Russian fighters serving under the Ukrainian Armed Forces have crossed into the town of Shebekino in Russia’s Belgorod region, bringing with them “heavy equipment,” said Ilya Ponomarev, an exiled Russian politician who claims to be the group’s political representative. fighters. news week.

Ponomarev’s comments came on the heels of a statement by Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov, who said shelling in the border town of Shebekino overnight injured at least eight people. Gladkov denied that “there are enemies on the territory of the Belgorod region”, even as reports surfaced that tanks operated by “saboteurs” were shelling the city’s checkpoint.

The Russian Freedom Legion, formed weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, and made up of defectors from the Russian armed forces and Russian and Belarusian volunteers, and the Russian Volunteer Corps posted videos on their channels of social networks claiming to be close. or in Shebekino on Thursday morning.

Russian Volunteer Corps Russian Freedom Legion
Fighters from the Russian Volunteer Corps and their allied group, the Russian Freedom Legion, stand next to a seized armored personnel carrier during a media presentation in northern Ukraine, not far from the Russian border. , on May 24, 2023, in the midst of Russian soldiers. invasion of Ukraine. Russian citizens who fought on the Ukrainian side on May 24 hailed as a “success” a brazen mission to send groups of volunteers across the border into southern Russia and back.

The Legion was declared a terrorist organization by the Russian Supreme Court in March. The RVC says its members include Russians fighting on the side of Ukraine and against the Kremlin regime.

“They passed the checkpoint quite a while [ago] already. They are fighting for Shebekino itself,” said Ponomarev, who represents Russia’s Freedom Legion and was the only member of Russia’s parliament to vote against Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. news week.

Ponomarev said that both groups have “heavy equipment” and that such equipment “should” include tanks.

The Kremlin probably ordered Belgorod Governor Gladkov to deny that the groups had entered Russian territory because “the last time was a disaster for them in the media,” Ponomarev said.

The former member of the Russian parliament was referring to advances by both the Russian Freedom Legion and the RVC on May 22. The Legion claimed to have taken the town of Kozinka and said that its units had entered the small town of Graivoron.

Ponomarev said at the time that the Legion had captured four BTR-82A armored personnel carriers, Russia’s main armored personnel carrier, and that the group aims to “liberate Russia from Putinism.”

An RVC fighter said in a video posted Thursday morning that they were “once again fighting on Russian territory.”

“Very soon the outskirts of Shebekino will appear,” RVC said. “Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee the evacuation of civilians from the border areas, because the Army of the Russian Federation is shelling these areas and thus making evacuation difficult.”

“Stay at home, don’t worry. The soldiers of the Russian Volunteer Corps are not at war with civilians,” the video concluded.

The Legion said in a video message that they were “close to the border of our homeland.”

“Very soon we will again move towards Russian territory to bring freedom, peace and calm,” the Legion said, adding: “We are going to liberate all of Russia, from Belgorod to Vladivostok, to have a blue-white.” -white flag of freedom waving in Moscow”.

The Legion’s main symbol is a blue and white flag, which became a feature of the anti-war protests that broke out after February 24, 2022.

According to Russian state media, the operational headquarters of the Belgorod region denied that there had been a “breakthrough of the Ukrainian army” near Shebekino. However, they said that there was “shelling” and that “sounds of combat” could be heard.

The operational headquarters of the region reported this Thursday on its Telegram channel that there is a power outage in the town and that an administration building was damaged.

Gladkov said in a Telegram video that evacuations were underway.

news week has contacted the Russian Foreign Ministry by email for comment.

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