Massive Devastation Grips Russia’s Belgorod Region
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A June 6 photo shows a destroyed police station and car in Shebekino, the administrative capital of Belgorod’s Shebekino district.

By Smartencyclopedia Newsroom*

Due to ongoing acts of sabotage and armed incursions, the bordering region adjacent to Ukraine is now experiencing the consequences of a “special operation” initiated by Vladimir Putin a year and a half ago.

The Belgorod region in Russia is currently facing a relentless wave of rocket attacks, incursions, sabotage, and repeated assaults, making it the most prominent site of conflict within the country. Situated on the border with northeastern Ukraine, this region is now bearing the daily impact of a “special operation” launched by Vladimir Putin a year and a half ago.

On May 22, a significant incursion was carried out by dozens of members from ultranationalist opposition groups, namely the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK). The scale of this operation led the Russian authorities to enforce a temporary “state of law for an anti-terrorist operation zone.” While the Russian Ministry of Defense claims that the invaders were repelled without much resistance, the humiliation is amplified by the fact that this was not the first nor the last raid.

Since the beginning of June, attacks on the Russian region have intensified, resulting in the occupation of villages, exchanges of artillery fire, civilian casualties, injuries, and an increasing number of refugees fleeing the combat zones.

On May 30, a remarkable event unfolded in Moscow. In broad daylight, the city was targeted by a swarm of drones, ranging from five to 25 or more, according to various Russian sources. Unlike a symbolic gesture, such as the small drone that hit the flagpole atop the Kremlin palace, which houses Russian President Vladimir Putin’s office, this attack involved strikes in different parts of the capital. Interestingly, none of the drones detonated. As reported by Kommersant, they were intended for unspecified targets but ended up falling on residential buildings after being either shot down or electronically jammed. This marked the first aerial assault on Moscow since the Luftwaffe bombed the city in 1941.

Unfortunately for the Russian people, this was only the initial humiliating incident in a series of events that unfolded over the following week. By the next day, the attack had almost vanished from the headlines of Russian state media, and life in Moscow resumed as if nothing had happened. While residents complained about malfunctioning taxi apps due to GPS services being switched off to confuse potential drone swarms, local news outlets swiftly shifted their focus to reviewing the latest rooftop restaurant openings. Some sarcastic commentators even questioned whether congregating on a top-floor deck made individuals even more vulnerable.

However, matters took an even more unsettling turn from the Russian perspective, bordering on the bizarre. Two groups identifying themselves as the Russian Freedom Legion and Russian Volunteer Corps, claiming to consist of Russians fighting to liberate their country from the Putin regime, crossed the border from northern Ukraine into Russia’s Belgorod region. These fighters encountered minimal resistance and seized control of villages along several points of the border, as most Russian army units had long abandoned these northern border areas in favor of deployments in eastern and southern Ukraine. The bulk of the Russian army, or what remains of it, is now awaiting Ukraine’s anticipated counteroffensive in these other regions.

One of these self-proclaimed Russian militias briefly occupied a border village, captured some Russian conscripts, and extended an invitation to Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov for a prisoner exchange. Surprisingly, he agreed to the proposal but failed to follow through. Shebekino, a Russian town located approximately 5 miles from the border with a pre-war population of nearly 40,000, has been cordoned off and is currently undergoing a hasty evacuation, with local residents expressing their grievances over Moscow’s apparent indifference to their plight.

Cheekily, Kyiv is asserting that it has no control over these Russian guerrillas, echoing Russia’s claims regarding the armed men who took over Ukraine’s Donbas region in the spring of 2014. Adding insult to injury, Ukrainian Twitter users promptly declared the establishment of the “Bilhorod People’s Republic,” using the Ukrainian spelling for Belgorod. Some even jokingly stated that more than 100 percent of the region’s Russian residents had already voted in a referendum for the creation of the republic, satirizing Russia’s establishment of its two illegal puppet states in the Donbas. In a further twist, Ukrainian hackers infiltrated several local networks and broadcast a fake announcement imitating Putin, proclaiming an evacuation, military mobilization, and the imposition of martial law in Belgorod and other Russian border regions. Simultaneously, the two groups of fighters released a series of videos showing their presence inside Russia and promising the liberation of Russians from the Putin regime.

In conjunction with the drone attack in Moscow, it is now evident that Russia’s war has reached its own doorstep, with Russian forces seemingly unable to simultaneously occupy Ukraine and defend their own territory. These incidents occur during a time of heightened anxiety for Russia, as its offensive in the Donbas region has stalled, and Ukraine has initiated a series of probing attacks in the east and south, while also shelling Russian targets with new, longer-range Western missiles. Additionally, Ukrainian drone attacks on critical sites deep inside Russia, such as oil refineries and airfields, have intensified.

The situation in Russia appears to be unraveling. A striking example of this is the escalating conflict between Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group, and the Russian Defense Ministry. Prigozhin released a video on Sunday showing a captured Russian army lieutenant colonel, the commander of the 72nd mechanized brigade in eastern Ukraine, who was interrogated by Wagner mercenaries. On camera, the commander confesses to ordering his troops to fire on a Wagner unit. The sight of Russians attacking each other and private mercenaries capturing a high-ranking officer from their own country’s army contributes to a growing sense of a disintegrating state.

Even if the drone attacks in Moscow and the cross-border incursions have limited impact on the overall course of the war, their psychological effect on Russia has been devastating. The mood on state television propaganda talk shows, which typically oscillates between cheerful patriotism and extreme aggression, has lately shifted towards defeatism. Margarita Simonyan, the Editor-in-Chief of RT, invoked the specter of 1917 on the Kremlin-controlled NTV talk show “One’s Own Truth,” referring to the rout of the Imperial Russian Army by the Germans and Austrians in World War I, the soldiers’ rebellion, and the subsequent regime collapse. During a public forum on June 1, a prominent parliament member of Putin’s United Russia party, Konstantin Zatulin, expressed doubts about the war’s progress in an unusually candid manner, deeming its goals “unrealistic.” His party promptly announced an investigation into his remarks for potential censure.

Amidst the panic, some members of Russia’s far-right extreme nationalist factions are no longer satisfied with directing vicious criticism solely at Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, and other top military officials. They have now begun to directly attack Putin himself for his alleged indecisiveness. Igor “Strelkov” Girkin, a former mercenary associated with Russian security services and convicted in absentia for war crimes by a Dutch court, regularly mocks Putin’s lack of leadership to his audience of over 800,000 Telegram channel subscribers. The Angry Patriots Club, an ultranationalist militant group co-founded by Girkin, is reportedly under investigation for “discrediting the military” under a law enacted in March 2022 to suppress and outlaw any remaining independent voices. The Russian authorities find themselves in a dilemma: If they fail to prosecute the most vocal critics of the Russian leadership, it may be perceived as a weakness and potentially pave the way for more unfiltered discontent. However, if they do take action, they risk further provoking anger from right-wing nationalists, who are even more deeply invested in the war than the Kremlin itself. This situation arises at a time when paramilitary groups like Wagner are already engaged in prolonged conflict with other military factions and openly defying Russia’s top command.

The whereabouts of Putin as the situation in Russia unravels remain uncertain. On the day of the drone attack in Moscow, he initially remained silent, offering no emergency address to the nation. Only later in the day, during a hastily arranged interview at a creative industries convention, did he briefly mention the attack, spending nearly seven minutes rambling distractedly about civilizational clashes, NATO encroachment, and his usual grievances. The following day, as residents of the Belgorod district anxiously awaited the nation’s leader to address their concerns, Putin responded incoherently to questions about his sleep patterns and the Russian Santa Claus during a virtual meeting with families. Neither Putin nor Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who is disliked by pro-war zealots for his evasiveness, have provided substantive comments on the week’s most significant developments on the front lines.

Source: with agencies

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