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Ukraine paramilitary groups claim to have launched incursion into Russia

Fighters of the Russian Volunteer Corps and allied group, the Freedom of Russia Legion, stand next to a seized armoured personnel carrier (AFP via Getty Images)
Fighters of the Russian Volunteer Corps and allied group, the Freedom of Russia Legion, stand next to a seized armoured personnel carrier (AFP via Getty Images)

Three anti-Putin Russian paramilitary groups based in Ukraine claim they have crossed into Russia and started fighting Government troops.

The Freedom for Russia Legion (FRL) claimed to have taken full control of Tyotkino, a village on the edge of Russia’s Kurk region bordering Ukraine.

The group claimed to have destroyed a Russian armoured personal carrier and that the border incursions had been undertaken alongside two other Ukraine-based groups – the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Siberian Battalion.

Alexei Baranovsky, a spokesperson for the FRL, said: “This is only the first day (of the operation). But the elections, as we know, are only at the end of the week... All the most interesting things are yet to come.”

He added that the attack could force Russia to pull in reserves to defend the area, relieving Russian offensive pressure on Ukrainian troops in eastern Ukraine.

“We are distracting the reserves, the attention of the Russian army. They are forced to transfer reserves.. this is also our contribution to the defence of Ukraine,” he added.

The Standard could not independently verify the claims made by the groups.

Kyiv said the groups were acting independently.

The Russian defence ministry said it had beaten back the attackers and forced them to retreat.

It said Ukrainian "terrorist formations" backed by tanks and armoured combat vehicles had tried to invade in three separate directions in Russia's Belgorod region at around 3am Moscow time.

They said four more attacks by Ukrainian "sabotage and reconnaissance groups" were repelled around five hours later in the Kursk region.

Two of the units referenced Russia's presidential election this weekend in social media posts.

The Siberian Battalion posted a video which it said was an address to the Russian people from its fighters in Russia.

In the video, a masked man in military uniform urged Russians to fight rather than vote.

"Guys, don't vote with ballots, vote with calibers (of guns)," he said.

The Freedom of Russia Legion's post also appeared to refer to the election, in which Mr Putin is certain to win a fifth term.

"The people will vote for whom they want, not for whom they have to. Russians will live freely," the legion said on Telegram.