A Russian settlement on the border with Ukraine has reportedly fallen under the control of anti-Kremlin Russian partisans following a cross-border raid.
The group, known as the Freedom of Russia Legion, seeks to overthrow President Vladimir Putin and “put an end to the Kremlin’s dictatorship.” In 2023, the Russian Supreme Court officially designated it as a terrorist organisation.
The anti-Kremlin militia claims to have crossed the Ukrainian border into Russia, where that they have "completely liberated" the village of Kozinka in Belgorod Oblast. Belgorod Oblast shares a 540-km border with Ukraine. While there has been no independent confirmation of any captured territory, videos posted on social media appear to show armoured vehicles overpowering a Russian border post.
"We are Russians, just like you,” a Freedom of Russia Legion statement on social media said. “We are distinguished only by the fact that we no longer wanted to justify the actions of criminals in power and took up arms to defend our and your freedom. But today it’s time for everyone to take responsibility for their future."
The attack was also confirmed by Vyacheslav Gladkov, the Governor of Belgorod Oblast, who alleged that a Ukrainian "sabotage and reconnaissance group" was responsible.
“The armed forces of the Russian Federation, together with the border service, the National Guard and the FSB, are taking the necessary measures to eliminate the enemy,” he wrote, on Telegram.
Kyiv has denied being behind the attacks, while Ukrainian military intelligence spokesman Andriy Yusov stated that the responsibility lies with the Freedom of Russia Legion, with support from the Russian Volunteer Corps. In March 2023, the Russian Volunteer Corps claimed responsibility for a minor incursion into Russia's Bryansk Oblast.
According to the Russian state-run TASS news agency, citing Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Putin has been informed of the incident.
“The Defence Ministry, the FSB and the Border Service have reported to the Russian president – the supreme commander-in-chief – about a Ukrainian sabotage group’s attempt to break into the Belgorod Oblast,” he said, suggesting that Kyiv was using the attack to divert attention away from Ukraine’s alleged loss of Bakhmut, a city in Donetsk Oblast.