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Russian fighters loyal to Ukraine launch largest cross border attacks since start of war

Russian fighters loyal to Ukraine launch largest cross border attacks since start of war

Ukraine-based armed “sabotage” groups have launched some of the largest cross-border raids into Russia since Moscow launched its invasion, temporarily capturing a village while vowing to liberate civilians from Vladimir Putin’s rule ahead of a presidential election.

The Russian defence ministry said Ukrainian “terrorist formations” backed by tanks and armoured combat vehicles tried to invade in three separate directions in Russia’s Belgorod region at about 3am Moscow time (00.00 GMT).

It said that four more attacks by Ukrainian “sabotage and reconnaissance groups” were repulsed around five hours later in Russia’s Kursk region.

Service members with the Freedom of Russia Legion under the Ukrainian Army prepare to fire a mortar at a Russian military position (REUTERS)
Service members with the Freedom of Russia Legion under the Ukrainian Army prepare to fire a mortar at a Russian military position (REUTERS)

Responsibility for the raids was claimed by at least two Ukraine-based armed groups - the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Siberian Battalion - which purport to be made up of Russians opposed to the Kremlin.

Andriy Yusov, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s military intelligence, told Ukraine’s 24 Channel the groups were conducting the operation on Russian territory independently of Ukraine.

In a video captioned “Good morning from the Russian-Ukrainian border”, the Freedom of Russia Legion leader Maximilian ‘Ceasar’ Andronnikov announced their plans to conduct the raid into Russia early this morning.

Freedom of Russia Legion leader Maximilian ‘Ceasar’ Andronnikov announced the attack in the early hours of this morning (Telegram)
Freedom of Russia Legion leader Maximilian ‘Ceasar’ Andronnikov announced the attack in the early hours of this morning (Telegram)

“We are coming to free you from poverty, poverty and fear, to free you from the dictatorship of the terrorist organisation that has seized power, to give your children an equal life,” Mr Andronnikov said, in front of dozens of Legion fighters.

A post on the Telegram messenger service from the Siberian Battalion posted later read: “Well, we’re finally home. As promised, we are bringing freedom and justice to our Russian land.

“We said earlier that it would not be possible to overthrow the criminal dictatorial regime in the Russian Federation peacefully.

“It can only be eliminated with weapons in hand. That night we began to fulfil the promise. Fierce fighting is taking place on Russian territory.”

The Freedom Legion said it had taken full control of Tyotkino, a village on the edge of Russia’s Kursk region bordering Ukraine, and aired aerial footage, apparently shot by a drone, showing several soldiers running across a field.

The Kremlin denied this takeover, saying they had repelled the attack, but Russia’s Tass news agency cited the local governor as saying one person had been wounded by Ukrainian shelling in Tyotkino.

Local authorities also announced that schools in Kursk would be switching to online classes after the incursion.

The Belgorod and Kursk regions were also attacked by Ukrainian drones in the afternoon and a drone crashed into the Belgorod city administration building, injuring two people, the regional governor said.

The attacks were deliberately timed ahead of the Russian presidential elections later this week, in which Vladimir Putin is expected to win a fifth term in office.

The autocrat is already the longest standing Russian leader since Joseph Stalin; a fifth and eventual sixth term would mean he will rule for another 12 years, well into his eighties and possible to the end of his life.

During Mr Andronnikov’s announcement this morning, he said they were marching into Russia in opposition of Putin’s re-election.

“[Putin] plans to run for another term and rule until his death,” he said. “We will not allow it, we are the same Russians and we also have the right to express our will, and our will is not to recognize the bloody dictator of the President of Russia.

“We will do everything so that he has time to move from the new mountain to the polar air.”