The governor of Russia’s Belgorod border region said Tuesday that a “counter-terrorism operation” was ongoing following an armed attack Monday that Russia blamed on Ukraine, calling it the work of “saboteurs.”
Kyiv has denied any involvement in the incident, noting that anti-Putin militias known as the “Freedom of Russia” Legion and the “Russian Volunteer Corps” claimed responsibility for the raid on the district of Grayvoron that lies on the border with Ukraine.
A senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Kyiv had nothing to do with the armed operation in the Belgorod region.
“Ukraine is watching the events in the Belgorod region of Russia with interest and studying the situation, but it has nothing to do with it,” presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted.
“As you know, tanks are sold at any Russian military store, and underground guerrilla groups are composed of Russian citizens.” In a written statement to Reuters, Podolyak said Ukraine’s military operates only on Ukrainian territory, and echoed Ukrainian military intelligence in blaming Russian partisans for the incursion.
Several people were injured and several houses and a local administrative building were damaged in what Vyacheslav Gladkov, the region’s governor, described on Telegram as shelling and drone attacks. One woman died in the evacuation of the district, he said.
Images were also posted on Russian social media channels purportedly showing a plume of smoke after an alleged strike near an FSB security service building in Belgorod.
Gladkov said that a “clean-up” operation was being carried out by the Russian Defense Ministry and law enforcement agencies, telling residents of the area that they could not return to their homes yet.
Also on Tuesday, a Russian court extended Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich’s detention by three months, a move the US Embassy decried.
‘The more weapons are supplied, the more dangerous the world will be,’ Kremlin says of Western support for Ukraine
The Kremlin placed blame on Western governments providing Ukraine with weapons, saying it is contributing to global security instability.
“The more weapons are supplied, the more dangerous the world will be,” Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chief of the Russian Security Council, told reporters, according to a TASS report.
“The more destructive these weapons are, the more likely the scenario of what is commonly called a nuclear apocalypse becomes,” he added.
Over the weekend, the Biden administration announced its 38th weapons package for Ukraine worth approximately $375 million.
US Embassy in Moscow calls for regular consular access to detained WSJ reporter
The US Embassy in Moscow slammed a Russian court’s decision to extend the pretrial detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich by three months.
The embassy also called for regular consular access to Gershkovich, adding that so far there have been two attempts that were denied.
The most recent incident came last week.
“We reiterate that the claims against him are baseless and call for Mr. Gershkovich’s immediate release,” the US Embassy in Moscow wrote in a statement.
No ships have sailed under Black Sea grain deal in the past four days
No ships have left Ukrainian ports for four days despite an extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, according to the latest figures provided by the UN-backed organization tracking the export activity.
The last ship to leave under the agreement was carrying 6,800 metric tons of wheat and departed Ukraine’s port of Chornomorsk for Italy on May 19.
The deal, which reopened three Ukrainian ports and established a humanitarian sea corridor for agricultural exports, was extended last week, one day before it was set to expire.
Nearly 9,000 killed in Ukraine since start of war, UN says
The United Nations has confirmed 8,895 civilian deaths and 15,117 injuries in Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights added, though, that the figures in Ukraine could be higher because the armed conflict can delay fatality reporting.
The international organization added that the majority of civilian casualties reported were caused by explosive weapons, shelling and airstrikes with a wide impact area.
Russia facing serious security threat in border regions, UK says
Russia is facing “an increasingly serious multi-domain security threat” in its border regions, the British Ministry of Defense said Tuesday after an attack on the Russian border region of Belgorod that Russian anti-Putin groups claimed to have carried out Monday.
“Russia is facing an increasingly serious multi-domain security threat in its border regions, with losses of combat aircraft, improvized explosive device attacks on rail lines, and now direct partisan action,” the ministry said in an intelligence update on Twitter.
“Russia will almost certainly use these incidents to support the official narrative that it is the victim in the war,” the ministry added.
Fighting subsiding in ‘captured’ Bakhmut, minister says
Ukraine said fighting appeared to have subsided in Bakhmut, a town that Russia’s mercenary forces claimed to have captured last weekend, although Kyiv denied it had fallen.
“This day [the past 24 hours], the activity of the enemy’s offensive actions in the Bakhmut direction decreased somewhat,” Hanna Maliar, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, said Tuesday.
“In the city of Bakhmut, the fighting has subsided, the enemy continues to clear the areas under his control,” she added, in a post on Telegram. At the same time, the amount of shelling remains significant.
Ukraine still controlled parts of the southwest of the town, which has been largely reduced to ruins by months of attritional warfare, and fighting continues in the suburbs.
“We have a slight advance on the flanks to the north and south of Bakhmut,” she said.
Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group claimed last weekend to have fully captured Bakhmut, with footage showing Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin and mercenary troops raising Russian and Wagner flags in the town. Prigozhin said his force would hand over the town to regular Russian units in a matter of days.
Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War said Monday that Russia’s “hyperfocus on claiming victory in Bakhmut distracts from the precarious Russian military situation in and around Bakhmut.”
“The Russian military situation in Bakhmut is particularly vulnerable as the Russian offensive effort in the area has likely culminated, granting Ukrainian forces the opportunity to launch further counterattacks on Bakhmut’s already-weakened flanks.”
“Wagner’s withdrawal in contact will also likely result in the Russian MoD manning defensive lines with poorly trained and provisioned conventional units similar to those that retreated from their positions while defending against Ukrainian counterattacks earlier in May,” the analysts said.
Compiled by Ana Dumbadze