Day 454 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Pro-Ukrainian Forces continue to occupy Russian Territory in Belgorod
Day 454 of the invasion of Ukraine. Summary of key events in the last 24 hours:
- With tanks and artillery, the Freedom of Russia Legion continues to liberate the Belgorod Region
- ISW: The Belgorod Oblast attack has panicked Russian propagandists
- Kyiv announced that it had nothing to do with what was happening in Russia's Belgorod Region
- 7 members of the Armed Forces of Ukraine captured 22 Moscow special forces servicemen
- The building of the Russian Federal Security Service in Belgorod was attacked
- Kyiv: Russian partisans defy Kremlin in Belgorod region
- UNIAN: Two Russian soldiers were killed in yesterday's breakthrough in the Belgorod region
- WSJ: NATO considers a security model for Ukraine similar to Israel's
- Borrell expects Hungary to unblock military aid to Ukraine
With tanks and artillery, the Freedom of Russia Legion continues to liberate the Belgorod Region
The Freedom of Russia Legion (LSR) continues to liberate Russia's Belgorod Region from the Putin regime. This was announced by the fighters from the war zone and posted photos and videos on Telegram.
On Monday, the forces of the Legion, together with the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK), entered Russian territory from Ukraine. At the sight of the approaching tanks and armored personnel carriers, the Russian border patrols fled. Some of them surrendered in captivity. The Russian oppositionists have moved 8 kilometers into the Belgorod region, captured two villages and even managed to deploy their artillery in the liberated territories. One of the videos shows that they took a Russian armored personnel carrier as a trophy.
According to some Russian military correspondents, there are currently extremely heavy battles with "Ukrainian saboteurs". According to them, some of the RDK and LSR fighters have already been destroyed, and others have been captured. At the same time, other Russian bloggers note that the fighters are putting up very strong resistance and that they are bombarding the positions of the Russian troops with massive artillery fire.
"Three of our shots are answered with 10," writes the military Telegram channel Rybar.
Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar called what was happening in the Belgorod region an "internal Russian crisis" that did not affect Kyiv in any way. However, she emphasized that in Russian society there is strong discontent against the power in the Kremlin and that sooner or later armed clashes would have occurred.
"The Russian army can do nothing against our group of patriotic volunteers who took up arms and marched against the regime in Moscow. Once again the myth that the citizens of Russia are safe and that Russia is strong has been destroyed. They just stole everything! Russia does not have any resources to respond to crises - the servicemen are either dead, or wounded, or in Ukraine. We have witnessed panic, partial evacuation, but in most cases - spontaneous flight," said the fighters from the RDK and LSR.
ISW: The Belgorod Oblast attack has panicked Russian propagandists
The situation in the Belgorod region is causing panic, factionalism and inconsistency in the Russian information space. All this is evidence that the propaganda machine has experienced significant information shocks. This is according to a new report by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
Each of the so-called "military correspondents" and bloggers made different assumptions about the raid in the Belgorod region.
Some of them seized on the fact that the volunteers of the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK) and the Legion of Freedom for Russia (LSR) were made up mostly of Russians, calling them traitors to Russia, accusing them of working for Ukrainian intelligence.
At the same time, several military officials suggested that the attack was a targeted information operation aimed at diverting attention from the alleged capture of Bakhmut, and its purpose - to sow panic in the Russian information space.
Terrorist and former DPR separatist defense minister Igor Strelkov-Girkin said he had expected such raids and considered them part of a broader Ukrainian counteroffensive strategy.
Meanwhile, Wagner's head Yevgeny Prigozhin, commenting on the incident, accused the Russian government and the Ministry of Defense of facilitating the attack by failing to strengthen Russia's borders.
ISW notes that the first line of Russian defensive fortifications runs 2 km from Gora Podol. There is an assumption that the forces of the RDK managed to break through it. This shows that these fortifications are weak and under-staffed.
ISW analysts concluded that most Russian pro-war bloggers reacted with relatively different concerns, worries and anger, and the news space did not coalesce around a coherent response to what happened, indicating that it took the Russian Federation by surprise.
On Monday, May 22, fighters from the Russian Volunteer Corps reported that they had re-entered Russian territory. Within hours, videos of Russians in the region evacuating and others unsuccessfully trying to enter a locked bomb shelter appeared on the Internet.
Late in the evening it became clear that the building of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in Belgorod had been hit. A Russian military correspondent reported that the Ministry of Internal Affairs building was also targeted.
Kyiv announced that it had nothing to do with what was happening in Russia's Belgorod Region
The government in Kyiv is closely monitoring what is happening in the Belgorod region, but Ukraine "has nothing to do with it." This was written on Twitter by an adviser to the Ukrainian president. The British Ministry of Defense believes that authorities in Russia's Belgorod region near the Ukrainian border "in all probability" encountered guerrilla fighters.
The latest intelligence report from the Ministry of Defense in London also said that it was almost certain that Moscow would use the case to support its official claim that it was the victim of the war.
7 members of the Armed Forces of Ukraine captured 22 Moscow special forces servicemen
Seven Ukrainian intelligence officers captured 22 Russian fighters from the elite special forces, the so-called Spetsnaz.
The place of the incident is not specified, but the video of the "Russians never surrender" was shared on Telegram by the Ukrainian commander with the call sign Magyar, whose unit operates on the outskirts of Bakhmut.
The Magyar (Hungarian) officer points out that the entire operation to capture the Russian special forces was recorded by a drone. He called for special attention to be paid to how professionally the Ukrainian defenders are dealing with the Russian occupiers.
"22 people from the special forces of the group 'Storm' were 'detoxed' (attention!) by 7 scouts from our 59th separate motorized infantry brigade. Seven (7), you read correctly," notes the commander.
The building of the Russian Federal Security Service in Belgorod was attacked
The situation remains extremely tense in Russia's Belgorod region, bordering Ukraine, where a Ukrainian sabotage-intelligence group infiltrated yesterday. This was announced by the governor of the district, Vyacheslav Gladkov.
Self proclaimed Governor of the Bilhorod region Gladkov admitted this morning that the Russian army still does not control parts of the region.— NOELREPORTS ???????? ???????? (@NOELreports) May 23, 2023
“Residents of the Grayvoron district should not return,” he said. pic.twitter.com/iBKCtdYQ9D
Most of the inhabitants of the Grayvoron district, where the sabotage-reconnaissance group entered, have left it. Points for temporary accommodation are organized on the territory of the district. Today's celebrations on the occasion of the end of the school year will take place in an online format, Gladkov pointed out and described the current situation as follows.
"Eight people were injured. According to information from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Defense, there were no casualties among civilians. The situation remains tense enough. A counter-terrorist operation regime has been introduced."
That white-blue-white flag looks great.— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) May 23, 2023
This is how the Freedom of Russia Legion entered the Belgorod region today. pic.twitter.com/V0cNlfmLMU
Yesterday it became clear that the Ukrainian saboteurs are actually fighters of two armed formations of Russians fighting on the side of Ukraine. These are the so-called Russian Volunteer Corps and Legion "Freedom for Russia". According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, the purpose of the sabotage is to reduce the political effect of the loss of Bakhmut for the Ukrainian side.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian agency UNIAN reported an attack on the building of the Russian Federal Security Service in Belgorod.
Photos and video in a Russian online publication showed smoke rising over the city. A loud explosion was reported in the city center and police and firefighters arrived at the scene.
Due to the introduced anti-terrorist operation regime in the region, publications without reference to official sources are prohibited, UNIAN informs.
"Greetings from Bakhmut"— Getty (@region776) May 23, 2023
The fighters of the Legion and the RDK left inscriptions for memory on the wall of honorary visitors of the Belgorod region after they Captured BTR-82A.
???? Legion "Freedom of Russia" pic.twitter.com/KzwoNJV1G5
Kyiv: Russian partisans defy Kremlin in Belgorod region
The situation in Russia's Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, remains unclear. The governor of the district, Vyacheslav Gladkov, claims that a Ukrainian subversive-intelligence group has penetrated there.
And according to Kyiv, Russian partisans oppose the Kremlin. At the same time, in anticipation of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, Russia has again stepped up its missile strikes.
Regional authorities announced late last night that a Ukrainian sabotage and intelligence group had infiltrated there. Kyiv denies and claims that it is an operation by opponents of the regime in the Kremlin. The region is in the mode of an anti-terrorist operation, announced the governor Vyacheslav Gladkov.
Last night, Russia struck targets in Ukraine with Iranian Shahed drones. All drones were shot down by air defenses, said the morning briefing of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Army.
According to Kyiv, the battle for Bakhmut continues, fierce fighting is also taking place in the Mariinka region, in the Donetsk region, where Russia continues to focus its efforts. Kyiv also reported attacks on targets in Dnipro, where 7 people were injured.
The first trophies from the Belgorod ????— MAKS 23 ???????????? (@Maks_NAFO_FELLA) May 23, 2023
BTR-82A ???????? pic.twitter.com/w7PAfwqzaQ
UNIAN: Two Russian soldiers were killed in yesterday's breakthrough in the Belgorod region
Two Russian soldiers were killed in yesterday's breakthrough by Russian pro-Ukrainian infantrymen in the Grayvoron district of Russia's Belgorod Region. Four people were injured.
"The so-called Belgorod-22 site, a closed military town, was also attacked. As a result of the shelling of the site, two Russian soldiers were killed and four more people were injured," wrote the Russian channel on "Telegram" Caution News, quoted by "UNIAN".
WSJ: NATO considers a security model for Ukraine similar to Israel's
As Ukraine enters a crucial phase of its war with Russia, US and NATO leaders are rallying around strengthening Kyiv’s defenses and seeking to secure the country's sovereign future. This is a security model that Western leaders, including US President Joe Biden, compare with the Israeli model, writes the Wall Street Journal, quoted by the UNIAN and BTA agencies.
The publication notes that after several months of war, the stubborn battle for Bakhmut has taken center stage. After the almost completely destroyed Ukrainian city fell into the hands of the Russian private military company "Wagner" last weekend, a more serious task turned into the center of attention: how to turn Ukraine into a bastion against Russian aggression.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said in an interview with the "Wall Street Journal" that the agreement on the security of Ukraine on the Israeli model would prioritize the supply of weapons and modern technology. According to Western officials familiar with the progress of the negotiations, this security agreement will be linked to the process of moving towards Ukraine's future membership in NATO, but will not lead to a de facto turn of the pact towards any conflict with Russia.
"The discussion of this issue continues even now," said Duda, who has been one of the most ardent supporters of Ukraine and its efforts to cover the Russian invasion.
Duda did not specify what weapons or technology could be transferred to Ukraine under the agreement, but Poland has already supplied Kyiv with Soviet MiG-29 fighter jets, in addition to other military equipment, UNIAN said.
Last week, Biden told his G7 colleagues that the United States would support training Ukrainian pilots to use F-16 fighter jets, an important step toward providing US-made fighter jets to Ukraine.
However, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko warned on Saturday that sending F-16 jets to Ukraine would escalate the conflict.
"We see that Western countries continue to adhere to the scenario of escalation, which carries huge risks for them," he said, quoted by TASS.
Given that Ukraine's NATO membership is likely to be several years away, a series of binding security agreements would become a way to immediately help the Ukrainian military as it prepares for an expected counteroffensive aimed at pushing Russia out of the territories, on which Moscow has claims after the start of the Russian invasion in 2022, UNIAN points out.
The impetus for the security agreement was the West's desire to increase its support for Kyiv, including providing tanks, advanced American and German-made air defense systems, and also increasing the production of shells and ammunition needed by Ukraine.
According to Duda, Biden, who visited Poland in February, discussed the concept of the Israeli model. This concept is currently being actively discussed among Western allies within the agenda of the NATO Summit in Vilnius. The security agreement based on the proposal, known as the Kyiv Security Agreement, is expected to be signed after the pact's summit, officials familiar with the progress of the negotiations said.
A US government official said the discussion of the Israeli model comes as a way to address Ukraine's core security concerns, and acknowledged that Kiev will not soon gain NATO membership. However, even if the decision is broadly based on the Israeli security model, the framework of the defense agreement with Ukraine remains fluid, the official added.
"We are still discussing with Ukraine, our allies and partners, what the model will look like," said the American representative.
Israel is not a member of NATO and the US is under no obligation to come to the country's aid. For decades, however, Israel has had a special relationship with the United States because it is Washington's closest partner in the Middle East and is also the largest recipient of American aid since World War II, UNIAN notes.
US aid to Israel is currently governed by 10-year agreements, the latest of which commits Washington to billion in military aid annually between 2019 and 2028.
Such an agreement with Ukraine could change the course of its conflict with Russia, say Western representatives, quoted by UNIAN.
"Today, Russia must understand that Ukraine has received these security guarantees and that they will not disappear with time, nor because of Western fatigue," Duda said, noting that this proposal would not be linked to any peace process, nor with negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow.
The Kremlin announced in 2021 that Ukraine's entry into NATO would be a "red line" for Russia. Ukraine did not become a member of the pact, but Moscow nevertheless launched its invasion, UNIAN points out.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly stated that Ukraine's goal is to regain all lands conquered by Russia since 2014, including Crimea. He rejected the idea of a ceasefire with Russia and said any pause in fighting would allow Moscow's depleted forces to regroup and launch new attacks in the future.
The concept of the Israeli model was first developed by Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian president's chief of staff, and Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a former NATO secretary general, people familiar with its origins said.
"Ukraine needs iron and solid security guarantees," Yermak told the Wall Street Journal. He added that such guarantees should be valid until his country joins NATO.
Zelensky will attend a NATO summit in Lithuania, where the pact is expected to create a new body known as the Ukrainian NATO Council to serve as a gateway to future membership, several European and NATO officials said. According to them, Ukraine will have the right to call meetings of the council and apply for assistance, which will then be provided by individual member states.
The US will play the role of chief guarantor of security measures involving European NATO member states, said Fabrice Pothier, former head of NATO's political planning division and an aide to Rasmussen, who helped draft the proposal and presented it to the governments of several Western countries, UNIAN points out.
Borrell expects Hungary to unblock military aid to Ukraine
The EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, is certain that Hungary will back down and military aid to Ukraine will be unblocked.
Borrell expressed his expectations ahead of the start of the Foreign Affairs (Defence) Council in Brussels. It is attended by the defense ministers of the member countries. However, a diplomat from the permanent representation in the EU participated on the Bulgarian side. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will also participate in the meeting.
"We cannot block military aid," Borrell was emphatic.
Hungary demands that OTP Bank be removed from Ukraine's blacklist of war supporters. OTP owns the Bulgarian bank DSK.
There was also a dispute on the matter yesterday at the meeting of the foreign ministers in Brussels, writes "Politico". Hungary's first diplomat Peter Szijjártó confirmed his country's position. His German colleague Annalena Baerbock cited information that OTP supports the Russian occupation of Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Ukraine and gives easy loans to Russian soldiers. This is what diplomatic sources claim to the publication. Szijjártó rejected the accusations and cited a statement from the Ukrainian branch of the OTP from earlier this month expressing support for Kyiv's cause.
"After the meeting, I will give you specifics about the two tracks that are under my responsibility. I think I will be able to give you some good news. Things are moving and we are achieving results", said Josep Borrell.
It is about the timely delivery of weapons and ammunition from the member countries' own stocks and joint procurement of ammunition under the auspices of the European Defense Agency. So far, only Bulgaria, Denmark and Ireland have not joined the orders.
Borel said yesterday that he had called on EU foreign ministers to speed up joint procurement and supplies.
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