Russia has said it is fighting a group of saboteurs that crossed into its territory from Ukraine.
State media TASS quoted Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov as saying that Russian forces were working to push out the “sabotage and reconnaissance group” that had entered the Belgorod region that borders Ukraine.
Regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram: “The armed forces of the Russian Federation, together with the border service, the National Guard and the FSB, are taking the necessary measures to eliminate the enemy.”
A group of Russian defectors called the "Freedom of Russia Legion" claimed on Telegram that it and the "Russian Volunteer Corps" were behind the attack in Belgorod. They said they had “fully liberated the settlement of Kozinka of Belgorod region” whilecthe “first groups have entered Grayvoron.”
Aleksey Baranovsky, a representative of the Kyiv-based Russian Armed Opposition Political Centre – the political wing of the Freedom of Russia Legion – told CNN the operation had started last night and fighting was “ongoing.” He would not specify the number of fighters who had crossed the border into Russia.
Baranovsky said the group wanted to “liberate our motherland from the tyranny of Putin."
Some background: CNN interviewed members of the Freedom of Russia Legion fighting for Ukraine in its eastern Donetsk region in December.
A Ukrainian defense intelligence official earlier told CNN that the Russian citizens were “part of the defense and security forces in Ukraine but said: “In Russia they are acting as independent entities.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine's presidential administration, said on Twitter that Ukraine had “nothing to do with it.”
“#Ukraine is watching the events in the #Belgorod region of #Russia with interest and studying the situation, but it has nothing to do with it,” Podolyak said. “As you know, tanks are sold at any Russian military store, and underground guerrilla groups are composed of Russian citizens.”