Following a cross-border incursion launched from Ukraine, Belgorod, Russia residents have been relocated to other areas.
An anti-Putin Russian organization reportedly crossed the border from Ukraine to Belgorod this week in order to work on its objective of the “complete liberation of Russia.”
The incident continues to unfold. According to CNN, the Freedom for Russia Legion called the attack in the Belgorod region a “peacekeeping operation” on Telegram, adding that their goal is to create a “demilitarized zone between Russia and Ukraine, to destroy the security forces that serve the Putin regime, and to demonstrate to the people of Russia that it is possible to create pockets of resistance and successfully fight against the Putin regime.”
The city of Belgorod is located roughly 373 miles from Moscow and approximately a thirty-minute drive from the Ukraine border. The region has become a hot spot in the conflict since it is vulnerable to cross-border attacks and is often used as a refueling zone by Russian forces.
What Happened in Belgorod This Week?
The Kremlin announced it had killed 70 attackers. Ukraine, meanwhile, has denied any participation in the attacks. While the perpetrators have not been verified, NATO worries that the Kremlin could use this incident as a reason to escalate hostilities in Ukraine.
Additionally, U.S. officials remain skeptical that American-made weapons were used in the attempted attacks, a charge Russia made. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller stated that the Biden administration was “skeptical, at this time, of the veracity” of reports that American weapons could have ended up in the hands of the attackers.
Although the U.S. has remained the top provider of funds and military equipment to Kyiv, the White House has been explicit that no American weapons may be used to strike territories within Russia.
A Rough Year for the Border Region
Over the last fifteen-plus months of warfare, Russian forces have been found responsible for a variety of incidents in the Belgorod region, including accidents and attacks. In April, a warplane mistakenly fired a weapon into the city in an “accidental discharge of aviation ammunition,” according to Russia’s Defense Ministry.
In the fall, nearly a dozen Russian soldiers were killed when two fellow volunteers opened fire at a Belgorod-based training ground.
A few months later, a denoted grenade killed three and injured many more at a Belgorod ammunition store. These incidents paint a picture that perhaps the violence and chaos that has swept the Russian border city has not been caused by Ukrainian soldiers.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.