Russia says it killed 234 fighters while thwarting an incursion from Ukraine

Ukrainian long-range drones smashed into two oil facilities deep inside Russia on Tuesday, officials said, while an armed incursion claimed by Ukraine-based Russian opponents of the Kremlin unnerved a border region just days before Russia’s presidential election.

The attack by waves of drones across eight regions of Russia displayed Kyiv’s expanding technological capacity as the war extends into its third year. The cross-border ground assault also weakened President Vladimir Putin’s argument that life in Russia has been unaffected by the war, though he remains all but certain to win another six-year term after eliminating all opposition.

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The Russian Defense Ministry said that Moscow’s military and security forces killed 234 fighters while thwarting the incursion. In a statement, the ministry blamed the attack on the “Kyiv regime” and “Ukraine’s terrorist formations,” insisting that the Russian military and border forces were able to stop the attackers and avert a cross-border raid. It also said the attackers lost seven tanks and five armored vehicles.

The reports of border fighting earlier on Tuesday were murky, and it was impossible to ascertain with any certainty what was unfolding in Russia’s Kursk and Belgorod regions. Cross-border attacks in the area have occurred sporadically since the war began and have been the subject of claims and counterclaims, as well as disinformation and propaganda.

Russia-Incursion

-Fighters of Russian Volunteer Corps stand atop on an APC during press conference not far from the Ukraines border with Russia in Sumy region, Ukraine, on May 24, 2023. Fighters from Ukraine made an attempt to cross into the town of Tetkino, which lies right on the border, the governor of Russia’s Kursk region, Roman Starovoit, said Tuesday.

Soldiers who Kyiv officials say are Russian volunteers fighting for Ukraine claimed to have crossed the border. The Freedom of Russia Legion, the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Siberian Battalion released statements and videos on social media claiming to show them on Russian territory. They said they wanted “a Russia liberated from Putin’s dictatorship.”

The authenticity of the videos couldn’t be independently verified.

Fighters coming out of Ukraine attempted to reach the town of Tetkino, which lies close to the border, according to the governor of Russia’s Kursk region, Roman Starovoit. He said Tetkino was being shelled.

“There was an attempt by a sabotage and reconnaissance group to break through. There was a shooting battle, but there was no breakthrough,” he said in a video message on Telegram.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the Tetkino attacks were driven back, but provided no further details.

It also said Ukrainian fighters made at least four attempts to cross into the Belgorod region but all attacks were repelled by warplanes, artillery and missiles.

The representative of Ukraine’s intelligence agency, Andrii Yusov, told Ukrainska Pravda that the military groups are made up of Russian citizens.

“On the territory of the Russian Federation, they operate completely autonomously and independently,” he said.

In May, Russia alleged that dozens of Ukrainian militants crossed into one of its border towns in the Belgorod region, striking targets and forcing an evacuation, before more than 70 of the attackers were killed or pushed back by what the authorities termed a counterterrorism operation. Ukrainian officials have denied any link with the group.

Meanwhile, one Ukrainian drone struck and set ablaze an oil refinery in the Nizhny Novgorod region, according to regional governor Gleb Nikitin. That region is located some about 775 kilometers (480 miles) from the Ukraine border.

In another deep strike, a drone was shot down in the Moscow region, Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin said. Though it was brought down well south of the city center, the drone was close to Zhukovsky Airport, one of Mocow’s four international airports.

Another drone hit an oil depot in Oryol, 116 kilometers (95 miles) from Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said last year that his country had developed a weapon that hit a target 700 kilometers (400 miles) away, in an apparent reference to drones.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Ukrainian drones were also intercepted Tuesday over the Belgorod, Bryansk, Kursk, Leningrad and Tula regions of Russia.

Kyiv has staged increasingly bold attacks behind the 1,500-kilometer (930-mile) front line running through eastern and southern Ukraine. It has also increasingly deployed sea drones in the Black Sea, where it claims to have sunk Russian warships.

Kyiv’s forces are hoping for more military supplies from Ukraine’s Western partners, but in the meantime are struggling against a bigger and better-provisioned Russian army that is pressing hard at certain front-line points inside Ukraine.

Zelenskyy said that recent Russian advances have been halted and that the battlefield situation is now significantly better than in the past three months.

“We had some difficulties due to the lack of artillery shells, long-range weapons, sky blocking and the high density of Russian drones,” Zelenskyy said in an interview with France’s BFM TV and Le Monde published late Monday on the Ukrainian presidential website.

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Also on Tuesday, an Il-76 heavy-lift transport plane of the Russian air force with 15 people on board crashed while taking off from an air base in the Ivanovo region in western Russia, the Defense Ministry said. Its statement didn’t specify whether there were any survivors. The ministry said that an engine fire during takeoff was the likely cause of the crash.

In Ukraine, three people were killed and 44 more were wounded on Tuesday evening as the result of a Russian missile strike on the city of Kryvyi Rih, Zelenskyy’s hometown, Ukrainian officials said. Serhii Lysak, governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region where the city if located, said two residential buildings were damaged.