The attack of the sabotage and reconnaissance group on the Graivoronsky urban district of the Belgorod region was a distraction to pull Russian troops to the Russian border instead of the front line. This was reported by the newspaper, citing a source. The New York Times.
A senior Ukrainian official said that the Ukrainian military supported the sabotage and reconnaissance group, protecting the border of Ukraine in the event of a Russian counterattack. Another Ukrainian official, on condition of anonymity, confirmed the version that Ukrainian officials have already expressed: the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not directly enter Russian territory.
Former Minister of Defense of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Igor Strelkov, believes that the penetration of saboteurs will be followed by “the creation of a continuous front along this border, which will have to be filled from somewhere with combined arms units and formations of the RF Armed Forces.” In his opinion, the deployment of more military along the border will further stretch the forces of Russia and will be beneficial to Ukraine.
Andriy Zagorodnyuk, a former Ukrainian defense minister who now advises the Kiev government, also believes that the infiltration of saboteurs should force Russia to deploy more of its forces along the border rather than on the front lines. In addition, the attack, in his opinion, had a political purpose. “The Russians will see that they have problems between their own citizens, so the idea of a united Russia will be seriously affected,” said Andriy Zahorodniuk, former head of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.
British military intelligence believes that Moscow is likely to use the attacks to “support the official story that it is a victim of the war.”
As a result of the actions of saboteurs who entered the Grayvoron urban district, 13 people were injured, one civilian from the village of Kozinka died, and another elderly woman died during the evacuation. Residents of nine settlements were taken deep into the region. A regime of counter-terrorist operation was introduced in the region.
The next day, May 23, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that 70 Ukrainian saboteurs were killed during the operation in the Belgorod region, the rest were “forced out” to Ukraine. A senior Ukrainian official, who spoke to the NYT on condition of anonymity, admitted that the Freedom of Russia Legion, which claimed responsibility for the saboteur attack on the Belgorod region, had suffered losses. After that, the KTO regime was canceled.
The “Freedom of Russia Legion” and the “Russian Volunteer Corps”, participating in the hostilities on the side of Ukraine, took responsibility for the attack. The representative of the main intelligence department of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Andriy Yusov, said that “Russian volunteers”, exclusively Russians, took part in the operation in the Belgorod region in order to create a “safety zone to protect civilian Ukrainians.” The Kremlin considers those who attacked the Belgorod region to be Ukrainian militants, not Russian saboteurs.
Read more about what happens after the entry of Russian troops into Ukraine in the Kommersant online broadcast.