Dramatic video shows a tank storming across the border from Ukraine into Russia today as anti-Putin soldiers claimed to have seized villages.
Drones were also reportedly used in the “invasion” as explosions rang out along the frontier in the Belgorod region – where the local governor issued a desperate “don’t panic” message to residents.
The governor of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, told residents that to ensure safety of citizens in the region, a “counter-terrorist regime” has been introduced.
Russian authorities said a “Ukrainian Army sabotage group” crossed the border and forces were “taking measures to eliminate the enemy”.
Ukrainian intelligence said those involved in the incursion were “solely Russian nationals”.
The provocative move was claimed by the Freedom of Russia Legion, a unit made up of ethnic Russian volunteers and defectors from the Russian army to fight alongside Ukraine.
In an unverified video today, members of the anti-Putin group posed in front of a road sign and an armoured car.
They claimed: “We have again crossed the border of the Russian Federation. Russia will soon be free.
“The time to fight for the freedom of Russia has come.
“We want our children to grow up in peace and be free people… but that has no place in today’s Putin’s Russia.”
Smoke was spotted in multiple locations near border checkpoints in the region, along with videos online appearing to show a Russian soldier dead inside a checkpoint building.
And a helicopter was reportedly seen flying low over houses and deploying anti-missile flares in Rakitnoye, some 30 miles from the Grayvoron border crossing where the tank was spotted.
One post showed a radio message urgently telling Belgorod citizens to evacuate the area.
Governor Gladkov told residents earlier today: “No one is hurt, the evacuation from Shebensky district is a lie.
The flag raised in the photo is the flag used by Russian anti-war protesters – many of whom live in eastern Ukraine – and is also displayed on the Freedom of Russia Legion’s Telegram channel.
It describes them as “free citizens of Russia” who are fighting against the “dictatorial regime” in Russia.
Another video widely shared online appeared to show the soldiers running into the streets of the southern Belgorod region.
This was followed by aerial shots of border towns showing smoke billowing from multiple buildings.
“I urge you not to listen to enemies and not to panic.”
In a post on Telegram, the Freedom of Russia Legion shared a photo of a “free Russia” flag on a bridge.
They said: “The first flags of free Russia met the dawn over the liberated cities. Raise the flags in your cities too. Freedom is near!”
The group claimed they had taken control of Kozinka and Gora-Podol villages.
Rumours spread that up to six other villages came under drone and mortar fire.
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