Several drone strikes struck early Tuesday morning in Russia’s Belgorod region bordering Ukraine, where Russian security forces continue to respond to an armed incursion by fighters from Ukraine.

The attacks caused no casualties, Belgorod region governor Vyacheslav Gladkov explained on Telegram.

“Two houses were attacked with drones in Graivoron,” the capital of the eponymous district, and two other similar attacks hit the village of Borisovka, hitting an administrative building and a house, he added.

Several armed fighters entered the Belgorod region, and especially the Graivoron district, from Ukraine on Monday, an incursion that left eight wounded. Russia decreed an “anti-terrorist” regime and evacuated civilians in an attempt to repel the attack.

On Tuesday, the Russian Investigative Committee indicated that a “terrorist act” investigation was opened.

Escalating Conflict: Ukrainian Incursion in Belgorod Sparks Heightened Security Measures

There have been several attacks in this border region in recent weeks, but this is the first one of such scope, with several villages hit by shells. The offensive also illustrates the permeability of Russian defenses.

It is also the first time the Russian authorities have reacted in this way since they launched their offensive in Ukraine in February 2022, with the Russian security services (FSB) instituting the “legal regime of anti-terrorist operation zone” in the region on Monday evening.

This protocol gives the authorities more powers to carry out armed operations, conduct checks among the population and carry out evacuations. It was used in Chechnya from 1999 to 2009.

On Monday evening, Russian authorities announced the “entry of a sabotage and reconnaissance group of the Ukrainian army into the Graivoron district”.

Ukraine, meanwhile, denied having organized any armed incursion into Belgorod.

The operation was claimed on a Telegram channel claiming to belong to the “Freedom for Russia Legion,” a group of Russians fighting on the Ukrainian side that has previously claimed to have conducted raids in the same region.

Tensions Persist: Russian Combing Operation Continues as Ukraine Denies Losses

On Tuesday, “the combing operation carried out by the Ministry of Defense and law enforcement agencies” in the Graivoron district continued, said Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov, urging evacuees not to return to their homes for the time being.

The day before, he explained that “most of the population has left the affected territory” and that “the Russian armed forces, together with the border guards, the National Guard and the security services are taking all necessary measures to eliminate the enemy”.

Russian territory has been the target in recent months of an increasing number of sabotage, bombings and drone attacks blamed on Kiev, but which Ukraine has never claimed responsibility for.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was informed, his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters, who considered it an attempt by the Ukrainian government to “divert attention” from the fall of Bakhmut.

Last weekend, Russian forces claimed the capture of that eastern Ukrainian city, which was devastated in the battle for its conquest, the longest and deadliest of the conflict.

Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky denied the loss of Bakhmut and his army assured that it still controls a small area of the town and continues to advance north and south of the city.

On Tuesday, Zelenski went to the front line in the Donetsk region, in the east, where he “visited front line positions in the Vugledar-Marinka defense zone” where fighting with the Russian army has been going on for months, the Presidency said in a statement, in which it published photos of the president with soldiers.

The Ukrainian army controls areas southwest of Bajmut, in the district of Litak, and registered “a slight advance on the northern and southern flanks”, affirmed the Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense, Ganna Maliar, who pointed out that the Russian offensives against the city had diminished although “the fighting continues”.

The day before, the head of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, had affirmed that his troops, on the front line in Bajmut, would withdraw before June 1 and that they would hand over their positions to the Russian army.

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