Fresh From Attack on Russian Soil, Raiders Taunt the Kremlin

Fresh from leading a military incursion into Russian territory, commanders of anti-Kremlin armed groups on Wednesday mocked the Russian military for its slow response and threatened Moscow with more raids.

Russia, he told reporters at a news conference in a forest clearing in northern Ukraine near the border, must now understand that any part of the long border could become a new space that Moscow would be forced to defend.

Military analysts say the cross-border attack in the Belgorod region on Monday and Tuesday had two motives, military and political.

It was aimed at forcing Russia to withdraw badly needed troops from eastern and southern Ukraine, even as Ukraine prepares to retaliate. And he threatened to embarrass the government of President Vladimir V. Putin by showing Russia’s weakness.

The raid prompted a warning from the leader of Russia’s largest mercenary army, who said his country could face further military setbacks unless its ruling elites toughen up the fight. – and possibly unpopular – actions not taken. The Kremlin said Wagner Group founder Yevgeny V. Prigozhin needed to order a new wave of military mobilization, declare martial law and force “everything possible” to build up ammunition.

“We should stop building new roads and infrastructure facilities and work only for war, to live a few years in the image of North Korea,” Mr Prigozhin said.

Otherwise, he said, the consequences could be dire for a Russian elite he described as living far from citizenship. He said that the society always demands justice and if there is no justice, revolutionary feelings arise.

Some pro-war Russian voices openly fear that the attacks in Belgorod will create new battlefield challenges for Russia, whose only major military victory in the past nine months came in the past few days, when He claimed control of Russia. Ruins of the city of Bakhmut After a long, costly war.

Igor Gerkin, a military blogger and former Russian paramilitary commander in Ukraine, warned “The inevitable creation of a continuous front along this border, which will have to be filled somewhere by combined arms units and the formation of Russian armed forces, is on the agenda.”

That can only help the Ukrainian military, said Mr. Gerkin, who goes by Igor Strelkov.

The attackers, members of two groups calling themselves the Free Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps, had been pushed back across the border into Ukraine, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday. But attacks in Belgorod continued overnight, with “a large number” of drone strikes and damage to a gas pipeline that caused a small fire, the regional governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said on Wednesday morning.

“The night was not completely calm,” Mr. Guldkov wrote in a telegram, adding that houses, cars and office buildings were damaged in the city of Belgorod and other settlements.

It was unclear what effect the raid would have in Russia.

Analysts of Russian politics said the attack could stoke discontent among pro-war groups over the military’s incompetence, but could also give Mr Putin an opportunity to try to rally people around the flag. . The Kremlin has already said the attackers left US-made military vehicles inside Russia, and Moscow has used the right-wing histories of some of the raiders to bolster its largely false claim of fighting Nazis in Ukraine. can do.

The Kremlin, keen to discredit the rebel Russians, on Wednesday dismissed them as neo-fascists.

A commander of the Russian Volunteer Corps, Denis Kapustin, is a well-known far-right extremist. gave The Anti-Defamation League has said. That he was involved in the world of mixed martial arts in Europe and that he trained young members of Germany’s far-right National Democratic Party. At a news conference in northern Ukraine on Wednesday, he introduced himself to reporters by his call sign, White Rex.

Asked about his ultra-nationalist ideology, he described himself as right-wing and said his views were “traditional” and “patriotic”.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu called the cross-border attack an act of terrorism. “In response to a similar action by Ukrainian fighters, we will respond operationally and very strongly,” he told a gathering of security officials in Moscow.

Ukrainian officials denied directing the attack and said only Russian citizens had crossed the border.

raid, a A motley group of Russian exiles Fighters fighting on Ukraine’s side in the war said the same thing when they met with reporters in the forest, in an area of ​​northern Ukraine that was wrested from Russian occupiers last spring.

The Ukrainian military said Mr Kapustin “wished us well” but had not entered Russia.

But the militants made it clear they were consulting with the Ukrainians.

“Whatever we do within the state borders of Ukraine we obviously do together with the Ukrainian military,” Mr Kapustin said. “Everything we do, every decision we make, beyond state borders, is our decision.”

The warriors were excited. Commanders and soldiers, some with camouflage buffs drawn over their faces, stood with machine guns in front of an armored personnel carrier they said they had captured and driven out of Russia.

He mocked the Russian response to the raid.

“The reaction was slow, panicky, disorganized, and didn’t start for hours,” said one commander who asked to be identified by his nickname Caesar.

The news conference in the jungle was intended as a victory lap, but the fighters put a strict time limit on the gathering, lest it be hit by a Russian missile. After about 40 minutes, the soldiers drove in pickup trucks and, with the rumble of a diesel engine, what they said was a captured Russian personnel carrier.

Evelina Ryabenko And Melana Mazefa Cooperation reporting.

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