The Kremlin on Tuesday said the attack on the western Russian border region of Belgorod proves the need to continue the war against Ukraine even though Kiev has denied involvement.
Russian authorities have launched a terrorism probe after fighting broke out just inside Russia on Monday. Two volunteer corps made up of Russians but fighting on Kiev’s side in the Ukraine war claimed responsibility for the attacks.
“This confirms once again that Ukrainian fighters continue their activity against our country,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
This requires efforts from Russia, he added.
“These efforts will continue as well as the special military operation to prevent such intrusion in the future.”
Moscow describes its full-scale war against Ukraine, which began in February 2022, as a special military operation.
Ukraine has distanced itself from the Belgorod incidents, but the Russian Defence Ministry said attacking forces had been “blocked and destroyed,” adding that “more than 70 Ukrainian terrorists, four armoured vehicles and five other vehicles were captured.”
The ministry and local governor indicated the fighting was over following Moscow’s retaliation, including from the air. A state of alert has been lifted.
The adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy, Mykhailo Podolyak, tweeted: “The sooner they leave all areas of Ukraine, the less disaster Russia will end up experiencing itself.”
According to the Belgorod authorities, at least 12 civilians were injured and nine villages were evacuated due to the fighting.
The attack had caused “deep concern,” Peskov said, but Russian President Vladimir Putin would not call a special session of the National Security Council.
The Kremlin received renewed criticism from Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of mercenary group Wagner, whose forces have been assisting Russian troops in Ukraine.
“There is no leadership, no desire and no personalities ready to protect our country,” he said.
Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said earlier that fighting continued in several localities in the Russian border region.
“The clearing of the territory by the Ministry of Defence and other security structures continues,” Gladkov said on Telegram. While there have been no civilian deaths so far, it is too early for residents to return, he said.
Gladkov added that a “spy and sabotage squad” had entered the area.
According to British intelligence, “Russia is facing an increasingly serious multi-domain security threat in its border regions.”
An alleged drone attack on the Kremlin this month is still being investigated. The Russian citizens fighting for Ukraine said they wanted to create a “demilitarized zone along the border,” which is meant to prevent the Russian military from repeatedly shelling its neighbour.
The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation said in a press release said the attackers were “representatives of Ukrainian military units.”
The statement added: “Residential and administrative buildings were shelled by mine launchers and with artillery. Because of these criminal acts, several civilians were injured.”
Investigations are under way into suspected terrorism, attempted murder and attempted killing of security officers, wanton destruction of property and illegal possession of weapons and explosives, the committee added.