Russia Still Fighting Alleged Ukrainian Incursion, Reports Drone Strikes

A Ukrainian soldier sits in a trench at the front lines near Bakhmut, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, Monday, May 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Libkos)

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian military and security forces were still fighting Tuesday an alleged incursion by Ukrainian saboteurs reported the day before in a Russian border region, according to a Russian official.

Russian forces were still combing the area around the town of Graivoron, where the alleged attack took place on Monday, said Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the Bolgorod border region.

Gladkov urged residents of the area, who evacuated on Monday, to stay where they are and not return home yet. “We will inform you immediately… when it is safe,” Gladkov said. “Security agencies take all necessary measures. We wait for the anti-terrorist operation to end.”

kyiv has denied the accusations and attributed the attack to Russian guerrillas who support Ukraine. Neither version of events could be independently verified.

Although it is not the first time that Russia has denounced an incursion by Russian saboteurs, it is the first time that the operation to deal with it has continued for two days, an indication of the problems Moscow faces as its invasion of Ukraine remains stalled.

“Russia faces an increasingly serious multi-domain security threat in its border regions, with combat aircraft losses, pipe bomb attacks on railways and now direct actions by partisans,” the British Ministry of Defense said in a tweet.

According to Gladkov, an elderly woman died during the evacuation and two other people were injured “in the settlements that the enemy entered.” That brought the total injured in the attack to 10.

Gladkov initially said Monday afternoon that a sabotage group from the Ukrainian armed forces had entered Graivoron, a town about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the Ukrainian border. The town also came under artillery fire, he said.

He later announced an anti-terrorism operation in the area, saying authorities would impose special controls, including personal documentation checks, and halt the activity of companies using “explosive, radioactive, chemical and biohazardous substances.”

Ukrainian authorities attributed the incident to Russian guerilla groups. Andrii Cherniak, a representative of Ukrainian intelligence, said the attack was the work of citizens belonging to opaque groups known as the Russian Volunteer Corps and the “Freedom of Russia” Legion.

The Russian Volunteer Corps said in a Telegram post that it had crossed the border into Russia again, after claiming they had crossed the line in early March.

The group describes itself as “a formation of volunteers fighting on the side of Ukraine.” Little is known about the group and it is unclear if it has ties to the Ukrainian military. That is also the case with the “Freedom of Russia” Legion.

In addition to the alleged raid, Gladkov reported on Monday several drone strikes in Graivoron and other towns in the Belgorod region. Those attacks left no casualties, but damaged buildings and started a fire. Anti-aircraft systems in the region shot down two more drones on Tuesday morning.

The Belgorod region in southwestern Russia has suffered sporadic incidents associated with the war, as has neighboring Bryansk and other areas, with regular artillery and drone strikes on its towns and villages.

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