KYIV: Russia said on Monday it was battling a cross-border incursion by saboteurs who burst through the frontier from Ukraine, in what appeared to be one of the biggest attacks of its kind since the war began.
Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of Russia's Belgorod region adjacent to northeastern Ukraine, said the Russian army, border guards, presidential guards and FSB security service were taking measures to repel the raid.
No civilians had been harmed, and there was no evacuation under way, he said, describing reports of an evacuation as "lies". "Do not listen to our enemies," he said.
Earlier, the Telegram channel Baza, which is linked to Russia's security services, published footage apparently showing a Ukrainian armoured vehicle advancing on the border checkpoint. Though there have been other reports of cross-border raids, an infiltration using armoured vehicles would appear to be unprecedented since the war began.
Baza said there were indications of fighting in three settlements on the main road leading from Ukraine into Russia.
A group calling itself the Liberty of Russia Legion, which claims to be made up of Russians cooperating with Ukraine's forces, said on Twitter it had "completely liberated" the border town of Kozinka and reached district centre Graivoron.
Earlier on Monday, it released a video showing five heavily armed fighters: "We are Russians, like you. We are people like you," one said facing the camera. "It is time to put an end to the dictatorship of the Kremlin."
The Ukrainian military was not immediately available for comment.
The reported incursion comes two days after Russia said it it had captured the final few blocks of the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, Moscow's first substantial claim of victory since last summer after the bloodiest land battle in Europe since World War Two.
But even as the Russians have pushed forward inside Bakhmut, their forces on the city's northern and southern outskirts were retreating last week at the war's fastest pace for six months, giving both sides reasons to claim momentum.
Moscow says capturing Bakhmut now opens the way to further advances in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine says its advance on the Russian forces' flanks is more meaningful than its withdrawal inside the city.
Ukrainian forces were still advancing, particularly south of Bakhmut, Maliar said, though she said the intensity of fighting on the northern flank had subsided for now. — Reuters