Russia claims to have “completely liquidated” pro-Kiev militias that crossed the border

Russia has claimed its military has “completely eliminated” pro-Ukrainian militias that staged a two-day incursion into its territory, an embarrassing episode that points to broader failures more than a year after President Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

The apparent ease with which two Russian far-right groups based in Ukraine breached Russia’s borders and temporarily “liberated” a village has drawn rare public criticism from local authorities, prompting the Kremlin to downplay concerns.

Russia “repelled and defeated the national groups, [then] beats [them] “A return to Ukrainian territory,” Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defense minister, said in a public broadcast on Wednesday, adding that “more than 70 Ukrainian terrorists have been destroyed.” He vowed that Moscow would “respond in a timely manner and in a very vicious manner to similar actions by Ukrainian militants in the future”.

A Ukrainian military intelligence official admitted on Tuesday to cooperating with the groups behind the raid, the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Free Russian Legion, which have been held responsible for the Belgorod incursion and a series of similar incidents this spring.

Ukraine has hailed the attacks as evidence of an anti-Putin uprising among Russian citizens and of Moscow’s weak control over the border regions.

The Russian military was careful to play down the obvious shortcomings exposed by the attacks.

On Tuesday, bloggers close to the Ministry of Defense posted two videos showing Alexander Lapin, a prominent Russian general and commander of the army’s ground forces, urging a small group of soldiers: “Forward, guys, for the Motherland!” On a rural village street as part of what they said was fighting against the militia.

But there were no audible or visible signs of fighting in the clips, which were filmed 5 kilometers from the scene of the fighting, according to the independent Russian news outlet Agentstvo.

On Wednesday, the Defense Ministry said a Russian warship repelled an attack by three Ukrainian drones in Turkish economic waters in the Black Sea.

The Ministry of Defense indicated that the drones planned to attack two pipelines carrying Russian gas, which means that Ukraine is also responsible for the explosions in the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea in September last year.

Russia has provided no evidence to support the claim other than a grainy video of three small drones being fired at at sea. Ukraine, which has accused Russia of carrying out the Nord Stream attacks, and Turkey did not immediately comment.

Russia’s Defense Ministry also came under rare criticism from Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Belgorod, in a late-night internet broadcast after a local resident complained that the border was “porely”.

Gladkov told the resident that he agreed and that he had “more questions for the Ministry of Defense than you.” “We need to draw conclusions from the mistakes that were made,” Gladkov added.

Asked about Gladkov’s comments, Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said the war with Ukraine requires “very difficult and tense work” that “constantly creates questions that are being asked and answered.”

The voice of the region’s governor added to the growing criticism of the Russian Defense Ministry by hardliners gathered around Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner paramilitary group.

Russian forces are about to capture the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine – in a symbolic victory after the army failed to make significant advances since early last summer.

But the heavy losses in men and material incurred by the invading forces at Bakhmut, along with the failure to make progress elsewhere on the front lines, have raised fears that Russia could find itself in a vulnerable position after a long-overdue Ukrainian confrontation. hurtful

Prigozhin said in an interview published late Tuesday that between 15,000 and 16,000 of Wagner’s troops, most of them convicts released from prison for fighting in Ukraine, have died, with several seriously wounded.

These clear casualty figures are the biggest acknowledgment by any major Russian figure of Moscow’s losses during the conflict.

Prigozhin has played a large role in the Russian war effort as the regular army’s offensive continues to falter.

Although Putin specifically thanked Wagner for his role in the advance through Bakhmut last week, Prigozhin remains embroiled in public conflict with the army leadership, who accuses him of starving the paramilitaries of ammunition.

In the interview, Prigozhin said the Russian military “bed-smashed” during the initial invasion and claimed that “things are still not smoothing out” more than a year later.

Prigozhin said that the war “was aimed at ‘discrediting’ Ukraine, and making it a nation famous all over the world”. How did we disarm them? We camped them out in a way. They have one of the strongest armies.”

Prigozhin said that Russia needed to declare martial law, mobilize more men into the army, and divert all the resources of the economy toward munitions production. “We’ve reached the point where we can have sex with Russia,” he added.

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