Ukraine Conflict Update: Anti-Kremlin Fighters Claim Capture of Russian Soldiers
In the ongoing Ukraine conflict, fighters opposing the Russian government assert that they have successfully captured a group of Russian soldiers near the Ukrainian border in Belgorod.
Following this development, the top official in Belgorod expressed willingness to meet with the captors on the condition that the soldiers were alive. However, the fighters later stated that the governor lacked the courage to meet them, leading them to hand over the captured soldiers to Ukraine.
Russia has accused Ukraine of recent attacks in its border regions, but Kyiv denies any direct involvement.
On Sunday, the Russian army announced that it had targeted a “terrorist” group near Novaya Tavolzhanka with artillery fire, causing the enemy to disperse and retreat.
Earlier, a paramilitary group shared a message on the Telegram app, claiming the capture of two individuals and offering to release them if Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov agreed to engage in talks.
A video was circulated, allegedly showing the two captives, although the BBC could not independently verify the identities.
In response, Mr. Gladkov released his own video on Telegram, expressing his readiness for talks if the soldiers were confirmed to be alive, but he speculated that they might have been killed.
Subsequently, the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK) posted another video showing additional captives, where they accused Mr. Gladkov of failing to attend the scheduled meeting.
The RDK claimed that neither the military nor the civilian leadership displayed interest in the fate of the captured individuals.
Meanwhile, the Liberty of Russia Legion (FRL) criticized the Russian authorities as “rotten and cowardly,” announcing their decision to hand the captives to Ukraine in exchange for Ukrainian prisoners of war.
Both groups aim to overthrow President Vladimir Putin and oppose Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February of the previous year.
Ukrainian officials describe these paramilitary organizations as comprised of Russian citizens seeking to establish a “security zone” for Ukrainians.
The RDK gained prominence in March for a cross-border raid in Russia’s Bryansk region and is led by a Russian nationalist with alleged neo-Nazi connections.
On the other hand, the FRL is regarded as an organization that fights alongside Ukrainian troops against Russian forces.
Mr. Gladkov, in his video message, referred to the fighters as “scoundrels, murderers, fascists” but assured that safety would be guaranteed if the talks were to take place.
While the captors requested his presence in Novaya Tavolzhanka, Mr. Gladkov deemed it too dangerous and proposed a meeting at a checkpoint in Shebekino.
Since the video, Mr. Gladkov has not provided further comments since the video but posted pictures of a meeting with regional and federal officials.
Belgorod has witnessed a recent surge in attacks, including a significant cross-border incursion last month, which Moscow claimed resulted in the deaths of 70 insurgents.
Kyiv denies direct involvement in such attacks and attributes the escalating violence in Russian territory to the consequences of Russia’s invasion last year.