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Russian Volunteer Corps enter 42 km deep into the Belgorod region

The Russian Volunteer Corps and the Freedom Legion of Russia have entered 42 km deep into the Belgorod region of the Russian Federation, Ukrinform news agency reported on Wednesday, quoting the corps commander.

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The Ukrinform agency’s correspondent reports that the Corps’ Commander Denis “White Rex” Kapustin spoke about this at a press briefing near the border in northern Ukraine.

The commander said that some localities in the Belgorod region had been controlled by Russian volunteer forces for 24 hours. That’s how long the active phase of the operation, which continues in a different format, was to last.

“As we are crossing the Russian border once again, we see that the military-political leadership is not ready for something like this,” he said. “There was a lot of talk about strengthening the border. They spend billions. There are dragon’s teeth [anti-tank barriers] deployed, posts erected, some kind of super surveillance in operation. But when it comes to action, all of that just breaks apart. The more we encroach, the more time they need to make a decision.”

The Corps leader stressed that for the time being his formation does not have the resources to occupy and fully control “certain” Russian territories. This time, however, the forces attained trophies, that being armored vehicles and weapons. They also succeeded in destroying equipment on Russian territory, he added.

⚡️A trophy 🇷🇺Russian BTR-82A captured by the "Russian Volunteer Corps" and the "Svoboda Rossii" legion in the Belgorod region

— 🇺🇦Ukrainian Front (@front_ukrainian) May 24, 2023

According to him, any crossing of the Russian border is a success, Ukrifnorm reported.

“Because this is enemy territory, the temporarily occupied territory of our homeland. We want to show that the tyrant’s power is not boundless, that it can be resisted,” the commander said.

Commenting on photos of U.S. equipment allegedly recaptured by Russian troops, “White Rex” appealed not to believe the Russian propaganda, the Ukrainian agency reported.

“As Vladimir Putin once said, you can buy military equipment of any country in any military store. Secondly, the Russians use American equipment that they managed to get during the fighting, for example, at Bakhmut,” he elaborated.

He conveyed how on the side of the volunteer forces that entered the Belgorod region no one was killed but two volunteers were wounded.

"The Russian Volunteer Corps and the Freedom of Russia Legion gave a final press conference on the results of their raid in the Belgorod region of Russia. It took place near the border in northern Ukraine
The RVC commander Denis Nikitin said that the most active phase of

— NAFO_FELLA (@Nohractk) May 24, 2023

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The leader of the Corps, as reported by the Bellingcat investigative project, among others, is Denis Kapustin, an influential far-right figure and extremist. He also uses the name Denis Nikitin. He moved to Ukraine in 2017. In the summer of 2022, he began forming his unit, which includes Russians who are fighting on Ukrainian territory on Kyiv’s side.

Less is known about the second group, calling itself the Russian Freedom Legion. It has been reported it was formed in the spring of 2022 from Russians who wanted to fight on the side of Ukraine, and that it operates under Ukrainian command. A correspondent for the independent Russian “Novaya Gazeta. Yevropa” sees the unit as intending to transfer captured Russians who had expressed a desire to fight on the Ukrainian side.

More forays into the Russian territory just a matter of days

“You should be a just a little bit patient, and wait just a couple of days to see us again on that side,” Kapustin said in Russian referring to the Russian side of the border.

“The operation is ongoing. This is how I should put it, to be honest. It definitely has different phases. So, phase one we consider the successful phase, it’s over now. But, the operation is ongoing,” he said in English.

Kyiv has said the attack was carried out by Russian citizens, casting it as homegrown, internal Russian strife.

Leader of "Freedom for Russia Legion", callsign "Caesar": they encountered no resistance upon entering Belgorod region. Federal Security Bureau, border guards, police – everyone fled, according to him.

If their task had been to reach Belgorod, they would have succeeded,…

— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) May 24, 2023

The Russian military said it had routed the militants, who carried out their attack using armored vehicles and pushed those who survived back into Ukraine.

Kapustin said two of his fighters had been “lightly wounded,” and that total losses on his side of the operation were two killed and 10 wounded. Moscow claimed it killed over 70 ‘Ukrainian nationalists’.

Belgorod incursion strengthens Ukraine’s hand ahead of potential counter-offensive

The incursion by militants into Belgorod strengthens Ukraine’s hand ahead of a potential counter-offensive, a leading analyst has said as it could force the Kremlin to divert troops from the front lines.

Kyiv is preparing a major counteroffensive it hopes will eventually defeat what it casts as an unprovoked Russian war of conquest.

It shows that the Russian border is undefended and this, of course, will cause Russia to divert troops away from the defensive lines elsewhere in Ukraine to try to reinforce that border,” said Keir Giles who works with the Russia and Eurasia program at Chatham House.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu promised on Wednesday (May 24) that Moscow would respond to any more cross-border raids by Ukrainian militants swiftly and “extremely harshly.”

The Russian military said on Tuesday (May 23) it had routed militants who attacked the Russian border region of Belgorod with armored vehicles the previous day, killing more than 70 “Ukrainian nationalists” and pushing the remainder back into Ukraine.

Ukraine’s government denied any role in the raid, which has been claimed by two anti-Kremlin armed groups made up of Russian nationals fighting for Kyiv against their compatriots. They include far-right figures among their leadership.

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