UPDATED WITH VIDEO OF ATTACK ON BELGOROD: Was Russia Just Invaded by Russian Troops?

News & Politics

UPDATE: FSB is Russia’s intelligence service, the successor to the USSR’s KGB.

“According to Russian media,” one Twitter account posted, “the explosion occurred because an UAV dropped an explosive device on the FSB building.”

That’s not exactly a sign of a major invasion, but it isn’t nothing.


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(Original report follows below.)

When I read reports that a Russian volunteer force that fights alongside the Ukraine army had invaded Russia’s Belgorod region this morning, my first instinct was to dismiss it as a mostly meaningless stunt. I didn’t even bother mentioning it in this morning’s big update on Russia’s victory in the Battle of Bakhmut. Maybe that was a mistake.

Hours later, and details are still coming in about what looks more and more like a serious effort to disrupt Russian forces in the area by other Russian forces, ironically enough. The Freedom for Russia Legion is made up of Russian defectors — nobody seems to know how many, but the organization claims two battalions, or around 1,000-3,000 men — dedicated to protecting “Ukrainians from real fascists” and overthrowing Vladimir Putin. That seems just too ambitious (and for Kyiv, convenient) for me to take very seriously.

Nevertheless, the Legion claimed early Monday, “The Legion and the RDK completely liberated Kozinka settlement, Belgorod Oblast. Advance detachments entered Grayvoron. We move on. Russia will be free!” And there are plenty of photos, videos — and anti-terror measures just put in place by Belgorod authorities, lending credence to that claim.

The Belgorod region lies just on the other side of the Russo-Ukraine border from Kharkiv and was liberated by UAF in Kyiv’s summer counteroffensive last year. The city of Belgorod is home to about 380,000 residents and serves as an important logistical hub for Russian forces. And sometime on Monday, several border towns were invaded from Ukraine, purportedly by Freedom for Russia units.

There’s something real going on. TASS, Russia’s official state mouthpiece, reported today that a “legal regime” for “counter-terror operation[s] has been introduced in the Belgorod Region after the infiltration of Ukrainian saboteurs.”

For the period of the counter-terror operation, various measures and restrictions have been introduced, from individuals’ identity checks to the suspension of the operation of hazardous production facilities and organizations using explosive, radioactive, chemical and biologically dangerous substances, the governor specified.

Here’s a video of fighting on the Russian side of the border, courtesy of Euromaidan Press:

There’s fighting on the political/propaganda front, as well. Images are circulating on Telegram (a social media platform popular in Russia) of a separatist “Belgorod People’s Republic” claiming to want independence from Moscow.

Russia's Belgorod People's Republic
(Courtesy of Telegram.)

It’s impossible to tell how much of what we see is real, whether some or all of it is propaganda staged by Kyiv, or if what we’re seeing is a bizarre start to Kyiv’s expected summer counteroffensive.

But out of all the crazy things I’ve written about Putin’s stupid war, “Russia was just invaded by Russian troops” is easily the craziest.

Recommended: Russia Finally Takes Bakhmut — Now What?

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