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Sunday, June 23, 2024

US Distances Itself from Belgorod Incursion into Russia in Ukraine Conflict

The United States has distanced itself from an alleged incursion into Russia, which Moscow claims resulted in the defeat of armed insurgents who crossed the border from Ukraine.

On Monday, parts of the Belgorod border region were attacked in what is considered one of the largest cross-border raids since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine the previous year.

Russia subsequently released images of abandoned or damaged military vehicles of Western origin, including US-made Humvees.

The US firmly stated that it did not endorse or facilitate any strikes inside Russia. A spokesperson from the State Department acknowledged the reports circulating on social media and other sources regarding the use of US-supplied weapons but expressed skepticism about their accuracy.

During a news briefing, Matthew Miller emphasized that Ukraine was responsible for determining how to conduct the war. He stated, “It is up to Ukraine to decide how to conduct this war.”

In response to the attacks, villages near the Belgorod border were evacuated. Russia claimed that 70 attackers were killed and maintained that they were Ukrainian fighters.

Following Monday’s raid, Moscow declared a counter-terrorism operation, granting authorities special powers to restrict communications and limit people’s movements.

These measures remained in place until the following afternoon. Additionally, one of the paramilitary groups involved claimed to still control a small portion of Russian territory.

Belgorod’s governor reported one civilian fatality and several injuries resulting from the violence. Later, Vyacheslav Gladkov stated that the city had faced a fresh attack in the form of a drone dropping an explosive device that damaged a car. The flying vehicle was subsequently shot down, and no further casualties were reported.

The conflicting claims made by the involved parties have not been independently verified. However, the BBC confirmed that one of the buildings affected during the violence was used by Russia’s primary security agency, the FSB. The cause of the damage remains unclear.

Russia’s defense ministry has stated that a “unit of the Ukrainian nationalist formation” invaded its territory to carry out attacks in Belgorod.

The ministry released photos showing a wrecked vehicle with the words “for Bakhmut” written in Russian, referencing the Ukrainian city that Russia claims to have recently captured—a claim disputed by Kyiv.

The defense ministry claimed to have killed dozens of “Ukrainian terrorists” in artillery and air strikes while pushing the remaining fighters back to the Ukrainian border.

However, Ukrainian officials asserted that the attackers were Russians from paramilitary groups known as the Liberty of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC).

Social media posts from these groups seemed to confirm their involvement, and they also informed Ukraine’s public broadcaster that they were establishing a demilitarized zone on the border with Russia.

The cross-border incursion presents a complex situation for NATO leaders, who are wary of any assaults on Russian soil. This development could have mixed implications for Kyiv.

While it may embarrass Moscow and offset the negative optics for Ukraine regarding the reported loss of control over Bakhmut, it could also play into Russia’s narrative of defending its sovereign security against Western-backed malign forces.

Although Kyiv officially denies involvement, it is difficult to believe that this raid was launched without assistance from Ukrainian military intelligence.

Such developments reinforce the Kremlin’s claims of combating neo-Nazis and malign influences in Ukraine, particularly with reports indicating that some participants in the incursion have links to far-right extremism. These dynamics are likely to further fuel the Kremlin’s narrative and complicate the situation.

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