Border raid in Russia’s Belgorod exposes Putin’s defenses
The cross-border raid shows that Russia’s security, once bolstered by a formidable military machine, had declined markedly since last year’s invasion, said Johns Hopkins University international relations expert Sergey Radchenko.
“That’s why the Ukrainian intelligence services bother with operations that don’t really have any other meaning, to show the weakness of the Russian state. This is the message that is being sent,” he told NBC News.
“The results of Putin’s disastrous invasion speak for themselves: Russia is much less secure and much less capable,” Radchenko added.
He said the drone attack on the Kremlin on May 3 – which Moscow immediately dismissed as a Ukrainian assassination attempt on Putin, a charge Kiev denies – also showed the vulnerabilities of the state.
In an apparent effort to show the strength of his response, a video widely shared on Russian social media and geotagged by NBC News showed a high-ranking general leading the operation to repel the incursion earlier this week, directing troops in military fatigues and urging them to move forward on a road in a residential area near the border.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told a press conference on Wednesday that the pro-Ukrainian fighters had been “sent back to Ukrainian territory, where they continued to be defeated until they were completely eliminated”. He promised to “react quickly and extremely harshly” to any future cross-border raids.
But the Kremlin’s response has been ridiculed by Ukraine’s supporters and appalled by its own influential pro-military figures.
In a sign that Russia’s recent demand for a token battlefield prize had done little to quell internal dissent, the mercenary leader who led that campaign in Bakhmut also issued a warning.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, expressed fears on Wednesday that Russia could not only lose the war, but also face a revolution similar to those of 1917 unless the country’s ruling elite does not intensifies its approach. “We must impose martial law,” said Prigozhin, who has been a vocal critic of military leaders in Moscow.