Putin defectors vow to 'liberate Russia' as tanks roll in from Ukraine

Ukrainian military units formed by the Russians attacked areas inside Russia, three days before the start of the polls in the elections that are expected to see Vladimir Putin retain power.

Ukrainian and Russian sources reported that armed groups may have entered Russia's Belgorod and Kursk regions in armored vehicles — supported by mortars and artillery, according to the War Gonzo Telegram channel.

The channel reported, citing Russian security sources, that there were about 50 people in the unit, and after the bombing from the Russian side, they retreated to their original positions.

The Russian Freedom Corps militia and the Russian Volunteer Corps, which are supporting Kiev against Moscow's aggression, said on Tuesday they were “on the offensive.” In a video statement, an unnamed member of Russia's Freedom Corps said He said“We are not coming to kill, erase, or punish. We have come to free you from poverty.”

Newsweek The Russian Ministry of Defense has been contacted for comment.

A Russian Volunteer Corps fighter stands on a seized armored personnel carrier during a media presentation in northern Ukraine, not far from the Russian border, on May 24, 2023, amid…


Sergey Bobock/AFP via Getty Images

The two groups posted videos on the Telegram application showing their fighters, along with armed vehicles, entering villages in at least one of the border areas, with gunfire being heard in one of the videos. It is not clear where and when the videos were filmed.

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The Russian Freedom Corps said on Telegram that its forces “destroyed” a Russian armored military vehicle in the village of Tyutkino in the Kursk region.

She posted on her social media channel footage taken of the driver's seat in the dark of an armed car while it was moving. “Tanks are not afraid of mud,” the post read. “Crossed the Rubicon, crossed the border.”

The governor of the Kursk region, Roman Starovoit, said in a video message on the Telegram application that the attack targeted the village of Tetkino, located next to Russia's border with Ukraine. He added, “A sabotage and reconnaissance group tried to penetrate the place.” “There was an exchange of fire, but there was no breakthrough.”

Authorities in the Belgorod region did not confirm any cross-border incursion when they reported a series of Ukrainian drone attacks overnight across the region.

Russia's Federal Security Service denied reports that armed groups had managed to enter the Kursk and Belgorod regions, saying it had “stopped several attempts to violate state borders” since Sunday, state-run TASS news agency reported.

Andriy Yusov, spokesman for the Ukrainian military intelligence agency, told Ukrainian media that Russian volunteer groups do not act under orders from Kiev, and that “on the territory of the Russian Federation, they act completely independently, on their own initiative, pursuing their own social and political interests.” Tasks of the political programme.

Last summer, cross-border incursions by pro-Ukrainian militants were reported, the most violent of which occurred in the town of Shchebykino in the Belgorod region in June.

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Updated 12/03/24, 5 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with more information.