Fighting Spills Into Russia As Moscow Accuses Ukraine Of Sending Saboteurs

(Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Fighting in a Russian town carried over into the second day as Moscow accused Ukraine of ordering saboteurs to carry out an operation in Belgorod, although Kyiv says the attackers were Russian dissidents acting on their own.

A Ukraine-affiliated military unit comprised of Russian nationals claimed responsibility for crossing the border into the Belgorod region on Sunday evening and “liberating” settlements there from the Kremlin’s control, according to CNN. Russian forces continue to sweep the Belgorod region as evacuation efforts were underway and 12 civilians were wounded, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said, according to The Associated Press.

Shelling damaged an administrative building, residential buildings and a kindergarten in the area, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said, according to CNN. (RELATED: Ukraine Reportedly Strikes Russian Missiles In Transit Through Crimea)

“The situation remains extremely tense. A sabotage and reconnaissance group, the Ministry of Defense and all law enforcement agencies have entered the territory to carry out combat missions to protect our country,” Gladkov said on Monday.

Ukraine said the “Freedom of Russia Legion,” an anti-Kremlin resistance group considered part of Ukraine’s defense forces while inside the country, carried out the attack but did not act at the direction of the Ukrainian government.

“We can confirm that this operation was carried out by Russian citizens,” Andriy Yusov, a representative of Ukraine’s defense intelligence agency, told CNN. “In Russia they are acting as independent entities.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov maintained that the attackers are “Ukrainian, from Ukraine,” according to Russian state-affiliated TASS News Agency.

On Tuesday, Moscow declared a “counterterrorism mission” to repel and eliminate the “sabotage and reconnaissance group” in Belgorod after it had entered the Grayvoron District on Monday and later entered additional settlements, according to TASS.

Peskov declined to comment on the quality of border infrastructure amid reports of poor or nonexistent border security. “Regarding the protective features of various fortifications – this is not a question for us, we are not qualified to make any assessments,” Peskov said, according to TASS.

Areas within the Belgorod vicinity have come under fire at various points during the conflict, Fox News and CNN reported.

In March a group called the Russian Volunteer Corps, which later “joined forces” with the Freedom of Russia Legion, mounted a similar incursion into Russian territory, according to Reuters. However, the present incident is the first time fighting has entered a second day, according to the AP.

Kyiv has distanced itself from both attacks, Reuters reported. The partisan group intended to “liberate our motherland from the tyranny of Putin,” a representative for the Russian Armed Opposition Political Centre, the political wing of the Freedom of Russia Legion, told CNN.

The Kremlin does not plan to hold an emergency security council meeting over the intrusion, Peskov told TASS.

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