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Russia battles suspected Ukraine incursion for second day, reports new drone attacks

Kyiv, Ukraine — Russian troops and security forces battled for a second day on Tuesday against a suspected cross-border raid that Moscow blamed on Ukrainian military saboteurs but Kiev described as an uprising against the Kremlin by Russian supporters.

Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the Belgorod region on the Ukrainian border, said forces continued to sweep the rural area around the town of Graivoron, where Monday’s alleged attack took place. Twelve civilians were injured in the attack, he said, and an older woman died during the evacuation.

Gladkov urged area residents who were evacuated to stay put and not return home for now. “We’ll let you know immediately … when it’s safe,” Gladkov said. “The security agencies are carrying out all the necessary actions. We are waiting for the end of the anti-terrorist operation.

It was impossible to independently verify who was behind the attack or what its objectives were. Misinformation has been one of the weapons of the nearly 15-month war.

While this isn’t the first time Russia has alleged an incursion by Ukrainian saboteurs, it’s the first time the operation to counter the raid has continued for a second day, underscoring the struggles Moscow is facing amid his bogged down invasion of Ukraine and embarrassing the Kremlin. Russian territory and Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine have also been hit by drones and explosions that derailed trains, though officials in Kyiv deny accusations they orchestrated them.

Ukraine said Russian citizens belonging to shadowy groups calling themselves the Russian Volunteer Corps and the “Russian Freedom” Legion were behind the assault.

Russian dissidents unhappy with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policies were behind the attack, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on Tuesday.

“They are Russian patriots, as we understand. People who actually rebelled against Putin’s regime,” she said.

The “Russian Freedom” Legion on its Telegram channel claimed on Tuesday that the two groups were still operating in the Belgorod region and aimed to “liberate” the area.

Earlier this year, Belgorod officials said they had spent nearly 10 billion rubles ($125 million; 116 million euros) on fortifications to protect the region from incursion during the war.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the raid “causes deep concern” and that a “greater effort” is needed to prevent such raids in the future.

Peskov declined to say how many attackers were involved in the assault, nor did he explain why efforts to quell the attackers were taking so long. In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, he redirected those questions to the Russian Defense Ministry and the Federal Security Service, or FSB.

The UK Ministry of Defense said Russian security forces were “most likely” fighting partisans in at least three locations in Belgorod.

“Russia faces an increasingly serious multi-domain security threat in its border regions, with losses of fighter jets, improvised explosive device attacks on railways and now direct partisan actions” , he said in a tweet on Tuesday.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, the country’s main law enforcement agency, announced an investigation into allegations of terrorism and attempted murder in connection with the incident.

In addition to the alleged incursion, Gladkov reported multiple drone attacks on Graivoron and other settlements in the Belgorod region on Monday evening. The attacks caused no casualties, but damaged buildings and caused a fire. On Tuesday morning, two more drones were shot down by air defense systems in the region.

Gladkov first reported on Monday afternoon that a group of Ukrainian Armed Forces saboteurs entered Graivoron, a town about five kilometers (three miles) from the border with Ukraine. The city has also been under fire from Ukrainian artillery, he said.

He then announced a counter-terrorism operation in the region and said authorities were imposing special checks, including personal document checks, and stopping the work of companies that use “explosives, radioactive, chemically and biologically dangerous substances”. .

The Russian volunteer corps claimed to have crossed the border in early March. The shadow group describes itself as “a formation of volunteers fighting alongside Ukraine”. Little is known about the group and it is unclear whether it has any ties to the Ukrainian military. The same applies to the “Freedom of Russia” Legion.

Russia’s southwestern Belgorod region, like its neighboring Bryansk region and several other regions, has seen sporadic fallout from the war, with its border towns and villages regularly coming under bombardment and drone attacks.

Elsewhere, Ukrainian forces have made minor progress against Russian forces on the outskirts of Bakhmut, the eastern Ukrainian town that Moscow claims to have captured, according to Maliar, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister.

She said Tuesday that Ukrainian troops still control the southwestern outskirts of the city and fighting continues in the suburbs on Russia’s flanks.

Ukrainian military leaders say the fight in Bakhmut is not over.


Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

ABC News

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