On May 22, explosions burst out in the Russian Belgorod region. Later on, the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC) engaged in clashes with Russian forces in villages near the Ukraine-Russia border.
This was reported by Suspilne.
Fighting in the Belgorod region: timeline
On the morning of May 22, the Freedom of Russia Legion posted a video on Telegram with an address from service members who said they were coming back home to fight for freedom from the authorities. At roughly the same time, fighters from the Russian Volunteer Corps posted their videos from the entrance signs of the villages of Bezlyudovka, Churovichi, and Lyubimovka in the Belgorod, Bryansk, and Kursk regions near the border.
At roughly 2:00 p.m., the Freedom of Russia Legion and the RVC claimed that they had "liberated" the village of Kozinkz, Belgorod region.
At 3:26 p.m., the Freedom of Russia Legion and the RVC claimed that they had captured the Gora-Podol villages and were assaulting the Grayvoron.
The aim of the operation in the Belgorod region
Commenting for Suspilne, Andrii Yusov, a spokesperson at the Defense Intelligence, said that the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps were holding an operation to establish a security area and protect Ukrainian civilians. According to him, the operation was conducted by Russian nationals only.
"Yes, the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Freedom of Russia Legion, which consist of Russian nationals, have started an operation today to liberate these territories of the Belgorod region from the so-called Putin’s regime and pull the enemy back to create a certain security area and protect Ukrainian civilians," Yusov said.
He also noted that information on casualties was to be clarified.
"The only thing is, representatives of both the RVC and the Freedom of Russia legion emphasized that these events didn’t pose a threat to civilians, and their aim was to push terrorist groups away from the border and liberate territories from Putin’s regime," the Defense Intelligence spokesperson said.
How the Ukrainian authorities reacted
The Office of the President denies that Ukraine was involved in the events. Thus, Mykhailo Podoliak, adviser to the Office, said that they were operations of the local partisan movement.
What is known about the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps
The Freedom of Russia Legion is a unit created in March 2022. It was formed by Russian service members who defected to the Ukrainian side and Russian nationals who came from other countries. It isn’t known who the commanders of the military unit are.
The Russian Volunteer Corps is a unit consisting of only "ethnic Russians". They were first noticed during their raid on the Bryansk region in March 2023. Their leader is Russian nationalist Denis Kapustin.