The US is distancing itself from the attacks by armed men inside Russia. Russia claims it has defeated armed attackers who entered from Ukraine.
The attack took place on Monday in the Belgorod border region of Ukraine. It was one of the biggest cross-border attacks on Russia since Russia began attacking neighboring Ukraine last year.
Russia released photos of several Western vehicles abandoned or damaged by attackers, including US-made Humvee armored vehicles.
The U.S. said it “did not encourage or assist in carrying out attacks inside Russia“.
Acknowledging images circulating on social media that US-supplied weapons were used in the attack, a US State Department spokesman said “his country has doubts about the veracity of these reports”.
“How the war is waged there is entirely up to Ukraine,” Matthew Miller said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Villages near the Belgorod border have been evacuated after shelling began. Russia said 70 attackers were killed in its operation. They claim that these fighters are from Ukraine.
However, Ukraine has denied any involvement in the incident. They claim that two paramilitary forces opposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin are behind the attack.
Russia was forced to launch an anti-terror operation there after Monday’s attack. Local authorities are also given special powers to monitor communication and impose restrictions on people’s movement.
The restrictions were lifted by noon the next day. A paramilitary group then claimed that it still had “small parts of the motherland” under its control.
Belgorod Governor Vycheslav Gladkov said one civilian was killed and several others injured in the violence.
He said a car was damaged when explosives were dropped from a drone in Belgorod on Tuesday evening. The drone was shot down and destroyed.
The BBC could not impartially verify these claims of both warring parties. However, it has been confirmed that a building used by Russia’s main security agency, the FSB, was damaged during the clashes. But how it was damaged is still not entirely clear.
Regarding the attack in Belgorod, the Ministry of Defense of Russia said that a unit of the nationalist group of Ukraine entered Russia and carried out the attack.
One of the images released shows the wrecked car with the words ‘For Bakhmut’ written in Russian. It refers to the city in Ukraine, which is claimed to be fully occupied by Russia. But Kiev says parts of the city are still under its control.
Describing the deaths in shelling and airstrikes as “Ukrainian terrorism”, Russia says it has forced the remaining fighters back across the border into Ukraine.
However, Ukrainian officials say the attackers were members of the Liberty of Russia Lizan and the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC).
Two paramilitary forces confirmed in their social media posts that they were involved in the attack.
Both groups told Ukrainian TV channel Suspilon that they were “creating a demilitarized zone on the border with the Russian Federation from which they cannot shell Ukraine”.
Liberty of Russia Lizan is a group of Ukraine-based Russian militias they say are active inside Russia with the goal of ousting President Putin.
In a post on Twitter on Monday, the group claimed to have “completely liberated” the border town of Kojinka. Ukrainian officials also say the fighters were trying to establish a “safe zone” for Ukrainians.
Any attack on Russian soil worries the leaders of the NATO military alliance in the West – so these developments could come as a mixed blessing for Kiev.
The encroachment into the border region may be embarrassing for Moscow, and it may also feel like a form of ‘revenge’ for Ukraine for losing control of Bakhmut after months of intense and bloody fighting.
It is believed to be part of their constructive activities before the counter-offensive in Ukraine. Kiev may launch an offensive to draw Russian troops away from the south.
But no such action would be supported by the West.
Long-range weapons supplied to Kiev by Western countries were not used in the attack. And they cannot be used to hit any targets inside Russia either.
Although Kiev has not officially acknowledged the attack, it is hard to believe that the operation was carried out without the help of Ukrainian military intelligence.