Times-Herald (Vallejo)

Russia says Ukraine has raided Bryansk

- By Susie Blann

Russian officials accused Ukrainian saboteurs of crossing into western Russia and firing on civilians in local villages Thursday. Ukraine denied the claim and warned that Moscow could use it to justify stepping up its own attacks in the ongoing war.

The exact circumstan­ces of the incident reported in the Bryansk region were unclear, including what the strategic purpose of such an attack might be.

If confirmed, it would be another indication following drone attacks earlier this week that Kyiv could be stepping up pressure against Moscow by exposing Russian defensive weaknesses, embarrassi­ng the Kremlin and sowing unease among Russian civilians.

Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed Ukrainian “terrorists” for an incursion, claiming that they deliberate­ly targeted civilians, including children in “yet another terror attack, another crime.”

“They infiltrate­d the area near the border and opened fire on civilians,” Putin said during a video call. “They saw a civilian vehicle with civilians, with children in it and they fired on them.”

The alleged incursion came just days after Putin ordered the Federal Security Service, the main KGB successor agency, to tighten controls on Russia's border with Ukraine.

While Russian war hawks have expressed dismay about what they have seen as Putin's reluctance to declare martial law and a sweeping mobilizati­on of soldiers, the Russian leader's comments Thursday didn't appear to signal any such moves.

Putin blamed the attack on “neo-Nazis” and said it confirmed that Russia did the right thing by launching its “special military operation” in Ukraine. “I repeat again: They will not succeed and we will finish pushing them out,” he said.

When he ordered the invasion, the Russian leader vowed to “denazify” Ukraine, alleging that radical neo-Nazi groups dominate the country led by a Jewish president.

Kyiv and its Western allies dismissed his assertion as a bogus cover for an unprovoked act of aggression.

Ukraine's military intelligen­ce representa­tive, Andrii Cherniak, saw the Russian claims as evidence that Moscow is facing what Kyiv alleges is an uprising among its own disgruntle­d people.

“This was done by the Russians; Ukraine has nothing to do with it,” he told The Associated Press.

Cherniak noted that a group calling itself the Russian Volunteer Corps had claimed responsibi­lity for the attack in a video urging Russians to rebel. The Corps statement did not explain what actions it took and what specific objectives it wanted to achieve.

The Russian Volunteer Corps describes itself as “a volunteer formation in the Armed Forces of Ukraine.” Little is known about the group, and it was not immediatel­y clear if it has any ties with the Ukrainian military.

Ukrainian presidenti­al adviser Mykhailo Podolyak described the Russian claims as “a classic deliberate provocatio­n.”

Russia “wants to scare its people to justify the attack on another country (and) the growing poverty after the year of war,” he tweeted, suggesting that Russian partisans were behind what happened in Bryansk.

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