The Russian region of Belgorod was the target on Monday, May 22, of an incursion by armed fighters from Ukraine. In an attempt to repel this new attack on its soil, Russia decreed a "legal counter-terrorist operation zone regime" in this territory and evacuated civilians.
If other operations have taken place in recent weeks in this border region, it is the first to have taken on such a scale, with several villages hit by shells. It also illustrates the permeability of Russian defences.
Russia has urgently evacuated the Belgorod-22 nuclear weapons storage site after the incursion claimed by Russian rebels in the area, announced Andri Yussov, spokesman for the Ukrainian Ministry's Main Intelligence Directorate. of Defense (GUR), quoted by several news outlets, including the Ukrinform news agency and the public broadcaster Suspilne.
The "panic" of the Russian authorities, which is also reflected in the evacuation of civilians, is manifest, added the spokesman of the GUR, whose statements are not verifiable.
"The situation remains extremely tense"
In reaction, the FSB (the Russian security services) introduced, on Monday afternoon, the "legal regime of anti-terrorist zone of operation" in the region, giving increased powers to the authorities to carry out armed operations. , control civilians or evacuate populations. This is a first since the start of the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The governor of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, announced that the fighting had left eight people injured, and that civilians were leaving the area concerned. "The situation remains extremely tense," he said on Telegram, indicating that authorities were going house to house warning people. "A large part has left the territory concerned, we are helping with our means of transport those who do not have one," he added.
The localities of Zamostié and Glotovo were attacked by fighters as well as the district capital, Gaïvoron, according to the same source. "The Russian armed forces, together with border guards, national guards and security services, are taking all necessary measures to eliminate the enemy," he said.
Actions never claimed by Ukraine
kyiv has denied, as it does every time, any involvement in these actions on Russian territory. “Ukraine is following the events in the Belgorod region with interest (…) but it has nothing to do with it,” assured Mykhaïlo Podoliak, adviser to the Ukrainian presidency.
As a major Ukrainian counter-offensive looms, Russian territory has in recent months and weeks been the target of an increasing number of sabotages, bombings and drone attacks blamed on Kiev. Actions never claimed by Ukraine, which prefers to evoke the track of Russian partisans.
The ongoing operation was claimed on a Telegram channel which presents itself as belonging to the "Freedom Legion for Russia", a group of Russians fighting on the Ukrainian side, which had already claimed to be behind other attacks in the same region.
"The time has come to put an end to the Kremlin dictatorship," said in a video broadcast by this channel a man who had been introduced to Agence France-Presse in December as "Caesar", spokesperson for the group, identified by the media as a former Russian neo-Nazi who crossed over to the Ukrainian side in 2014. According to the channel, the group "completely liberated" the village of Kozinka and attacked a second locality, the capital of Gaïvoron. These claims were not independently verifiable.
"Fighting continues" in Bakhmout according to kyiv
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been briefed, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, calling it an attempt by Kiev to "distract" from Bakhmut's downfall. .
Russian forces over the weekend claimed responsibility for the devastated town in eastern Ukraine, the scene of the conflict's longest and deadliest battle.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has denied the loss of Bakhmout and his army says it still holds a small area, while continuing to push through the Russian flanks north and south of the city. However, Ukrainian soldiers fighting around Bakhmut told the Kyiv Independent that fighting on the outskirts of the city continued, but the army had indeed lost control of the back streets littered with high-rise buildings inside. city limits. Ukrainian forces are now defending positions in sparsely populated areas on the outskirts of the city.
Ukrainian troops are still able to approach the city but due to the intensity of Russian army artillery, moving equipment and vehicles to the positions is complicated according to Kyiv Independent.
Successful Ukrainian counterattacks north and south of Bakhmut began on May 9 and continue, but were ultimately not enough to stop Russia's final advance into the city's final streets, the Ukrainian media adds.
"The fighting continues," said Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Maliar, particularly for "the commanding heights to the north and south", where the Ukrainian army claimed to have regained ground from the Russians.
The boss of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigojine, for his part, said that his men, in the front line, would withdraw by June 1 and transfer their positions to Russian regular troops.
On the Ukrainian side, the authorities claimed to have countered during the night strikes of an unprecedented scale on the city of Dnipro, in the center-east of the country, with missiles and explosive drones. Seven people were injured in Dnipro and seven others in its area in the attack, which was carried out using "missiles of various types" and Iranian-made Shahed drones, according to the Ukrainian military.
In Kherson region (south), 45-year-old man was killed by shrapnel during strike, and Russian strikes in Donetsk region (east) left two dead, according to Ukrainian authorities .