Russia said on Tuesday that it put an end to a brief but highly significant incursion into its territory, deploying jets and artillery to destroy an armed group that penetrated its border from Ukraine.

What happened over the last two days?

A lot. If you're not up to speed than you can catch up here. If you are, then read on...

What has Russia claimed?

The Russian defense ministry said, on Tuesday afternoon, that it had “completely eliminated” the incursion force, declaring that during “the course of the counter-terrorist operation, the nationalist formations were blocked and destroyed by air strikes and artillery fire.”

It added: "The remaining [fighters] were driven back to the territory of Ukraine, where they continued to be hit by fire until they were completely eliminated.”

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The statement went on to say Russian forces killed more than 70 ‘Ukrainian’ fighters and destroyed four armored vehicles releasing drone footage showing purported attacks on the insurgents’ positions.

At the time the statement was made, it appeared to be premature – audio reportedly recorded in the Grayvoron region in the early afternoon, seemed to demonstrate that small arms fire-fights were still in progress.

The independent Russian news platform Astra reported hearing the noise of firing and explosions in the area for the last 24 hours which was "still continuing".

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But by the evening, footage of destroyed vehicles at the Grayvoron border post where the incursion force had crossed was circulating on social media, but some commentators were questioning their authenticity on Wednesday. 

Western analysts including the Institute for the Study of War said it was “likely” that Russian forces had pushed the incursion force back to “at least to the Kozinka border settlement and possibly out of Russian territory as of May 23”.

What are the incursion forces saying?

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In posts on social media on Tuesday evening, the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC) appeared to acknowledge being pushed back, saying: “One day we'll come to stay.”

They denied suffering any casualties as a result of the operation. The Freedom of Russia Legion also on Tuesday evening, said that “today the Legionnaires made some noise among Putin's horde,” claiming it had "demilitarized" a motorized rifle company of the Russian Armed Forces and destroyed several of their armored vehicles.

It added: “We don't talk gibberish like the Kremlin propagandists who attribute invented losses to us, so you will soon see video confirmation of our actions.

“Unlike the ‘heroic’ army painted for the reports of the bald moth in the Kremlin, Putin's troops did not distinguish themselves with any successes during these 24 hours.

“But while they are cowardly running through the bushes, we move on to our goal: the complete liberation of Russia.”

So the Belgorod incursion is over?

On Tuesday evening, Belgorod's governor Vyacheslav Gladkov lifted exceptional security measures that had been put in place to deal with the situation, but there were more incidents overnight.

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Gladkov reported, just after midnight, that an explosive device dropped from a drone had damaged a car in the city of Belgorod.

In a post on Telegram on Wednesday morning, he added: "The night was not entirely calm. There were a large number of drone attacks.

"Air defence systems handled most of them. The most important thing is that there are no casualties."

Russian authorities said 13 people had been injured over the last two days as the Belgorod region came under sustained artillery and mortar fire during the fighting.

They also reported that one woman died during evacuations on Monday, and that a civilian was killed in the village of Kozinka.

What’s the bigger picture?

Even if the incursion is over, it’s been a massive embarrassment for Moscow. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow needed to avoid further Ukrainian incursions into Russia and voiced "deep concern", calling for "more effort from us ... so that this does not happen again".

The incursion was the most serious since Moscow launched its full-scale offensive in Ukraine last year, prompting a large military response on Russia’s own soil.

Britain's Ministry of Defence said that "Russia is facing an increasingly serious multi-domain security threat in its border regions, with losses of combat aircraft, improvised explosive device attacks on rail lines and now direct partisan action".

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In Moscow, 70-year-old engineer Sergei Rusakov said the border incursion should act as a wake-up call for Russians in the south of the country.

"I think Belgorod residents need to think – not to lie on the couch but scratch their heads and ask themselves, is everything normal in the Russian state?" he told AFP.

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