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Russian fighters for Ukraine say cross-border raids will continue

The anti-Kremlin fighters held a press conference in Kyiv after carrying out armed attacks in Russia's Belgorod and Kursk border regions (Anatolii STEPANOV)
The anti-Kremlin fighters held a press conference in Kyiv after carrying out armed attacks in Russia's Belgorod and Kursk border regions (Anatolii STEPANOV)

A coalition of Russians fighting for Ukraine on Thursday vowed to continue their brazen cross-border raids into Russia.

The anti-Kremlin fighters held a press conference in Kyiv after carrying out armed attacks in Russia's Belgorod and Kursk border regions.

They shared video footage of heavily armed fighters crossing the border in a tank, firing on Russian army vehicles and troops and blowing up buildings.

"Our struggle continues," the fighters said in a statement. "Soon we will go to other cities," they added.

"It's probably no exaggeration to say we've opened up a second front, taking full-scale military action into the enemy territory," said Denis Nikitin, leader of one of the groups involved, the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK).

The avowed nationalist nicknamed "White Rex" has links to the far right and football hooliganism.

The RDK has teamed up with the Freedom of Russia Legion, which says it has a more moderate conservative agenda and is seeking to recruit followers of the late opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

They are also fighting alongside the recently created Siberian battalion, made up of members of the region's ethnic minorities as well as radical left-wing activists.

Nikitin and his allies said their raids forced Russia to divert troops from front lines to defend the border regions and foiled a planned advance timed to coincide with Russian elections.

- 'Protest doesn't work' -

President Vladimir Putin has vowed to restore security following the raids, responding with intensified strikes on Ukraine's border regions.

"The peaceful population in border areas always suffers, unfortunately, it's a fact," said Alexei Baranovsky, a drone operator and volunteer in the Freedom of Russia Legion.

The Russian fighters declined to say how many of their own troops had been killed until the operation ends.

They said opposition politics and civil society is ineffective and the only way to change Russia was to take up arms.

"Peaceful protest doesn't work," said a masked fighter from the Siberian Battalion with the call sign Kholod, or cold.

Last summer, RDK and Freedom of Russia Legion jointly entered the Bryansk region of Russia on foot.

They said the latest ongoing operation is much more serious and backed by Ukraine, which provides reconnaissance support and ammunition.

"The Ukrainian authorities support us in our initiatives," said Baranovsky.

"All our unit's military infrastructure is interconnected, with the structure of Ukraine's armed forces and defence ministry," Nikitin said.

Russia has reinforced the border since the fighters began their incursions in 2023, Nikitin said, admitting they were "not strong enough" to seize territory long-term.

"We are not in the phase where we are ready to seize district centres and towns and hold onto them," he said.

am/imm