and that “sounds of combat” could be heard, according to Russian state media.
Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said Thursday morning that Shebekino was “under relentless fire.” Writing on Telegram, he reported that the town was under fire from a Grad multiple rocket launcher system and that a dormitory building had caught on fire and a local administration building was damaged as a result of the shelling. Some Telegram channels reported that a bus carrying evacuating citizens had been hit, but Gladkov reported that nobody was in the vehicle at the time of the strike. The governor didn’t comment on the raids announced by the RDK and the Freedom of Russia Legion.
Later, Gladkov reported that an explosion occurred in Belgorod, citing preliminary reports that two people were injured by a drone that crashed onto the road. On his Telegram channel, Gladkov said that one person was reportedly hospitalized and another sustained minor injuries. He added that he circumstances of the incident are currently under investigation. According to the Russian Telegram channel Baza, there are preliminary reports of a second drone crash in Belgorod.
The Russian Volunteer Corps posted photos with the caption “We’re working. Stay tuned for news!” that showed men in camouflage standing in a partially destroyed building, though the group didn’t indicate where the pictures were taken. Exiled former Russian lawmaker Ilya Ponomarev, who purports to represent the Freedom of Russia Legion, said the group “hit the Shebekino police building and the personnel who had gathered there with Grads.” He also claimed that fighters from the militia destroyed an armed Russian Kamaz truck and a Tyulpan mortar carrier.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced during its daily briefing that it had “foiled an invasion attempt” in the Belgorod region. According to ministry representative Igor Konashenkov, “a new attempt by the Kyiv regime to conduct a terrorist attack against the civilian population of the town of Shebekino in the Belgorod region has been thwarted.” After intense shelling, he said, Ukrainian formations “consisting of up to two motorized infantry companies and reinforced with tanks” attempted to invade Russian territory near the village of Novaya Tavolzhanka and the Shebekino border crossing. According to Konashenkov, three attacks were repelled due to the “selfless actions of Russian servicemen.” He added that about 30 pro-Ukrainian fighters were killed.
Later on Thursday, the Defense Ministry added details about the incursion and Russia’s response on its Telegram channel. The post says that at around 4 a.m., following intensive shelling, a group of around 30 people, three armored vehicles, and four pickup trucks attacked the Shebekino border checkpoint. The Russian military reportedly drove the group back in the direction of Pletenivka, on the Ukrainian side of the border, with artillery fire.
Another group of 15 “militants” reportedly tried to enter Russian territory along the eastern bank of the Siversky Donets river in the direction of Hatyshche, while 20 people tried to enter from the western bank. Part of the group from the eastern bank was blown up in a minefield, and the rest were killed by artillery fire, according to the Defense Ministry. The group from the right bank was reportedly “dispersed” in a firefight.
Between 6:05 a.m. and 6:45 a.m., “Ukrainian terrorist formations strengthened their efforts” to attempt another incursion from Pletenivka and Vovchansk, the ministry reported. As many as 70 “militants,” five tanks, four military armored vehicles, seven pickups, and Kamaz heavy-duty truck reportedly took part in the attack. The Russian side struck them with heavy flamethrowers, rockets, and artillery, after which they are said to have retreated.
“In all, more than 50 Ukrainian terrorists, four military armored vehicles, a combat vehicle with a Grad rocket launcher, and one pickup from the Ukrainian side were destroyed in the border territories,” says the Defense Ministry.
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This wasn’t the first time pro-Ukrainian forces have raided Russia’s Belgorod region. On May 22, the Belgorod authorities reported that a “Ukrainian military sabotage and reconnaissance group had entered the region. Armed clashes were reported in the villages of Glotovo, Kozinka, and Gora-Podol. The following day, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that Russian forces had “blocked and destroyed” the Ukrainian “saboteurs” and had killed 70 of the invaders. The Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps announced that their fighters had taken part in the incursion and claimed that while their members had survived with only “light injuries,” multiple Russian fighters had been killed and wounded. One of the fighters told Novaya Gazeta Europe that the militants had not managed to reach all of their targets during the operation and would conduct more raids in the future.
Kyiv has not commented on the latest incursion into the Belgorod region, though the Ukrainian authorities have said in the past that they do not engage in combat operations on the Russian side of the border.
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