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Russian leadership has not yet decided on response to cross-border Belgorod raids – ISW

Russian leadership has not yet decided on response to cross-border Belgorod raids – ISW

Conflicting reports and actions from Russian official sources highlight the leadership’s undecided response to recent raids in Belgorod Oblast, according to ISW

In its daily report, the Institute for Study of War (ISW) writes that the Russian leadership has yet to finalize their response to recent limited cross-border raids into Belgorod Oblast by elements of the all-Russian pro-Ukrainian Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK) and Freedom of Russia Legion (LSR). The raids were conducted on 4 June 2023, with the volunteer groups reportedly still operating in a Russian border settlement.

ISW points out the conflicting reports and actions stemming from Russian official sources. Belgorod Oblast Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov confirmed fighting within Novaya Tavolzhanka, a settlement near the Ukrainian border. However, the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that the Western Military District and the Russian Border Guard Service engaged a Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group near the settlement, causing them to retreat.

The lack of a coordinated response from Russian authorities is becoming increasingly apparent, as noted by ISW. Governor Gladkov individually responded to RDK and LSR’s demand to negotiate for the release of captured Russian prisoners of war (POWs), while the Ministry of Defense has not publicly addressed the issue. Gladkov initially agreed to meet with the groups at the Shebekino checkpoint for the POW exchange, but later reportedly refused the meeting, believing that the POWs were already dead.

Russian anti-Putin fighters to give Russian soldiers over to Ukraine after gains in Belgorod Oblast

ISW emphasizes the absence of a wider policy from the Russian leadership to prevent further limited cross-border raids. It’s unclear if the Russian authorities are coordinating evacuation responses due to these activities. Despite Gladkov’s claims that 4,000 residents from the area are currently staying at temporary accommodation centers due to evacuation efforts, an RDK fighter stated on June 4 that Belgorod Oblast authorities have not organized any announced evacuation measures.

Finally, these limited cross-border raids have triggered criticism against the Russian military leadership. Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, for instance, used the situation to criticize the lack of response from high-ranking Russian military officials.

Adding to the discrepancy of Russian reports about the situation are Prigozhin’s claims that acknowledged Ukrainian forces’ presence in southwestern Bakhmut. Reports suggest that Ukrainian troops have established observation posts there. Prigozhin urged Russian forces in Bakhmut to respond if the reports are true. His statement supported Ukrainian claims that their troops occupy positions in the southwestern outskirts since 20 May, when Prigozhin declared Wagner had seized the city.

Wagner captures Russian lieutenant colonel accused of mining its escape routes from Bahmut

Frontline report: Ukrainians secure foothold in Bakhmut and on the southern front

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