Far-right Russian militants claim responsibility for attack in Bryansk region

Far-right Russian militants claim responsibility for attack in Bryansk region
Russian Volunteer Corps members and flag. / bne IntelliNews
By Dominic Culverwell in Kyiv March 3, 2023

An armed Russian far-right group fighting against the Kremlin took responsibility for an attack in the Russian region of Bryansk on March 2. Details around the attack remain murky, with multiple narratives emerging, so here is what we know so far.

The governor of Bryansk said a Ukrainian “sabotage and reconnaissance group” took hostages and shot a civilian car, killing two men and wounding a 10-year-old boy. Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Ukraine had conducted a “terrorist act” in two villages close to the border.

“Today they (Ukraine) committed another terrorist act, another crime, penetrated the border area and opened fire on civilians,” Putin on state television.

Although little evidence was provided at first, Russian state media Ria Novosti released a video on March 3 allegedly showing the car that was shot by the group. However, the authenticity of the video has been questioned.

Russia’s secret service, the FSB, said that Russian forces clashed with a Ukrainian nationalist group on the border and pushed them back into Ukraine with a Russian artillery strike, the BBC reported.

Kyiv has denied the Kremlin’s accusations. Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Ukraine's Presidential Office, called the Kremlin’s claim “a classic deliberate provocation”.

“[Russia] wants to scare its people to justify the attack on another country and the growing poverty after the year of war,” he wrote on Twitter, the Kyiv Independent reported. “The partisan movement in RF is getting stronger and more aggressive. Fear your partisans.”

Meanwhile, a video circulated on Telegram from the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC), an anti-Putin Russian ultra-nationalist group fighting on the side of Ukraine with their own agenda of bringing down the Russian President. In the video, several armed men with yellow armbands, associated with pro-Ukrainian volunteer fighters, hold the RVC flag as gunshots are heard in the background.

The group denounced Moscow's accusation of hostages and dead civilians as propaganda, claiming responsibility for the attack and calling for Russian citizens to fight against Putin’s government. 

“The Russian Volunteer Corps came to the Bryansk region to show their compatriots that there is hope, that free Russian people with weapons in their hands can fight the regime,” the message read.

“We do not fight civilians, do not kill the unarmed. Keep this in mind,” one man said, who has been identified by several sources as Denis Kapustin (aka Nikitin), the leader of the RVC.

It is not known if Kyiv authorised the attack or if this was a decision made purely by the RVC. The spokesman of the State Border Service, Andriy Demchenko, emphasised that Ukraine is not an aggressor and that its main task is to defend and protect against Russia’s invasion.

Meanwhile, the intelligence of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence stated that it considers the reports of clashes in the Bryansk region "a continuation of the transformation of Russia, its purification and liberation from Putin's dictatorship."

"The Russian Federation today is such an entity, within which there is a large number of inter-national, inter-ethnic, inter-religious, socio-political and other conflicts (...) These are people who, with weapons in their hands, are fighting against Putin's regime and those who support him,” Andriy Yusov, a representative of the State Government, told Ukrainian media Hromadske.

“Maybe Russians are starting to wake up, realise something and take some concrete measures," he added.

As bne IntelliNews previously reported, partisan movements are gaining momentum across Russia both in direct support of Ukraine and against the mass mobilisation of citizens.

Ukraine has also previously conducted drone attacks, targeting an oil refinery in June, and launched a wave of them that reached 100 km of Moscow earlier this week.

Russia has stoked fears of a Ukrainian invasion to garner support for the war and has claimed that Kyiv shelled Bryansk last year. However, there is no definitive proof that Ukrainian troops have penetrated Russian territory since the start of the full-scale invasion.

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