Insurgents defeated after rare border raid

Residents in Rus­sia’s Belgorod region who have fled their homes due to fighting there have been urged not to return yet.

Russian officials say an armed “sabotage” group crossed from Ukraine and attacked the Grayvoron­sky district by the border on Monday.

Moscow claims it has now defeat­ed those responsible. Kyiv denies it was involved and said Russian citizens from two paramilitary groups were behind the incursion.

No deaths have been reported in the fighting, but a number of people are believed to have been injured.

That includes two civilians amongst those being evacuated, the region’s Governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said on Tuesday. Russia has launched a terrorism investigation into the issue.

The defence ministry later published a statement on Telegram stating that “nationalist formations” had been “blocked and defeated” by Russian forces, and that more than 70 “Ukrainian terrorists” had been killed. The remainder were report­edly driven back to Ukraine, the ministry said.

Mr Gladkov added that air defenc­es had shot down drones overnight, damaging buildings.

The BBC has verified that a build­ing used by Russia’s main security agency, the FSB, was among those hit. It is not clear what caused the damage.

Mr Gladkov said that people in several villages had been evacuated and warned those who had fled their homes not to return yet, as Russian forces carried out what he described as a “mopping-up” operation.

Monday’s raid appears to have been one of the largest cross-border incur­sions since Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country 15 months ago.

It led Moscow to declare a count­er-terrorism operation in Belgorod, giving the authorities there special powers to clamp down on communi­cations and people’s movements.

Ukrainian officials said those behind the incident were from groups called the Liberty of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC).

The Liberty of Russia Legion – a Ukraine-based Russian militia which says it is working inside Russia to overthrow President Vladimir Putin – said on Twitter on Monday it had “completely liberated” the border town of Kozinka.

Mr Putin’s spokesman, Dmit­ry Peskov, said that while “there are many ethnic Russians living in Ukraine… they are still Ukrainian militants”. —BBC

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