FROM OUR REPORTER IN KIEV – “There will be other attacks,” al Courier the political representative of the Free Russia Legion Ilya Ponomarev. And yesterday some soldiers of his Legion have again entered Russia to “occupy” strips of land, prick the pride of the superpower. This was while Kiev’s artillery was pounding Russian towns from north to south all along the border.
The 1,200 kilometers of Ukraine over which the army of Kiev and the occupation forces of Moscow are confronted were not enough. Those are the provinces invaded by Moscow between 2014 and 2022 that the Kremlin has sought to annex. Now, however, Russia is forced to understand that threats can arrive from any point of its 1,500 kilometers of legally recognized border that separates it from Ukraine. The raid of the Free Russia Legion affected a few kilometers inside the Russian province of Belgorod, but Kiev artillery fired ordnance over the border almost everywhere. Particularly affected were the towns of Maslova Pristan, Shebekino, Smolensk. Explosions reported in five Russian regions: Belgorod, Kursk, Kaluga, Bryansk, Smolensk. Limited attacks made of a few cannon shots or a few armed drones, but enough for the Russians to feel they are not safe as long as they are at war. Two women were killed, according to Moscow, by Ukrainian cannon fire, as the Legion blames Russian security forces for attempting to target the legionnaires.
In fact, another front has opened up. Attacks by Ukrainians (or by Russian rebels such as those of Ponomarev) could come from any other segment of the infinite and flat border as well as from clandestine movements raised at home to oppose Putin’s regime.
Perhaps the Russian president was thinking of this threat or of some conspiracy between the 190 ethnic groups that make up the Federation, the fact is that just yesterday Vladimir Putin raised a new alarm. Some “evil villains are increasing their efforts to destabilize the country”. In perfect Soviet style, he immediately reassured the citizens by saying “that he had given instructions to his government so that this absolutely does not happen”.
Ponomarev’s Legion fights under the orders of Kiev, but it is made up of anti-Putin Russian citizens. The ultimate goal of these ground incursions, such as drone drops on Moscow and Ukrainian bombing of Russian border regions, is to weaken the Putin regime. It could lead to his defenestration and, presumably, to the end of the war. In the short term, however, the aim is to scatter the Russian forces and open the way for reconquest. An analysis by British intelligence confirms the hypothesis. According to London, the Kremlin had to explicitly ask itself whether it was better to defend the occupied provinces of Ukraine or the Russian regions bordering the enemy. According to information released by the General Staff in Moscow, the choice was to defend both.
After the Free Russia Legion raid on 22 May they were transferred from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Motherland a variety of heavy weapons and their attendants. There is talk of attack helicopters and Tos-1a thermobaric rocket launchers. In this Putinian gamble, the number of soldiers and means employed in the occupation of Ukraine has always been lower than necessary, having to disperse them to defend the Motherland worsens the situation. The objective of reducing the already small Russian forces placed in defense of the Donbass, the Crimea and the other invaded provinces would therefore have already been partially achieved.
After Bakhmut’s conquest in mid-May, the Russians stopped. On the front, clashes are rare, the Russians are now reinforcing the trenches to resist the Kiev counterattack. The Russian tactic appears to mirror the Ukrainian one: disruptive actions to disperse the enemy forces in the rear. At the same time, weaken domestic morale. Rocket or drone attacks on Ukrainian cities have gradually intensified. Yesterday alone, 36 Russian flying devices were intercepted. Two Ukrainian civilians injured.