First up, the ongoing situation in Belgorod where earlier this week Russian ‘partisans’ launched the second cross-border raid from Ukraine in as many weeks.

What’s the latest?

On Friday, the Kremlin claimed to have wiped out the anti-Kremlin fighters behind the latest incursion but events since suggest this may not have been the case.

On Saturday morning, one of the groups claimed to still be operating in Belgorod, saying in a post on Telegram: “Good morning to all who are watching our liberation of Russia.

“The regime army continuously fires at the positions of the Legion and RDC forces.”

They added that they were coming under heavy fire from Moscow’s forces and “according to the Bakhmut scenario” Moscow was using “aviation and artillery to level the houses of civilians.”

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The group even said it had created a “humanitarian corridor” for Russian civilians who wanted to escape to safety in Ukraine.

On Sunday morning, the same group claimed to be entering the Russian town of Shebinko, a town of 40,000 people close to the border with Ukraine.

“Let’s go!” they wrote in another Telegram post accompanied by a video showing an aerial view of fighters moving along a street.

“The advanced assault group of the Legion and the RDK enters the suburb of Shebekino. 

“We are returning home.”

Though the group’s claims have not been independently verified, there is no doubt that the situation in Belgorod continues to be chaotic on Sunday and by the afternoon unverified videos started surfacing on social media that claimed to show fighters moving through residential areas in the region.

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The governor of the Russian region acknowledged on Sunday evening that there is ongoing "combat" in the border village of Novaya Tavolzhanka.

"A sabotage group came, there is combat now in Novaya Tavolzhanka," Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram. "I hope they will all be destroyed."

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Not long after he said he was ready to meet the Russian pro-Kyiv fighters after they offered a meeting with officials to exchange prisoners.

In a video making the offer, the commander of the Russian Volunteer Corps said he would hand over two captured soldiers in exchange for a meeting with the governor.

Gladkov said on Telegram in reply: "The only thing stopping me from negotiating with them is our guys that are in their hands, maybe they are already dead.

"But if they are not, then from 5:00 pm (1400 GMT) to 6:00 pm at the car border point in Shebekino. I guarantee safety."

In an earlier post on Telegram, Gladkov said: “Overnight, it was quite restless,” adding “lots” of damage had been inflicted during the night. 

According to Gladkov, two civilians have been killed and thousands of people are being evacuated with “more than 4,000 people” from border areas currently in temporary housing in the Belgorod region. 

He said on Sunday: “I ask that in the villages of, first of all, the Shebekino district that has been shelled, to listen to the position of authorities and leave – temporarily leave – their homes.”

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Gladkov said the goal was “to safeguard what is most important: your life and the lives of your close ones.”

What has the Kremlin said?

Very little considering the chaos unfolding on its own territory, limiting announcements to highlighting the actions taken to repel the cross-border raids and praising the actions of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Nikitin for leading the defensive effort. 

According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), this is indicative of great unease in the Kremlin over the ongoing situation.

In its daily assessment on Saturday, the ISW wrote: “The Russian MoD’s fixation on portraying Russian forces and the Russian military command as capable defenders of Russia likely reflects internal and broader information space anxiety over the coming Ukrainian counteroffensive as well as any reverberating informational impacts from any failures to defend against Ukrainian counterattacks.”

What about the people on the ground? 

At the time of writing, hundreds of Shebinko residents have been moved to a temporary shelter set up at the Belgorod Arena in the regional capital of Belgorod.

“It was very scary,” a retired laboratory worker told an AFP journalist at the arena.

Like many others, she praised local governor Vyacheslav Gladkov, who has given daily updates on the worsening situation in Belgorod. 

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But she had questions for Russia’s powerful state media – and even the Kremlin – as to why events in Belgorod are not at the forefront of Russian news.

“I want to address... our central television, so that our town and region would be featured not for three seconds, so that people (Russians) know about us,” she said.

“We, the people of Shebekino lost everything.”

She also urged “the Russian government, Mr. Putin, to pay attention to us.”

This sounds like quite a tricky situation for Putin?

Indeed, it is and the criticism has been coming from multiple fronts. 

One prominent milblogger accused the Russian of masking the true situation, saying: “Yesterday I read peppy reports about the repulsion of the Khokhol attack on the Belgorod region, but in my opinion, it is still too early to talk about it.”

Another wrote: “Footage of the last two days from Shebekino, Belgorod region. For the authorities, apparently, it is worth [reminding them] that this is Russia.

“However, officials in a fit of hysteria suddenly remembered Kharkov, and that it had to be taken.

“Only they are somehow in no hurry to talk about who decided to surrender the border territories, where our troops advanced.”

More problematic for the Kremlin were recent comments made by Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin who said he was ready to send fighters to the Russian Belgorod region.

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“If the defense ministry, in the near future, does not stop what’s happening in the Belgorod region.. then of course we will come to defend Russian land,” he said.

“The civilian population is dying in Belgorod,” he said, adding he would not wait for an “invitation” to deploy his fighters there. 

What about these other explosions over the weekend?

The drama for the Kremlin has not been limited to just the Belgorod region.

A Kremlin-installed official in Russian-occupied Crimea said on Sunday that five drones had been shot down and four others electronically jammed near Dzhankoi.

Sergei Aksyonov said no one had been killed or injured but windows were broken in several buildings.

And in Berdyansk in the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine, authorities said the port city had been struck. Videos posted to social media showed large plumes of smoke coming from the docks.

Russian sources claimed Ukrainian Storm Shadow cruise missiles – supplied by the UK were used in the attacks. 

Satellite imagery appeared to show two warehouses had been severely damaged.

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Comments (2)

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Jack Griffin
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June 6th: Ukraine’ s D-Day.

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William Spillman
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This is what happens when a Special Military Operation fails and doesn't have an exit strategy. Vladamir the Vile must be changing bunkers every day and cringing with fear. What a pleasant thing to contemplate.

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